The 2020 season was the first in Rajasthan Royals history where the team finished bottom of the table. You could argue that they had the same no. of wins as the team on 5th position and had just one less win than 2 teams who actually qualified for the playoffs, but you can’t deny that this season was disastrous. We may not deserve the 8th spot on the table, but we definitely didn’t deserve to qualify either. Let’s see what went wrong in the RR campaign this year:-
I’m sorry but I have to say that Steve Smith has been the main reason for the Royals’ problems this season.
Catastrophic Captaincy – Part 1
First, his captaincy. RR were the team to make the most changes to their lineup. They were also the team to try out the most opening combinations (as many as 5 different combinations). First he promoted himself to open. And when that move stopped working, he replaced himself with – Uthappa or Jaiswal, who could it be? – Ben Stokes. Yup, he makes one of the world’s best finishers open the innings. Now, in hindsight, you can say that Stokes scored a century while opening, but let’s not forget that this was after 5 continuous failures where he broke the record for the most balls played without hitting a single six. Now, when the combination of Stokes and Buttler isn’t working because of Stokes’ inability to bat, what would any logical person do? Demote Stokes or drop Stokes? Smith sir goes and demotes Jos Buttler. Arguably the best T20 opener in the world. Demoted. Just to keep Smith from accepting his mistake.
Catastrophic Captaincy – Part 2
And his captaincy wasn’t bad just because of the changes to the lineup either. He made some epic blunders on the field too (And most of them involve not giving the ball to Jofa). A few examples – In the game against Delhi Capitals, Jofra had gotten two wickets in his two overs. Yet, he wasn’t given a 3rd over in the powerplay. Instead it was given to the 5th or 6th bowler, who leaked runs, and let all the pressure release. The EXACT same thing, WORD TO WORD, can be said about the game against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Not learning from his mistakes, I see. And now, the most legendary captaincy decision of the season – Giving Jaydev Unadkat the 19th over against a furious ABD while defending some 30 runs. I mean, this is Captaincy 101 for goodness’ sake. While defending, the 19th over has to be bowled by your best bowler. It’s that simple! It just has to be your best bowler. So that the weaker bowler at least has some runs to defend! Here, Unadkat (Will address him later on) completely crumbled and left Jofra with no chance in the last over.
All this was just his captaincy. Now let’s get
to his batting, shall we?
Steve Smith had the worst batting impact amongst all captains in this IPL. He had the worst batting impact amongst every single player in the whole tournament at one point. He may be the best batsman in the world and all that jazz, but he can’t play T20s. RR have invested in the wrong player. In ODI-like situations, he was excellent, and on Sharjah, he was excellent. But that’s pretty much it. He didn’t do anything noteworthy otherwise. I have a fun little game for you – think of a batsman who you believe had a bad season. Then go to IPL’s website and compare Steve Smith’s stats with that batsman. That should give you an idea of how dreadful he has been. Honestly, if he wasn’t the captain, he would have been dropped 10 times out of 10.
Let’s Talk Money
Us RR fans tend to meme Unadkat for the money he’s gotten, but Steve Smith somehow gets away. He has gotten 4 times more money than Unadkat this season! As much as Ben Stokes, almost. So, RR really need to ask themselves. Is he worth 12 crores and an overseas spot? The answer is no in every universe. So the question is, basically, do the RR management have the guts to sack their captain and one of the only two players (Sanju Samson being the other) to have been with them since before the ban? It is the only way forward. RR really should look at a younger captain, an Indian captain. I feel that in recent years, we have drifted away from our ideology of always giving youngsters a chance. That woul be revived if we could bring in a young Indian as our captain next year. Maybe even Sanju Samson could carry the torch…
The Curse Of The 5th Pacer
The biggest problem in the Royals bowling attack was that of the 5th pacer. Earlier in the tournament, it was Jaydev Unadkat who occupied this spot. But that was back when we thought he wasn’t completely hopeless. An AB De Villiers assault opened Royals’ eyes and they replaced him with Ankit Rajpoot. He wasn’t much of an upgrade though. He got only 1 over in his first two games, but when he got the entire 4 overs, he showed what he was made of as he completed a half-century with the ball. Then finally, RR settled on Varun Aaron, the guy they should have been playing all along. He was expensive too, on occasions, but his bowling was much better than the holy duo of JD and Rajpoot. But unfortunately, as soon as Aaron came in and started to do well, something happened to the otherwise promising Kartik Tyagi and he filled the hole in RR’s bowling lineup – the hole being the 5th pacer, the most cursed role this season for RR, and the reason for quite a few of RR’s defeats.
I have talked about Steve Smith already, but that doesn’t mean that everybody else gets a clean chit. Not a single batsman stepped up this season. One stat that sums up our batting this season – Rahul Tewatia had the highest batting average amongst all the regular players. So yeah, Stokes, Buttler, Samson, Smith, Uthappa – not even one of them could bat consistently. Sanju Samson and Steve Smith disappeared after those 2 good knocks on Sharjah (and so did the team). Robin Uthappa was quite easily our worst batsman – not scoring a single score above 40 despite getting regular chances to open. Stokes started off poorly, but what else do you expect when you make a guy open who hasn’t played the game professionally in almost a year? And Jos Buttler was done dirty by the management when he was pushed to No.5 because Steve Smith and Andew McDonald were doing drugs.
Now, this issue is in no way as big as the others. But it still played a factor. RR’s spinners – Shreyas Gopal and The King, His Highness Rahul Tewatia – were extremely economical in their overs, especially The King, with one of the best economy rates in the whole tournament. But they didn’t take as many wickets. This was the difference between RR and teams like RCB or MI. Their spinners took wickets in the middle overs, and that’s why they didn’t concede too many runs at the death. But our spinners let the batsmen settle down and then torment the 5th pacer in the death overs.
Jofra Had No One To Support Him
The biggest positive this year was Jofra Archer. He was the best player in the whole IPL this year, no cap. Everything he did was gold. He almost always took a wicket in his opening spell, and definitely always kept things vey tight. But the problem was, he had no support from the other end. He would go in and bowl a brilliant over, and then the 5th pacer would come in and display some clownery to release all of the pressure. We’ve seen that all the top teams this season had pace pairs at the top – Rabada and Nortje, Boult and Pattinson etc. If Jofra had someone with him, RR would have been at the top of the table.
- Release Steve Smith, and get an Indian captaincy candidate.
- Get Mitchell Starc with Smith’s money (We need him, pay whatever you have to)
- Release Stokes if you need money to buy Starc
- Get one or two Indian top-order batsmen to replace Smith in the lineup
- Sack Andrew McDonald (And report him to the NCB)
- And play everyone at their natural positions for heaven’s sake
Final Player Rankings
- Jofra Archer
- Rahul Tewatia
(Those 2 have just been that much better)
- Jos Buttler
- Ben Stokes
- Kartik Tyagi
- Sanju Samson
- Tom Curran
- Riyan Parag
- Shreyas Gopal
- Varun Aaron
- Mahipal Lomror
- Yashasvi Jaiswal
- Andrew Tye
- Ankit Rajpoot
- Jaydev Unadkat
- Robin Uthappa
- Steve Smith