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‘Moneyball’ no more, RR finds bolster India’s talent pool

Despite losing steam in the backend of IPL 2024, RR’s class of 2022-24 created plenty of talent for Indian cricket

Should they have batted first? Would it have helped if Yashasvi Jaiswal had stayed on to counter Sunrisers Hyderabad’s left-arm spin twins? What if Shimron Hetmyer had batted ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin? Should Sanju Samson have tried to clear the long boundary? These are questions that will rankle Rajasthan Royals players long after they have departed for their respective destinations following IPL 2024 elimination on Friday.

Rajasthan Royals’ Yashasvi Jaiswal plays a shot.(AFP)

By crumbling on a Chennai turner in Qualifier 2, the inaugural IPL champions botched up an opportunity to end their title drought and undid one of the brightest league phase starts a team can have in this competitive two-and-a-half-month T20 cricket gala.

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Many among the current lot of Royals will get separated by the mega auction before the next edition. But this class of 2022-24 achieved a lot together, for themselves and for Indian cricket. There was a time when RR were a penny-pinching franchise. They couldn’t afford the big Indian buys who played for the national side. Not anymore. Three RR players – Sanju Samson, Jaiswal and Yuzvendra Chahal – are in India’s squad of 15 for the T20 World Cup. Four, if you include travelling reserve Avesh Khan.

More importantly, a lot of players have become finished articles in IPL under RR’s watch. If Jaiswal is the chosen opening southpaw in the Indian squad, it is because of the IPL 2023 he had batting with Jos Buttler. Later, the 22-year-old went on to have a bumper 700-run Test series against England. Jaiswal – 435 runs, SR 155.91 — would have liked to be more consistent this IPL, but he never tempered his approach in the powerplay. It’s a trait that will never make him a liability in T20 cricket.

If Samson ever realises his potential in international cricket, he will have RR to thank for. They saw a leadership spark in him at 25, when the perception was that his batting was too flashy for top grade cricket. With his first 500-plus runs season this year, the Kerala batter has earned his first World Cup call up. Samson would want to quickly get over his last few batting failures in IPL, which contributed to the doors shutting on RR’s title hopes.

Avesh’s two-wicket burst – how he upstaged Nitish Reddy with the fielding trap through two short-thirds and his stump-rattling delivery to get Abdul Samad against SRH in Qualifier 2 stand out – but how he excelled for RR in the death overs, executing wide yorkers accurately, will hold him in good stead. After all, he is India’s first choice pace bowling back-up in the USA and West Indies.

“He’s got a great presence and good clarity. He’s very good at finishing off in the death. And I think he’s been phenomenal for RR. We couldn’t ask for a better trier,” said Kumar Sangakkara, RR’s Director of Cricket.

Another young player whose numbers don’t speak as loudly for him yet but continue to impress is Dhruv Jurel. The wicket-keeper bat was the surprise package of the Test series against England, especially with his composed fourth innings chase in Ranchi. His fighting fifty in Chennai on Friday against SRH when wickets were falling around him has not gone unnoticed. “I think he’s going to be phenomenal in every format that he plays,” said Sangakkara.

Riyan Parag was another success story from this year’s RR campaign. Their highest scorer (573 runs, SR 149), and his unfettered batting approach against pace and spin, went a long way in RR’s run to the playoffs. For showing no fear in taking on some of the best bowlers in the business, Parag will be in contention for an international cap after the World Cup.

Another solid bowling weapon RR had was the 31-year-old Sandeep Sharma. Typecast as a powerplay swing option, he was beginning to lose potency with his slower speeds. RR using him as a middle-overs to death overs resource got the best out of him. “For two seasons, Sandeep has been absolutely outstanding. He’s just a mature cricketer who knows exactly what he can and can’t do. He sticks to the basics, tries to swing the new ball, and when he’s out of it just his changes of pace are really good. I think his percentage of effective yorkers is over double the IPL bowler average for a right-hander,” said Sangakkara.

Chahal only flourished with the freedom offered to him by the franchise. He teamed up with Ashwin and their contrasting approach helped reap rich dividends, earning the seasoned leg-spinner an India recall for the World Cup.


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