Royals retain Samson, Binny, Rahane, Watson, Faulkner
All five names were expected to be retained by Royals, who wanted to maintain the core of the team that had performed well last year. Royals finished in third place in IPL 2013, behind Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians. They showed strong form in the Champions League T20 also, finishing as runners-up. Rahul Dravid's captaincy had steered the team to the top tier after Royals had finished seventh in IPL 2012.
Although he has retired, Dravid will stay on as a mentor for the side - his presence has been vital for the development of young players like Rahane, Binny and Samson. At 19, Samson is likely to be the youngest player retained among all teams. He had been originally picked by Kolkata Knight Riders as part of their development squad, but was subsequently released and picked up by Royals. He showed enough promise and commitment for the franchise to retain him; he made 206 runs, including a fifty, in 11 matches last season and showed an ability to maintain a calm head in tight situations.
Samson is also the vice-captain of India's Under-19 team, which will play the World Cup in the UAE in February. Rahane was picked by Royals as an uncapped player and has steadily grown into one of their main batsmen. Even Binny, the Karnataka allrounder who had been selected as part of the India squad for the limited-overs series in New Zealand, was signed as an uncapped player by the franchise.
Watson has been with the franchise since the inaugural IPL, in which he was Player of the Tournament in Royals' title success. He picked up the award in the previous edition, too. Faulkner, another pace-bowling allrounder from Australia, also played a key role for Royals in IPL 2013, when they favoured pace-heavy attacks to suit the conditions on offer at their home ground in Jaipur.
Since Royals have retained five players, they will have only one right-to-match card available to them at the auction on February 12. As per the stipulated deductions from their auction purse of Rs 600 million (approx US$9.6 million at the current exchange rate), they will be left with Rs 225 million to buy the rest of their squad. Rules state the 2014 squad should have no less than 16 and no more than 27 players, with a maximum of nine overseas players.
Royals have always been known for their budget buys and picking unknown talents of all ages and backing them. For example, Kamran Khan, Dinesh Salunkhe and Praveen Tambe, who is 40-plus, had not featured on the Indian domestic circuit when Royals' coaches and scouts thought they could be moulded into matchwinners.
January 10, 11:22 GMT: Swapnil Asnodkar had played first-class cricket before Rajasthan Royals picked him. The story has been edited to reflect that
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo