It’s that time of the year again.
For a good part of the next two months, the Indian public will be hooked on to the T20 cricket bonanza that the IPL is. Indian supporters will metamorphose into the CSK yellow brigade, the red and gold of RCB, the Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo chant of KKR and so on.
And amid all this glory and fanfare, a team very modest in its ways and the least valuable (in terms of franchise cost) will be looking to make its presence felt on the IPL — again.
Yes, I am talking about the winners of the inaugural IPL, the perennial underdogs, Rajasthan Royals. Led by captain-coach Rahul Dravid, the Royals will be looking to roar again.
They do not possess a squad that would intimidate opposition. But they have always been competitive and play well as a unit. Even in the first season, they were considered to have the weakest team on paper. But as history has it, they were brilliantly led by the then captain Shane Warne and went on to lift the trophy.
They haven’t managed to do an encore in the subsequent seasons, as they have failed to go any further than the group stages but this time, the RR army would be hoping that their team will put a much better showing in the sixth edition of the IPL.
Rajasthan Royals have always been judicious in their ways in the IPL auctions. Barring the purchase of Shane Watson for over a million dollars, they have not made any big purchases over the years. They have relied on bidding for players who will fit into the team and serve the cause, rather than going for superstars. This season was no different as they picked up three overseas players in James Faulkner, Fidel Edwards and Kushal Perera — for a combined cost of about $630,000. They also signed a few Indian players who should form the crux of the squad.
Here's looking at the new signings and what kind of impact they can have on the Royals’ performances this season:
James Faulkner (Australia, 22 years) : Bought at $400,000, Faulkner was this year’s big purchase for the Royals. A highly rated all rounder in the Australian domestic circuit, Faulkner brings with him good T20 bowling skills and hard hitting abilities. He has represented Australia in five ODIs and three T20s with moderate success. Rajasthan Royals have generally tended to falter in the death bowling department, and Faulkner could be the answer to their troubles.
Fidel Edwards (West Indies, 31 years) : The Edwards Express was snapped up by the Royals for a price of $210,000 and could turn out to be a very handy pick. Known to be inconsistent, Edwards doesn’t have the best of records to back his talent and has also been injury prone. But when on song, he can make the best of batsmen dance to his tunes. With Shaun Tait in the squad as the other pace option, Edwards will be more of a backup this season. But the opposition would do good to be wary of his slingy yorkers when he gets a game.
Kushal Perera (Sri Lanka, 22 years) : A young wicket-keeper batsman from Sri Lanka, Perera was bought by the Royals at his base price of $20,000. He made his international debut against Australia early this year — and while he didn’t make any big scores, he impressed all with his compact technique. He was a regular in the U-19 setup of Sri Lanka where he earned the reputation of being an attacking batsman. His last innings, a quickfire 64 against Bangladesh, did his reputation no harm. But, with Sreevats Goswami or Dishant Yagnik likely to don the wicket-keeping gloves, Perera will find it tough to get into the team as a pure batsman. Unless there are any significant injury troubles, he is likely to warm the bench for a majority of the season.
Indian Signings: True to their reputation, Rajasthan Royals made a few offbeat signings — namely Sachin Baby (Kerala, 24 years), Sanju Samson (Kerala, 18 years), Rahul Shukla (Jharkhand, 22 years), Harmeet Singh (20 years, Mumbai) and Pravin Tambe (42 years, Mumbai) to strengthen their Indian contingent.
Sachin Baby and Sanju Samson will provide good backup options for the batting, while Rahul Shukla will be the backup pacer. Left arm spinner Harmeet Singh, one of the heroes of India’s U19 World Cup triumph was also snapped up by the Royals. Veteran leg spinner Pravin Tambe is another interesting signing. Out of these, opposition teams should look out for Sachin Baby and Harmeet Singh.
Rajasthan Royals with these signings have all bases covered and have built a highly competitive squad. With Watson to be available for the entire season (barring the 1st match), they have that much needed firepower which they lacked at the beginning of the previous season.
It's time to go Halla Bol!