Season review: Rajasthan Royals pay heavy price for not giving Archer and Tewatia enough support

Team faces questions around captaincy and fast-bowling combination ahead of IPL 2021

Where did they finish?
They finished last, with six wins in 14 games and a net run rate of -0.569.
What went right?
Jofra Archer's brilliance with the ball - and at times with the bat - throughout the tournament, along with some outstanding individual performances from a few batsmen and spinners.
An in-form Sanju Samson got their campaign off to a rollicking start with two big wins. Rahul Tewatia came along and produced the innings to remember from IPL 2020. They were on the top of the table one week into the tournament, and there were questions about whether they were missing Ben Stokes at all.
However, their campaign derailed a bit from there, with four consecutive losses, before reviving with a superb chase led by the young Riyan Parag against the Sunrisers Hyderabad. Later, there was a masterclass from Stokes against the Mumbai Indians in a tall chase. He played another match-winning innings against the Kings XI in their penultimate fixture.
Royals have been a side known for promoting young Indian talent, and there was some of that time around too. Kartik Tyagi - whom they picked in the last auction - and Parag provided a glimpse of a bright futures.
What went wrong?
For one, they never got their batting order right. The inconsistency in their performances, to a significant degree, could be down to the constant chopping and changing. They never quite settled on an opening combination until the very end, trying five different combinations at the top.
A few questionable captaincy decisions also hurt them at crucial moments in a few matches - for instance, bowling Jaydev Unadkat instead of Archer in the penultimate over against the Royal Challengers when the Royals had 35 to defend, and not giving Archer another over in the powerplay against the Delhi Capitals when he had picked up two early wickets. Steven Smith had a dull season with the bat, to boot, so having him as captain meant the other overseas options such as Tom Curran, David Miller and Oshane Thomas got few or no chances at all, especially after Stokes' arrival.
Key numbers
  • Archer finished with 20 wickets in the tournament while the other seven fast bowlers in the side tallied just 21
  • Tewatia finished the league stage as the only Indian player to score over 200 runs and get 10 wickets in IPL 2020
Star performers
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Fast bowlers, in general, had a great tournament, but Archer was on a different level. He carried the team's bowling load single-handedly, impressing in the powerplay and at the death alike. He bowled regularly in excess of 145kph, used the bouncer to full effect and nailed the yorkers consistently. He conceded just 4.34 runs per over in the powerplay - the best in the period this season; in fact, he has the best economy rate (5.35) for a fast bowler in this phase in the IPL overall (minimum 100 balls bowled).
Tewatia was a revelation for the Royals this season. The superb comeback he staged in the match against Kings XI made oppositions wary of him in the games to follow. Still, he was the complete all-round package for the Royals - he was explosive with the bat and also had good returns with his legspin on a few occasions. He racked up 255 runs in 14 matches at a strike rate of 139 and finished with 10 wickets. After the Royals crashed out with a loss to the Kolkata Knight Riders, Smith conceded that there was not enough support for Archer and Tewatia, especially from the top-order batsmen.
What needs immediate fixing?
A change in captaincy - albeit unlikely - could possibly help them. If the mega auction does happen before the next season, they can look to rope in an Indian captain. They have one of the best overseas units in the tournament so having an Indian captain could help rotate and utilise their overseas options more effectively.
They are also in need of an experienced Indian or an overseas fast bowler to bowl alongside Archer, especially at the death. Tyagi, although quite impressive at times, is a tad too inexperienced to share the load, while the likes of Unadkat, Ankit Rajpoot and Varun Aaron were expensive.

Sruthi Ravindranath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo