Is The Pink Is The Color Of The Royal Family Of The Redemption? > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Will pink be the colour of Royal redemption?
A dream start to the Indian Premier League - epitomising the rags to riches story with a bunch of largely unknowns - was an engaging opening chapter for the Rajasthan Royals and the league itself. But the full novel, despite a fair share of gripping moments along with the trials and tribulations, would leave the reader with a lot of discontentment. Barring a third place finish in the 2013 season, the Royals' script has been antithetical to that remarkable opening salvo where they surprised many with their guerrilla warfare.
After the two years in limbo owing to the team's suspension, a grand return was expected of them in 2018. But, again, they flattered to deceive. Will 2019 be the start of a new narrative?
For starters, they have decided to go pink in a bid to embrace the traditional colour of the city they are based out of. But for their cricketing health to mirror the same hue throughout the 2019 journey they need to right a few wrongs.
Despite some headline-grabbing performances on occasions, the lack of consistency reflected in their scoreline as they finished with seven wins and seven losses, scraping through to the play-offs but failing to last the distance. Their biggest draws - Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat - did not do justice to their price-tags while their skipper Ajinkya Rahane wasn't able to force the pace both with the bat and his tactics on the field.
Looking back at the past might not do one much favour but learning from it certainly will and the Royals will be hoping that the 12th season of the IPL will provide the text for the tale of redemption.
Likely Starting XI: Ajinkya Rahane, Jos Buttler, Steven Smith, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Rahul Tripathi, Shreyas Gopal, K Gowtham, Jofra Archer, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni/Varun Aaron
Others in the squad: Prashant Chopra, Manan Vohra, Aryaman Birla, Stuart Binny, Shashank Singh, Liam Livingstone, Shubham Ranjane, Ashton Turner, Riyan Parag, Mahipal Lomror, Ish Sodhi, Oshane Thomas, Sudhesan Midhun
Strengths: Big names and X-factor players
Despite a below-par season in 2018, the Royals will expect a lot from Stokes, whose energetic overs with the ball plus the ability to take on the bowlers as well as rebuild an innings if required, covers plenty of bases. With Jos Buttler at the top of the order to provide blitzy starts, the return of the reliable Steven Smith, and proven match-winning all-rounders in the form of Jofra Archer and K Gowtham, the Royals have plenty in their arsenal.
Apart from Stokes, Unadkat too had a mediocre outing last year but the franchise kept faith in him by buying him back for INR. 8.4 Crore - the joint-biggest buy in the 2019 auction. They'll be hoping that he justifies that by replicating his 2017 form where he finished as the second-highest wicket-taker with 24 scalps at an average of 13.41 and an economy of 7.02.
Weakness: Indian batting options
Rahane had a strike rate of 118.21 last season, while Sanju Samson - their second highest scorer with 441 runs at a strike rate of 137.81 - blew hot and cold. Buttler scored half of the 10 fifty-plus scores managed by the Royals last year, while Samson got three. If a comparison was to be made with last season's title holders, Chennai Super Kings had 10 fifty-plus scores from Indians alone.
Barring Rahane and Samson, the Indian batting personnel doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, not giving much scope for changes even if the Royals want to bolster their bowling line-up with some overseas names. The skipper himself needs to be a lot more proactive at the start of the innings but his poor form in the recently-concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy - 58 runs in six matches at a strike rate of 107.4 - is a cause for concern, one that doesn't augur well for a team before the start of a big tournament like the IPL.
Opportunities: Overseas bench strength, Indians with comeback ambitions
Ashton Turner made a lot of heads turn his way during the ODI series against India, and although he didn't have an idea as to why the Royals picked him in the auction, he'll be eager to prove that his franchise made the right call. Despite his up and down form in recent times, Oshane Thomas is another quality option in the ranks, as is Liam Livingstone who is fresh off three half-centuries in the Pakistan Super League.
Meanwhile, the likes of Manan Vohra and Varun Aaron - familiar names in the IPL circle - will be hoping to make it count should opportunities in the playing eleven present.
Threats: World Cup preparations
When will the England players leave - ahead of the one-off ODI against Ireland which begins on May 3 or the ODI series against Pakistan which starts on May 8? Australia are looking at the IPL as a platform to bring Smith back into the fold. But will he be asked to come back early if they contemplate workload management, especially with the cricketer, whose ban comes to an end in a few days, recovering from an elbow injury? All these combined could leave the Royals acutely short-staffed in terms of overseas names and they will have a lot to ponder during the second half of the IPL.
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