Position on table: 8
Highest run-scorer: Sanju Samson (375 runs)
Highest wicket-taker: Jofra Archer (20 wickets)
Star of the season: Jofra Archer
Find of the season: Rahul Tewatia
After winning the inaugural season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Rajasthan Royals (RR) have failed to reach the final of the tournament even once. But in all these years, they never had to endure the discomfort of finishing last on the league table until now.
In a closely-fought league, though, finishing last is not that embarrassing. After all, when you look at the points column in the table, the bottom three teams cannot be separated at all. Just one more win and each of those sides – be it Kings XI Punjab, Chennai Super Kings or RR – would have had a good shot at making it to the playoffs. The margins were so small that the Royals will be ruing a couple of close losses – namely against Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore – during the middle portion of the tournament.
INCONSISTENT RUN OF RESULTS
RR’s sequence of results this season read: W W L L L L W L L W L W W L. Something that is very clear is that they were never able to get on a winning run in the tournament. In fact, they never had a run of three successive victories at any point. This inconsistency proved to be costly in the end for them.
The Royals did get off to the finest of starts, winning two consecutive matches – the second game which was against Kings XI was one of the most memorable contests in IPL history. Rahul Tewatia hitting five sixes in an over against Sheldon Cottrell when 51 runs were required from 18 deliveries will remain long in the memory of everyone who watched it. The word 'Tewatia' has acquired a different meaning now in IPL lexicon.
Those early results, especially the manner in which the second one came about, should’ve seen Royals grow to even greater heights. But what happened next was exactly the opposite as they succumbed to four successive losses. From thereon, it was always going to be an uphill task for the Jaipur-based franchise and, despite a late resurgence, they fell short in the end.
ARCHER SHINES WITHOUT MUCH SUPPORT
According to Criclytics, the Most Valuable Player of the season at the end of the league stage has been Jofra Archer. That’s no surprise considering he ended his campaign with 20 wickets and a superb economy rate of 6.6. Archer’s new-ball bowling, especially, was phenomenal – across the season, he conceded just 4.3 runs per over during the Powerplay.
While Archer had a splendid season, he didn’t find any solid support from the other end. The bowling stats of the other RR paces in IPL 2020 make for poor reading. Apart from Archer, no Royals pacer took 10 wickets and no-one had a bowling average of below 40 or an economy rate of below 9.5.
While Kartik Tyagi didn’t exactly set the tournament alight – nine wickets at a strike rate of 25.4 and an economy rate of 9.6 – he showed promise and that was encouraging not just for the Royals but for Indian cricket as well. A look at Tyagi’s bowling pitch map, you’d notice that he was a bit erratic with his line and length. While there is a need to be flexible in T20 cricket, a little more discipline would perhaps help the 19-year-old get better results. And that’s something that will come with experience.
Both legspinners – Tewatia and Shreyas Gopal – ended the tournament with 10 wickets each. You would have expected more from the duo especially on pitches that got slower as the tournament went on. The performances of Gopal, who had a brilliant 2019 IPL season, would have disappointed RR as not only did he manage only 50% of his wicket tally from the previous campaign, he also had an economy rate of 8.5 which was not ideal in a tournament where spinners have generally bowled miserly.
INTERNATIONAL STARS AND FLEXIBILITY
The top two teams in this season’s IPL – Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals – have both used two specialist overseas pacers through the tournament. Without doubt, that has been a factor in their success this season. Rajasthan too tried a similar strategy at the start, but Tom Curran didn’t quite deliver the desired results. But you sometimes wonder with his style of bowling, if the England pacer would’ve enjoyed bowling more in the second half of the campaign when the pitches were slower.
They had other overseas pace bowling options as well, with Andrew Tye featuring in only one match and Oshane Thomas not getting a game at all. But with four international stars in their ranks – Steven Smith, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Archer – it was tough to fit any of them into the side after Stokes became available for selection. Simply put, those four players were never going to be dropped. This led to a lack of flexibility when it came to team selection.
While they weren’t flexible with regards to selection of overseas players, you could say that regular changes in their batting order didn’t help the cause either. RR used as many as five opening pairs in 14 innings, the joint-highest during the league stage. Smith went from opening the batting to coming in at three or four. Buttler began as an opener and Robin Uthappa as a middle-order batsman, but the duo exchanged roles mid-way through the tournament. Not settling on a standard batting order until late in the league stage contributed to their poor showing.
INDIAN TALENT NEEDS TO STEP UP NEXT SEASON
As an allrounder, Tewatia had an outstanding season – to go with his 10 wickets, he also scored 255 runs at an average of 42.5 and a strike rate of 139.3. He is second only to Archer on Criclytics’ Most Valuable Player list of IPL 2020 at the moment. But apart from the Sihi-born cricketer, the performances of RR’s other Indian players were disappointing.
The good thing for the Royals, though, is that they have some fine young Indian talent in their ranks. Riyan Parag, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tyagi along with Akash Singh are all in their teens and are likely to be better cricketers come IPL 2021.
If the team from Rajasthan can reduce their dependence on overseas stars and get the best out of their Indian players, they could become one of the top challengers next season. If not, their wait to play in another IPL final might only prolong.