Understated Rajasthan seek balm to fixing wounds
Likely first XI
1 Ajinkya Rahane, 2 Shane Watson (capt), 3 Steven Smith, 4 Sanju Samson (wk), 5 Brad Hodge, 6 Stuart Binny, 7 Abhishek Nayar, 8 James Faulkner, 9 Rajat Bhatia, 10 Pravin Tambe, 11 Dhawal Kulkarni
A fantastic home run helped them finish third.
For Rajasthan, the last year was one of their more memorable ones. In Rahul Dravid's farewell year, the team of economy players remained unbeaten in their home ground and with 10 wins in 16 games, registered their best finish since winning the title in 2008. Ironically, the year was also one they would want to expunge from their memories. In the middle of their charge, a spot-fixing allegation shook the team to the core. The aftershocks were felt all through the year and were only quelled (perhaps temporarily) when the Supreme Court of India decided not to dissolve the franchise.
If there were clouds of doubt hanging over the Rajasthan table during the auction, the team's decision-makers seemed immune to them as they set about spending their cash, all the while keeping in line with their frugal philosophy. Take Pravin Tambe for instance. The legspinner was bought for a chor bazaar price of Rs 10 lakh (US$ 16,000). The only time they loosened their purse strings was for Steven Smith, who at Rs 4 crores (US $666,000) was not a bad buy. Two of the best utility cricketers from India - Rajat Bhatia and Abhishek Nayar - were added too, all it seems keeping in mind the Saab-like make-up of the team - understated, but efficient. In this team, those two allrounders will have a wider role.
Rajasthan's batting is still heavily dependent on the thrust from their twin engines, Ajinkya Rahane and Shane Watson, who will need consistent support from their lesser-known players if the team is to reprise last year's form and break free from the dark shadows.
How Rajasthan transform their little known players into match-winners is a case study in itself. Take James Faulkner for example. The allrounder played in two leagues without causing a single striation. Zero star value. Check. No frightening pace. Check. Some batting ability. Check. Australian. Check. A bag of tricks. Check. Five checks and bingo, Rajasthan had hit on the magic formula. With two five-wicket hauls last season, Faulkner turned out to be the jack in the box. Since then, he has also shown glimpses of his destructive ability with the bat and is likely to be a vital cog in Rajasthan's plans.
Rajat Bhatia is not very different form Faulkner. He keeps a low profile, but is highly valued for his contributions with the ball. His skills as a batsman stayed largely unexploited in big-banner teams, but that first-class average that is nudging 50 will not go unnoticed with Rajasthan. No wonder he was their third-most expensive buy at the auction.
Only eight runs currently separate Chris Gayle and Brad Hodge, T20's top two run-scorers. Not the same could be said about the difference in their market values though. While Gayle would command a figure with a long trail of zeroes, Hodge was bought for Rs 2.4 crore (US $400,000). Add to that his value as an occasional offspinner and his versatility in the field and the price that Rajasthan paid for him appears to be a steal.
No availability issues at the moment.
9/1, meaning Rajasthan are not one of the favourites.
Odds provided by Bet365
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo