Over-Reliance on Overseas Stars Proved To Be Rajasthan’s Undoing
No one expected a team with Steve Smith, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer to finish at the bottom of the IPL
No one expected a team led by batting stalwart Steve Smith and having fine wicket-keeper-batsman Jos Buttler and top all-rounder Ben Stokes in the line-up to finish at the bottom of the Indian Premier League points table. But inconsistency, poor support to fast bowler Jofra Archer in pace bowling, Stokes striking form late, Smith's poor show, and most of the Indian talent disappointing pushed them to the bottom.
Smith and coach Andrew McDonald admitted that the team played inconsistent cricket in the tournament. The team was particularly poor at Dubai where it lost five of the six matches.
"We started well with two wins, we won two before this one but we were inconsistent in the middle we didn't take enough responsibility," said Smith after the last league game, against Kolkata Knight Riders, that saw them not just crash out but finish even below Chennai Super Kings.
"Not sure why was that. It wasn't due to conditions but we played inconsistent cricket, lost the key moments in the games here. We had opportunities in a couple of games but played inconsistent cricket in critical moments," said coach Andrew McDonald, most probably referring to the game against Delhi Capitals which RR seemed to have in the bag only to lose by 13 runs.
To start with, Rajasthan Royals were never really sure about their opening combination in the early phase of the tournament. They tried as many as five combinations with five batsmen -- Robin Uthappa, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Steve Smith -- before zeroing in on the Uthappa-Stokes pair for the last six matches.
Buttler opened initially but was sent down to strengthen the middle-order as it showed weaknesses.
Stokes was forced to open, which experts said was to get him among runs, but he failed in the first five games before striking form in two but then failed in Sunday's game where they needed him to fire.
That apart, the Royals never had a pace bowler to support Archer. There were as many as seven pace bowlers tried besides Archer but they could get just 21 wickets while Archer alone got 20. This is despite the fact that they bowled double the number of overs than Archer did. Archer bowled 55.4 overs while the other pacemen together delivered 123.2 overs.
The team was short on Indian talent. Just three of the India players could feature in all 14 matches while Riyan Parag played 12 matches with nothing to show with the bat or ball, except an unbeaten 42.
Neither young fast bowler Kartik Tyagi, who ramped up good pace but got nine wickets in 10 games, nor the experienced Jaydev Unadkat, who got four wickets in seven games, could keep run-flow down. Both conceded at close to 10.
The biggest disappointment, however, was Smith, who averaged under 26 and could make just three half-centuries in 14 games.
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