Shane Warne, Rajasthan Royals' mentor and brand ambassador, has said that Jos Buttler "should definitely be opening" the batting for the franchise, having shifted down into the middle order for their last three games.
Rajasthan have used five different opening pairs in the tournament to date, with Robin Uthappa and Ben Stokes combining at the top since their game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore on October 17. That has meant Buttler moving into the middle order - a role he had filled only once in all T20 cricket since midway through the 2018 IPL season - where he has so far posted scores of 24, 70* and 9.
Warne, whose involvement with the team management has been reduced this season, said that he thought using Buttler as a middle-order floater was a mistake, and that the Royals should revert to using him at the top of the order alongside Steven Smith - as they did in three of their first four games.
"I think Buttler should definitely be opening," Warne told Sky Sports' IPL Cricket Show in the UK. "I think Ben Stokes can do a job opening the batting, but I would like Ben in the middle overs - that's where he has played all of his cricket and done really well.
"That's not to say he [Stokes] can't open, but Jos Buttler to me - if you're picking a world XI, the first one pencilled in is at the top of the order, No. 1, [is] Buttler. I'm not sure why they've gone away from that. I think Jos has to bat at the top. I think Steven Smith should be the guy that's the backbone of the team in their batting, so he should probably open as well with Buttler, and then you've got Sanju Samson, Stokes - that's one to four, then guys like [Rahul] Tewatia who's done really well, [and] young Riyan Parag at five and six.
Warne suggested that the Royals' think-tank had over-complicated things while trying to make up for senior players' lack of form, and said they should return to the simple T20 mantra that teams should put their best batsmen at the top of the order to ensure they can face as many balls as possible.
"As the wickets are getting slower as the tournament goes on, and the bowlers are getting so good now, the faster bowlers at the back end, you've got to maximise that powerplay," Warne said. "The best players bat all the way through, or they bat to the 16th, 17th and make a hundred.
"I was trying to help out where I can. My hands were a little bit tied and I would have liked to have had a bit more of an influence on the team, but they had other people in charge."SHANE WARNE
"I think if you bat Jos Buttler in the middle overs, it's that juggling act about when does he go in, how many balls does he face, and then you might get stuck like the other day. There's only 120 balls: if Jos Buttler can face 50 or 60 of those balls, which is half, then I know he's going to make a lot of runs.
"So I want him up the top, it's as simple as that, otherwise you can complicate it too much and say back end, he's got all the shots and improvisation - well, in this tournament, your best players have to perform, and if they don't perform you're going to struggle.
"That's what Andrew McDonald, the coach, and the leaders of that team are trying to fix - all the spots that aren't working. But as I tried to say to them: just get your best players to face the most amount of balls [sic], and if they don't, you're going to struggle a bit."
Warne spent some of the tournament in the UAE, but was largely seen speaking to franchise stakeholders in the stands rather than joining the rest of the Royals' coaching staff in the dugout. He voiced some frustration at his lack of involvement with the team's management, suggesting that his "hands were a little bit tied".
"My role was team mentor and brand ambassador, and I think they wanted me to do more of the brand ambassador stuff, talk to people in the stands. I wasn't involved in the dugout, I wasn't involved in debriefings, I wasn't involved in any of that stuff.
"I attended training - the coach and the captain would come and speak to me and ask for my thoughts and then implement them if they wanted to, or ... they didn't want to. At training I helped the spinners out when I could but they had a spin-bowling coach [Sairaj Bahutule] out there too, so I just worked with him.
"I was trying to help out where I can. My hands were a little bit tied and I would have liked to have had a bit more of an influence on the team, but they had other people in charge."