Sanju Samson is the first player Rajasthan Royals have retained for IPL 2022. ESPNcricinfo has learned that the 27-year old will continue as captain after agreeing to an INR 14 crore per season contract this week.

Samson, it is learned, was first on the list of players Royals wanted to keep before the retention window closes on November 30. The frontrunners for the remaining three slots (in no particular order) are - wicketkeeper-batter Jos Buttler, fast bowler Jofra Archer, allrounder Liam Livingstone - and uncapped opener Yashasvi Jaiswal.

Samson joined Royals in 2018 for INR 8 crore. He was elevated to the captaincy last season and though he couldn't take the team into the play-offs he still finished 2021 with 484 runs at a strike-rate of 137.

Ben Stokes (INR 12.5 crore), Archer (INR 7.2 crore) and Buttler (INR 4.4 crore) also cost the Royals big money but they've been big-impact players. Archer even won Player of the Tournament in 2020 but had to sit this year out due to injury. The Royals management is keen to hold onto their star fast bowler, however, his fitness has become a point of debate.

Buttler is expected to sign off on the retention soon but Stokes' position is unclear. Although the talismanic allrounder took a break from cricket in 2021, and has only just returned to training, the key question concerning him is money and whether the franchise will have enough of it to make an offer.

As per the IPL rules, a team can retain a total four players of which a maximum of two can be overseas. This arrangement costs INR 42 crore but still leaves the owner with INR 48 crore to spend at the auction. Royals are expected to seal the final three retentions by November 28. And, while they are paying Samson INR 14 crore, INR 16 crore will be debited from their account since he is the first of four players the franchise has chosen to keep.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo