Sports and economics are like ‘Siamese Twins’. Even the cash cow teams like Manchester City or the Boston Red Sox will look to optimise their resources and get the best out of every buck spent. If you speak about football, clubs like Sporting Lisbon, Southampton, and Tottenham Hotspur spring to mind for their exceptional selling abilities and augmenting their cash reserves. And when you talk about cricket betting, this strategy lands you with one name – Rajasthan Royals.
The inaugural winners of the Indian Premier League (IPL) edition in 2008, the Royals have seen it all in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) annual flagship T20 tournament. From being the masters of economic purchases to being banned from the league to getting back to the top-table – the Royals have experienced the ups and downs of IPL cricket.
Where it all started for the Rajasthan Royals
When the IPL started in 2008, the Rajasthan Royals became the least expensive franchise after being sold to the Emerging Media for $67 million, based out of Jaipur. Often considered the “Moneyball” team of the IPL, the Royals surprised the bookmakers by winning the first edition. They have made a name for themselves for unearthing little-known talents from around the globe. Even their involvement in controversies and scandals make the Royals a tough team to predict.
This talent spotting isn’t limited to a region or age – from the 41-year-old Pravin Tambe to the 20-year-old Sanju Samson, from landing Steve Smith before he became a run-machine and giving Ajinkya Rahane the escalator to international cricket from first-class cricket. The Rajasthan Royals have certainly changed the contours of the IPL over the years.
A smart start under Shane Warne
Before a ball was bowled in 2008, the Royals were dubbed the ‘weakest team’ on paper. The talismanic Warne had been recruited as captain-cum-coach, but that didn’t improve the odds in the race for the title. Even the team roster didn’t inspire confidence with the likes of Ravindra Jadeja, Swapnil Asnodkar, Yusuf Pathan, Graeme Smith, Shane Watson, and Sohail Tanvir making the list.
They didn’t have an auspicious start either, with the Royals losing the first match by nine wickets. However, the master strategist Warne changed the fortunes, backed by the exceptional performances from their top players. Shane Watson (472 runs, 17 wickets) was the all-round star for the Royals leading the side with the right contributions at the right times. He ended the season as the fourth-best batsman and the fourth-best bowler to be the ‘star player’ for the Royals. On expected lines, he scooped the ‘Player of the Tournament’ award and made sure the title – beating all odds – made its way to Jaipur.
Not just Watson, Graeme Smith was chipping in with runs (441 runs), Yousuf Pathan flexing his muscles (435 runs, SR 179.01), Sohail Tanvir ending up as the tournament’s top bowler (22 wickets), and Shane Warne wielding his magic with the ball (18 wickets) as captain. However, the second season didn’t go to plan, as the Royals missed the services of key players throughout the season. Finishing sixth out of the eight teams meant the Royals missed the playoffs, although they remained the masters of ‘economic cricket’.
The uncertain period
The Royals couldn’t quite replicate their first-season success, from the second season onwards. For the next four seasons until 2012, the Royals finished either sixth or seventh. It was not until 2013 that the Royals came back into playoff contention. Watson once again led them with a ‘Man of the tournament’ performance (543 runs, 13 wickets), while James Faulkner (28 wickets) led their bowling charts. Still, the Royals could only finish third.
The next two seasons saw changes in the team roster and the Royals’ fortunes kept oscillating. Finishing fifth and fourth wasn’t anything spectacular, but the Royals were always punching above their weight. Value picks during the auction, and perfect signings during the off-season meant the Royals were making the most of their finances.
Rajasthan Royals Controversies
For all the positive facets that they bring to the tournament, the Royals have been mired in a lot of controversies. Be it the player spot-fixing in 2013 where several young Indian players were caught in the crossfire. Three players were even suspended and suddenly the Royals were in the middle of a storm. On the field, though, they continued to play beyond expectations.
The darkest of all controversies that the Royals went through was the ban in 2015. Following a judicial inquiry around the inappropriate and fictitious bids during franchise ownership bidding, the Royals were found to have violated the BCCI norms. Duly, the franchise was banned for two years from the competition, but more importantly, the image of the Rajasthan Royals was tarnished.
The comeback in 2018 was steady, if not spectacular. They reached the playoffs after riding on Jos Buttler’s heroics. The season was supposed to be Steve Smith’s chance to showcase his captaincy skills, but the ‘ball-tampering ban’ kept him away from the team. Once again, the Royals found themselves amid an unwanted controversy!
The way ahead for the Rajasthan Royals
Where do the Rajasthan Royals go from here? After a disappointing seventh-place finish last season, there has been a complete change of order at the Jaipur-based franchise. Out went Ajinkya Rahane, Krishnappa Gowtham, and Dhawal Kulkarni. The young Indian uncapped leg-spinners Mayank Markande and Rahul Tewatia have been added to the squad. Andrew McDonald was named the head coach, while Smith is set to continue as the captain.
With names like Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Steve Smith, Shreyas Gopal, Tom Curran, Sanju Samson, and Jaydev Unadkat on their roster, the Royals could be an outside pick to go all the way. The acquisition of Yashasvi Jaiswal – the most talked about teenager in Indian cricket – is another masterstroke. Buttler can be a very good pick to be their best batsman, while Jaiswal may end up being the ‘Emerging Player’ of the season. Excitingly, Bet From India think there are more reasons than one to look forward to the Royals in the IPL 2020, as and when it happens.