Sangakkara says Royals yet to finalise opening pair, Samson promises more stability
Sangakkara's advice for India's T20 World Cup hopefuls is to "focus on the IPL"
While Rajasthan Royals' new captain Sanju Samson believes their batting order will see "a bit more stability" in IPL 2021, their team director Kumar Sangakkara, however, wants the team to keep its options open before finalising the first-choice pair at the top of the order, where they tried five different combinations last season.
The Royals had the likes of Jos Buttler, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Steven Smith taking turns to open for them last season, before settling on the pair of Ben Stokes and Robin Uthappa for their last five matches. Samson is hopeful of bringing about a change this time around, as he acknowledged the importance of giving the opening pair time to settle.
"Sanga and I will try to give the best combination for our team," Samson said during a virtual press conference. "From my point of view, I feel it's important to give an individual or a pair of opening partners enough time in the tournament, so I think a bit of stability will be seen this time in the tournament. I think the rest will depend upon how we go."
"I think it's a decision we'll undertake with the full buying of the players involved and we look to finalise later on today before we go for training," Sangakkara said. "We want to keep our options open. The most important things is that players are communicated clearly as to what their roles are and get them to commit to it."
An area of concern for the Royals as they enter the season is the lack of experience in their Indian pace-bowling contingent. The likes of Jaydev Unadkat and Varun Aaron were expensive last season, Kartik Tyagi and their two news buys - Chetan Sakariya and Kuldip Yadav - are a tad inexperienced to shoulder the responsibility. To work around this, their new foreign recruit Chris Morris will be expected to carry most of the load, especially in the absence of Jofra Archer, who was not only the leader of the attack but also their most consistent performer last season.
"It's a big blow for us. I think Jofra is an absolutely vital part of our make up," Sangakkara said. "Not to have him unfortunately is the reality of it and we have to plan around it. We have contingencies. We understand it's a difficult time for Jofra. He's played through a full series against India for England through pain and did excellently well. We're hoping at some point he'll be able to join us and play some part in our IPL [campaign].
"I think inexperience sometimes work for you and again inexperience could mean the opposition has not seen them either. But fast bowling, especially in the IPL, is not an easy task. I'm confident our fast bowlers will step up. We have Kartik Tyagi who did very well lasts season in patches and various phases of the game. This time we have new additions in Kuldip Yadav and Chetan Sakariya. So I think it's about keeping them focused on what their job is really and get them trained and prepared to execute all the different deliveries and scenarios and match plans for the opposition. But at the same time concentrate in giving them confidence about their own strengths."
Sangakkara's advice for T20 world Cup hopefuls: 'Focus on the IPL'
With the T20 World Cup less than five months away, Sangakkara feels India hopefuls Samson and Rahul Tewatia need to focus on their performances in the IPL to book their spot for the tournament. Samson's heroics at the IPL last season earned him a place in the India side for the T20Is against Australia, but he made just 48 runs in three games on the tour and was then left out for the series against England. Tewatia was called up for the England T20Is but he did not get a game.
Sangakkara had some advice for the two, who, according to him, have got "great cricketing sense", on how to deal with the pressure and expectations.
"I think the pressure is always there," Sangakkara said. "You can try and forget about it but the reality is that expectations is always there. You have various coping mechanism and techniques to deal with them. It's important to have those grand ambitions of regularly playing international cricket. I think Sanju and Rahul are absolutely capable of being regulars, not just that but great outstanding performers on the international stage. They've got amazing ability, great cricketing sense and both of them over the years have progressed. Sanju has been a young batting superstar for quite a while on the Indian scene and is always talked about.
"I think the real key is the process to get to the ambition, take it match by match in the IPL, and keep your focus on the IPL. Each game you play each innings and that's how you break that process down. It is important that both of them have the freedom and trust of the team to express themselves - to be Sanju Samson and Rahul Tewatia."
Sruthi Ravindranath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo