Rajasthan Royals finished fifth in IPL 2023, and are likely to make some changes ahead of the 2024 season to avoid a glaring imbalance in the squad.
Rajasthan backed their strategy of six specialist batters (including the wicketkeeper), none of whom bowled enough to be called a sixth bowler; and five specialist bowlers, whose batting was so thin R Ashwin was forced to bat at random positions to ensure Shimron Hetmyer did not bat until he had to.
The Impact Player should have worked in their advantage. They could have boosted both departments by using it better. Instead, they made curious team selections, including often picking five bowlers while batting first.
Even if they use the Impact Player better, Rajasthan may want to make some changes to their squad to help improve the team balance.
Sanju Samson made only three half-centuries, none of which was in excess of 70, but he got his runs quickly: only in 2020 did he score quicker than the 153 he managed in 2023. While he was responsible for some curious selections, RR were in the top half for a good part of the tournament, and if not for a mid-campaign slump, should have made it into the playoffs once again under his captaincy.
Jos Buttler made five ducks, but also four fifties – and did score at 139, impressive for most but not by his lofty standards. However, there is little doubt that the man with an IPL strike rate of 148 should get at least one more season.
Yashasvi Jaiswal was Rajasthan’s superstar of the season, should be one of the first to be retained.
Shimron Hetmyer’s numbers look ‘human’ (strike rate 153, average 37.37) after a late-league slump, but there is little doubt over how crucial he is.
Yuzvendra Chahal was in the Purple Cap race until the end, finished with seven wickets more than any of his teammates, and was their third-most economical bowler.
R Ashwin went for 7.51 an over, the least for Rajasthan, and struck at 131 in multiple roles up and down the order. He is clearly relishing his role.
Dhruv Jurel struck at 173 this season, and should get a role that would enable him to face more than the 88 balls he ended up doing.
Sandeep Sharma came in as late replacement. He bowled well, particularly in the death, but is likely to be remembered – unfairly – for a no-ball against Sunrisers Hyderabad. He should get another season.
Trent Boult is usually fit, and his mini-injuries in the 2023 can probably be discounted as a one-season affair. If fit, he should spearhead the attack.
Prasidh Krishna missed the season, but was in terrific form in 2022. If he is fit, he should form a dangerous opening pair with Boult.
Kuldeep Sen had impressed in 2022, but bowled three overs across two games in 2023. Given his talent, Rajasthan are likely to retain him.
Abdul Basith has struck at 149 across nine Twenty20 matches, but that includes only one ball in the IPL. His hitting ability deserves more exposure.
Akash Vasisht is more experienced than Basith, and has a comparable strike rate (146). He also bowls left-arm spin, and awaits that IPL cap.
Donovan Ferreira strikes at 149, keeps wicket, and even bowls – and was unfortunate to not get a match, which he should get next time.
Devdutt Padikkal is an opener whom Rajasthan tried, with limited success, in the middle order. It makes sense to keep him as backup opener, but perhaps not in the first XI in a different role.
KM Asif was quick in his four matches, and demonstrated variations in pace. He can be retained only if Prasidh does not recover, that too as a backup pacer.
Adam Zampa is perhaps redundant with Ashwin and Chahal in the squad. However, the IPL does throw up slow turners, and Rajasthan may field all three in that case.
Kuldip Yadav is perhaps one pacer too many in the squad, especially if Prasidh recovers from his injury.
Riyan Parag’s 2023 strike rate (118) and average (13) were slightly lower than his IPL career numbers (124 and 16.22). This time, he did not bowl a single ball either. While there is little doubt over his talent, 54 matches have been a run too long for him.
Jason Holder’s batting could have added balance to the Rajasthan unit, but they decided to underuse him, using him only thrice in eight matches despite their thin batting. If his batting is not a decisive factor, it will be prudent to swap him for a bowler.
Joe Root was always going to be redundant in a squad boasting of Buttler, Hetmyer, and two of Boult, Zampa, and Holder. He may be a great fit in another franchise.
Navdeep Saini has played six matches across the last three IPL seasons, and his figures read 16-0-198-6. Rajasthan need to look beyond him.
M Ashwin, the third-choice Indian spinner and the fourth-choice overall, needed to do better than 4-0-53-0.
Obed McCoy was one overseas cricketer too many, and ended up bowling a solitary over. It is better to invest in Sen or Kuldip.
KC Cariappa has not played an IPL match since 2019, and had played 11 times across five seasons before that, without doing much of note.
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