Predicted Playing XI: Jos Buttler* (wk), Robin Uthappa, Steve Smith (c)*, Sanju Samson, David Miller*, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia, Jofra Archer*, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Ankit Rajpoot
Substitutes (by order of playing XI chances): Ben Stokes*, Kartik Tyagi, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Manan Vohra, Varun Aaron, Mahipal Lomror, Anuj Rawat, Mayank Markande, Andrew Tye*, Tom Curran*, Shashank Singh, Aniruddha Joshi, Akash Singh, Oshane Thomas*
Vulnerable Spots: Rahul Tewatia, Jaydev Unadkat, Ankit Rajpoot
Rahul Tewatia – In the absence of Ben Stokes, Rajasthan Royals need a frontline bowling option in the top 7. Rahul Tewatia, a legspinning allrounder from Haryana with prior IPL experience, starts as the best fit for the role.
But if the 27-year-old doesn’t deliver right away, the think-tank would waste no time in trying out the likes of Mahipal Lomror, Yashasvi Jaiswal, and Aniruddha Joshi, all of whom offer all-round value.
Potential replacements for the spot: Mahipal Lomror, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Aniruddha Joshi
Jaydev Unadkat/Ankit Rajpoot – The Royals traded one of their biggest, although underperforming, buys in Krishnappa Gowtham to get Ankit Rajpoot from Kings XI Punjab. Jaydev Unadkat, on the other hand, could be seen as a good fit for the conditions expected in the UAE. This makes the duo the frontrunners to start the tournament.
However, if there is no improvement in their 2019 season effort, they risk being dropped for the U-19 pace sensation Kartik Tyagi. Options such as Akash Singh and Varun Aaron being in the mix only makes the incumbent’s case worse. Potential replacements for the spot: Kartik Tyagi, Varun Aaron, Akash Singh
Fantasy set-up influencer: Ben Stokes missing matches
Stokes hasn’t yet reached the UAE, and by the looks of it, isn’t going to join the squad anytime soon as well. Rajasthan Royals, as a result, will be forced to play David Miller to replace his batting and an Indian bowling allrounder to replace his bowling.
The resulting impact will improve the fantasy potential of Riyan Parag and Tewatia, who will not only get more batting time but also bowl more overs. Batting allrounders Jaiswal and Lomror, who otherwise had a decent chance of starting the tournament, stand negatively affected.
What’s the fantasy value against Rajasthan Royals?
Leg-spin: Barring Robin Uthappa, who is one of the league’s most destructive batsmen against legspin, the rest of the Royals' batsmen are either highly vulnerable or struggle to score runs quickly.
Best legspin options against RR: Rashid Khan, Imran Tahir, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar
Fantasy Ranking Order
1. Jos Buttler – Since being promoted to open in 2018, Jos Buttler has become a different beast in the IPL. Him being a 'keeper is the icing on the cake.
2. Shreyas Gopal – It took 4 years for Shreyas Gopal to have his breakthrough season, having made his IPL debut back in 2014. But the 27-year-old legspinner has since then become one of the league’s most reliable bowlers, with 31 wickets to his name at an average of 18.8 and an economy rate of 7.4. His batting value down the order is a bonus.
3. Jofra Archer – With batsmen placing little value on their wicket at the back end of a limited-overs innings, most bowlers get wickets at the death. It is no surprise that Jofra Archer gets them too, being the Royals’ go-to death bowler and one of the world’s best exponents of pace and yorkers.
But what really makes a difference from a fantasy point of view is how good you are in the first two phases of an innings, and the England international is very good at it too. Add some cheap runs with the bat, Archer becomes one of the best season fantasy picks of the IPL.
4. Steven Smith – Steven Smith is always a safe bet when it comes to run accumulation, be it in any format of the game. But since his comeback to international cricket, he has stepped up his strike rate game too (147.1) despite averaging 47 runs per wicket. This could be a sign of better things to come, not just for him personally, but for Rajasthan Royals as well.
5. Sanju Samson – Sanju Samson is amongst the top 10 leading run-scorers in the IPL since 2017 (1169 runs at an average of 31 and strike rate of 142). However, he still doesn’t make it to the top 4 in the ranking order, as this takes into consideration the possibility of him being dropped down to No.4 to accommodate Smith, a position where he has struggled to have an impact.
6. Robin Uthappa – After a steady decline in run accumulation, Robin Uthappa’s IPL stocks hit rock bottom towards the end of the last season with the Kolkata Knight Riders. Now handed a lifeline by the Royals, IPL 2020 could be the make or break season for the explosive right-hander.
If he manages to turn it around, he could become one of the best season differentials of the tournament, considering how high he bats in the order.
7. Riyan Parag – Riyan Parag is one of India’s finest young talents, but from a fantasy point of view, batting at No.6 and bowling some part-time overs doesn’t appeal a lot.
8. David Miller – David Miller might be one of the biggest names in the international circuit, but his IPL record in the last 4 years is nothing to write home about (531 runs at an average of 23 and strike rate of 121 since 2016).
9. Rahul Tewatia – Refer to the ‘Vulnerable spots – Rahul Tewatia’ section of the article
10. Jaydev Unadkat/Ankit Rajpoot – Refer to the ‘Vulnerable spots – Jaydev Unadkat/Ankit Rajpoot’ section of the article. However, if any of these bowlers seal their spot in the first 3 matches, they could go as high as No.6 in the ranking order.
Season Picks - Bankers, steals, and differentials:
Top banker: Jos Buttler
Top differential: Robin Uthappa
Top steal(s): Rahul Tewatia, Riyan Parag, Kartik Tyagi, Ankit Rajpoot