So, the time has come at last! The Rajasthan Royals, winners of the inaugural IPL in 2008 and one of the most popular T20 teams in the world, are back where they belong – and after a two-year hiatus, Royals fans are looking forward to the 2018 tournament with baited breath. It wouldn’t have been the Royals if there hadn’t been some unexpected dramas of no fault of their own in the run up to their big day, but now that situation is done and dusted, everyone’s focus can be 100% on what will no doubt be a thrilling campaign.
What kind of start will Rajasthan make when the pads are strapped on, the ball is shined and the battle commences? Will it be an inauspicious defeat like the one against Delhi Daredevils in 2008 – or an amazing series of wins like the one in 2015, where we began the tournament with five straight wins? Having spent big in the player auction and purchased some world class overseas talents in the form of Ben Stokes, Joss Buttler and D’Arcy Short, to go along with Indian legends like Jaydev Unadkat, Stuart Binny and Sanju Samson, there can be little doubt that the Royals will entertain viewers both in the stadium and at home from first ball to last.
It’s not only a fresh start – it’s also a new era in the form of a Rahane / Warne leadership team which is bound to use brain as well as brawn to secure victory. There are times when it will be a tactical masterclass as two of the finest strategic minds in world cricket combine forces. Not only that, when he was Captain / Coach, Warnie always worked hard to give young players a chance to shine – and that approach often paid dividends.
Many Indian legends got their first opportunities to excel under the Aussie legend - and now the Royals are back in action there can be little doubt that hitherto unheralded talents will come to the fore and defy expectations. Having benefited from the traditional Rajasthan Royals ‘pro-rookie’ mentality himself, skipper Ajinkya will no doubt also be looking at which proteges he should catapult into the playing eleven.
Is it over ambitious to aim for the stars in their first IPL since 2015 and anticipate a glorious march to the Final and their first trophy since 2008? What a way that would be to celebrate the tenth anniversary of that historic victory against Chennai Super Kings! Or should the Royals be content with a solid campaign where they win more than they lose and stay in contention for a Play Off place deep into the tournament? No prizes for guessing which option Royals fans, Royals players and Royals Management are opting for! There is no point entering a competition unless you aim to win – and just as the Rajasthan Royals surprised the cricketing world when they won silverware in 2008, there can be no doubt that they have the talent both on the field and behind the scenes to replicate their success this time round, with just a little bit of richly deserved fortune here and there on the way.