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December 16 2018

Rajasthan prepare for another Underdog Challenge at IPL Auctions

- by Benny Thompson

Despite winning the inaugural edition way back in 2008, Rajasthan Royals have always been the underdogs of the Indian Premier League. They came back in the 2018 season after having served a 2-year suspension and finished 4th in the group stage, losing to Kolkata Knight Riders in the playoffs.

Having released 10 players from their roster, the Jaipur-based team will head to the upcoming auctions with a purse of Rs 20.95 crores. They have 9 available slots which they need to fill with 6 Indians and 3 foreigners. Among the players they released are D’Arcy Short, Ben Laughlin, Heinrich Klaasen, Dane Paterson, Zaheer Khan, Dushmantha Chameera and Jaydev Unadkat.

The Australian Short really disappointed with his batting, especially with Steve Smith suspended while pacer Unadkat – who was signed for a hefty price tag of Rs 11.5 crores – couldn’t handle the pressure and didn’t live up to expectations. Klaasen, however, was a vital cog in their middle order and he will need to be replaced.

Among the retained players are skipper Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson, Steve Smith, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Ish Sodhi, and Stuart Binny. While there are some solid IPL performers in that list, two departments that need immediate reinforcements are fast bowling and hard hitting.

Alex Hales will be an ideal opening partner for Rahane. The Englishman performed well last season in the limited chances he got for Sunrisers Hyderabad. Another option is the veteran Brendon McCullum who has been released by Bangalore. He could prove the ideal cover when Buttler leaves on national duty ahead of the World Cup. If they are after an Indian opener, Manan Vohra will be an economical idea.

They will need some big hitters in the middle order as well and Dan Christian and Colin Ingram are likely to be the foreigners they go after. Shimron Hetmyer is another ideal candidate but he is likely to be in every team’s wishlist. Indian options include Sachin Baby and the Ranji Trophy pair of Priyank Panchal and Ajay Rohera.

Carlos Brathwaite has excelled in domestic tournaments around the world and this could be the season he sets the IPL on fire. If he is a costly buy, Axar Patel will be another bowling all-rounder option. His spin and guile can get wickets for Rajasthan and he can chip in with valuable runs down the order.

As far as the fast bowling department is concerned, Mohammed Shami could be the man who replaces Unadkat. Mohit Sharma is another option who is especially lethal during power plays. Morne Morkel went unsold last season and he could be a valuable addition like his South African counterpart Junior Dala. The English pair of Pat Brown and James Overton are also interesting alternatives.

Long story short, Rajasthan head to the auctions with a hefty purse. They need several reinforcements but since only 3 need to be foreigners, they can afford to go all out for the players they are most interested in. They’re in a good position financially. It remains to be seen if they follow suit tactically as well.

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