The IPL 2018 auction started with a warm welcome to Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings from the auctioneer, Richard Madley. On their comeback after 2 years, it felt like Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings swapped their roles at the auction.
On one hand, where Chennai Super Kings focussed more on economical purchases, Rajasthan Royals shredded their image of money-savers. The Royals not only bought the costliest overseas player in Ben Stokes, they also went for the most expensive Indian player bagging Jaydev Unadkat.
It was expected to see Royals throw their kitchen sink at Ben Stokes as they were searching for a like-for-like replacement of their star-allrounder Shane Watson who was bought by Chennai Super Kings and past his prime. Even at 12.5 crores, it can be said that the Royals got Stokes for a bargain price.
After bidding aggressively for Ben Stokes, Rajasthan Royals laid their emphasis on building a sound batting order. The tried and tested opening combination of Rahul Tripathi and Ajinkya Rahane, who opened for Rising Pune Supergiant, are expected to open for Rajasthan Royals this year.
With Steve Smith at no.3 and Ben Stokes in top 5, the batting order looks more like that of the defunct Rising Pune Supergiants instead of the old Royals that focussed more on young Indian players.
Add Sanju Samson and Jos Buttler to the list of players who can bat anywhere in the batting order, Rajasthan Royals have a solid top 6 with a great mix of both floaters and dashers in their XI along with two wicket-keeping options. Needless to say, Rajasthan can always promote Sanju to bat anywhere in the batting order.
Stuart Binny was bought back by Rajasthan Royals, after spending 2 unproductive seasons with RCB.
The pace-bowling department largely consists of the underrated Dhawal Kulkarni and Jaydev Unadkat, who has made giant strides in the field of T20 cricket over past 12 months. Jofra Archer is a hot property in world cricket right now with his raw pace and big hitting prowess. And then they have the experience of Ben Laughlin who is one of the most successful bowlers in T20 cricket.
But Royals look thin with their spin department. Both Krishnappa Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal are Karnataka prodigies who are yet to make a mark in the IPL and will be looking for a breakthrough season with their new franchise.
D’Arcy Short is the only overseas batsman available on the bench as the backup, something that Royals overlooked in the auction. They also missed out on bagging Morne Morkel who was available at a steal price of INR 75 lakhs and went for Dushmantha Chameera instead.
Overall, Rajasthan Royals seems to be a bunch of some very good cricketers and it will be exciting to watch them play together.
Possible playing XI for Rajasthan Royals:
Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul Tripathi, Steve Smith, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Stuart Binny, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jofra Archer, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni