Stokes’ availability is a concern for Smith’s men, however; Archer will spearhead the pace attack of the Rajasthan side
After Shane Warne scripted a fairytale in the IPL’s inaugural edition, the title has not returned to Jaipur. Twelve years later, and more than 2,000km away from home, Rajasthan Royals is looking to another tactician from Australia to lead from the front.
Steve Smith showed he could make a difference to the side when he was handed the captain’s armband towards the end of Royals’ disappointing campaign last year. The team played better, he batted better. The Royals management must be relieved that he has recovered from a concussion during Australia’s current tour of England.
Jos Buttler holds the key to the Royals batting. The explosive England opener could only play eight games last year, but smashed 311 runs (at a strike rate of 151.7).
Buttler’s fellow World Cup-winner Ben Stokes is likely to miss a few matches, though, as he is in New Zealand with his ailing father. Not having the services of the world’s best all-rounder, even for a few games, is a blow, especially given the fabulous form he has been in over the last year or so. He masterminded the World Cup triumph and an Ashes Test win for England with two of the greatest innings in history, within the space of six weeks.
The power-hitting of David Miller should compensate for the loss of the deft touch of Ajinkya Rahane. Big sixes could also come off the blades of the dashing Sanju Samson, the seasoned Robin Uthappa and the exciting Yashasvi Jaiswal.
Jofra Archer leads a fine pace line-up that includes Tom Curran, Andrew Tye, Oshane Thomas, Jaydev Unadkat, Ankit Rajpoot and Varun Aaron. The two teenaged seamers, Kartik Tyagi and Akash Singh, could take inspiration from teammate Riyan Parag, who last year became the youngest to score an IPL fifty, aged just 17.
Shreyas Gopal, whose googlies beat the best of batsmen in the 2019 edition, and Mayank Markande are excellent leggies, but Royals could be missing a quality finger-spinner or two on UAE’s slow wickets.
New coach Andrew McDonald has his task cut out, given the side finished second from bottom last season. Revisiting scenes from 2008 in the team room may not be a bad way to start.