The spotlight on this year’s mega Indian Premier League auction was on the two teams making a comeback after serving out their two-year suspensions.
While Chennai Super Kings decided to retain their core in Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja, the Rajasthan Royals just decided to go ahead with Steve Smith. Which meant that they let go of Ajinkya Rahane, James Faulkner and Dhawal Kulkarni, who have all played important parts in their campaigns before.
In the process, the Royals saved a decent amount of their purse going into the auction. Chennai on the other hand lost a hefty chunk, which meant that they had to keep a check on their spending right from the word go.
So,. did that help? Yes! One would have to say that the Royals bought sensibly and got back most of the players or ‘key’ players one would like to say that they had let go.
Rajasthan Royals signed Rahane for a fairly cheap amount of Rs 4 crore and got back Kulkarni through the Right to Match (RTM) card on the second day. They also bought the impressive Sanju Samson for a big fee of Rs 8 crore. These three along with Smith meant that they got familiar players and their core back.
But, prior to all this, they made sure that they have someone, who is a typical Steve Smith player and can change the game on its head. That was Ben Stokes. The Royals went all out and saw off competition from a number of teams to secure the mercurial Englishman for Rs 12.5 crore. With Smith and Stokes in the bag and Rs 25 crore out of Rs 80 crore gone, they had to plan it smartly and they did that to get their previous match winners back in the form of Rahane, Kulkarni, Samson and Stuart Binny, whom they bought for a really low price.
Rajasthan went onto add Jos Buttler and hugely impressive D’Arcy Short to add some firepower to their batting. Short has been in sensational form for the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League and also hit a century. Buttler on the other hand is a seasoned campaigner and has done really well for the Mumbai Indians. The Royals also added Maharashtra batsman Rahul Tripathi to their ranks and formed a good, deep batting line-up
With batting sorted, the management had to get their bowling combination right and they did that by going all-out for Jaydev Unadkat, who recently played and impressed for the Indian team. But one could say that, paying Rs 11.5 crore for the Saurashtra left-armer was not based on that. Unadkat along with Stokes and Tripathi played a massive role for the now defunct Rising Pune Supergiant in reaching the final of IPL 2017.
Another very impressive signing and a big one was the one of Jofra Archer. Archer has been a star in the making for quite a while now and this year, he has finally delivered big time. Archer has been very economical in the BBL and his death bowling has been praised immensely by everyone, who has seen him play. Not only that, he can use the long handle when needed and can tonk the ball a fair distance as well — a typical Smith player — young, dynamic and able.
The Royals also bolstered their pace battery with the addition of young Afghanistan fast-bowler Zahir Khan Pakteen and the very experienced Ben Laughlin.
They also spent big on Karnataka’s bowling-allrounder Gowtham Krishnappa, who was a part of the Mumbai Indians last year but didn’t get much a game. Gowtham has been impressive for Karnataka with the ball and can bat as well down the order.
The likes of Mahipal Lomror, Ankit Sharma, Dushmanta Chameera Shreyas Gopal, Jatin Saxena, Aryaman Vikram Birla complete a very balanced and familiar squad.
However, the onus of taking the team to the distance will remain on the able shoulders of Smith, Stokes and Rahane. They have to be backed by Samson, Buttler and Unadkat and if they can perform to their potential, the Royals have a very able squad, who can peform and go the distance in IPL 11.