2018 IPL Royals Season Review
Thanks for a Thrilling Ride Boys – Can’t Wait for IPL 2019!
There’s a saying in sport – “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”. Well the fat lady has now exercised her vocal chords and belted out the Chennai Super Kings team song. They have celebrated their comeback season by winning the IPL 2018 Trophy ten years after we defeated them in the final in the inaugural version of the competition. We can take pride in the part played by former Royals favourite Shane Watson. “Watto” scored a magnificent ton to see his team home, just as he played a pivotal role for us a decade ago.
But enough about CSK, how can we reflect on our IPL 2018 Campaign? Is the glass half full or half empty? Well bearing in mind the usual primary aim of most teams in the IPL is to reach the play offs, then our glass is more than half full. We defied expectations, especially a few games out from the end of the season, to make the knock out stage of the tournament.
There is much to celebrate in how we got there too…
To be faced with a “Must win every match” scenario and to pretty much achieve it is laudable and shows how many of our players can react positively to pressure.Some of the performances in our campaign were spectacular – Jos Buttler on regular occasions played breath taking shots and match winning innings, Krishnappa Gowtham achieved one of the knocks of the tournament in seeing us home against Mumbai - and Jofra Archer bowled several superb spells. Special mention should also go to Sanju Samson who started the tournament in excellent nick and spinners Sodhi and Gopal who, when given favourable pitches, mesmerised the opposition batsmen into making mistakes.
Jos’s runs total of 548 at an average of 54.8 (mathematicians out there can work out how many outs he had from those stats I’m sure!) only tells half the story. At times Buttler’s stroke play was simply awesome. The England selectors clearly thought so, which is why they summoned him back early to take part in the Test series against Pakistan. Their gain was our loss, and there was understandable grieving after he boarded the flight from IPL fans of all hues – ‘Boom Boom’ Buttler was a joy to watch – simple as that.
As Jos heads the Rajasthan batting averages, Ish Sodhi stands proudly at the top of the bowling stats. His economy rate of 5.86 beautifully illustrates how unplayable he was when the pitches started to turn later in the tournament. Highest wicket taker was Jofra Archer with 15 – imagine how many batsmen he would have dismissed if he’d played every match? Hopefully next year we will see more of the all rounder that Archer can be – he can hit the ball a long way when he is on song with the bat.
As far as fielding is concerned, special mention should go to Krishnappa who snaffled ten in fifteen games. That’s pretty exceptional for an outfielder. However ‘Royals Catch of the Tournament’ must go to Sanju Samson whose spectacular diving take illustrated to everyone why – when one particular catch went high in the air and he circled underneath it while Mentor Warne was being interviewed on TV - Warney said “Sanju won’t drop it” – and he was right!
During the league stage we won 7, lost 7 – tending to operate in sequences – a few losses on the trot followed by a momentum building series of victories. One thing that was consistent though was our brand of exciting cricket. There was rarely a dull moment in our matches, one of the reason we are many IPL fans’ second favourite team - if they aren’t already Rajasthan supporters!
However, there are areas we need to work on for next year – no doubt. At times straightforward catches went down, especially in the slip area, and we can’t afford to let potentially match winning moments like that slip away, if you pardon the expression. Some of our most expensive acquisitions didn’t bring their A game to this tournament and Royals fans will be hoping they put that right next year. There were times when whichever fourth overseas international got picked they didn’t do an effective enough job. And we never really seemed to settle on our best opening pair.
On the plus side the Royals’ leadership group’s experimentation did uncover the gem that is Jos Buttler when given the chance to exploit the power play at the top of the order. On the minus side the constant chopping and changing can’t have helped some players’ confidence – and opening up with an out of form (with the bat) Jofra Archer in the crucial penultimate fixture was a bit bizarre.
The great news is that several of these areas for improvement can be solved with just two words – Steve and Smith. He has a pair of the safest hands in cricket, he could almost be guaranteed to deliver and ensure that the fourth overseas player does the business, he is (or was – but will be again) the best batsman in the world and he is an ideal opener. Seeing him come in at the start of the innings with Jos Buttler will strike fear into the hearts of many opposition bowlers. Then Jinks at three, Sanju at four and an in form (hopefully) Stokes at five, with Gowtham on stand by for a ‘blastathon’ should match circumstances dictate it and our batting line up will look in good shape for IPL 2019.
As far as the bowling pace attack is concerned, Jofra is only likely to get better and better as he accumulates more experience. It is unlikely that an older (and slightly wiser) Archer would bowl two bouncers on the trot next year like he did in the play off game against KKR, giving away a free hit. Unadkat should be able to pick up his 2017 IPL form next year and put 2018 behind him. Similarly Ben Stokes who didn’t have as great an impact with the bowl as we’d hoped until quite late in the day, will hope to produce more match winning performances in our next campaign. We look to be well catered when it comes to spin, with Gopal, Sodhi and Gowtham all delivering some excellent overs this season and no doubt accumulating confidence for next season in the process.
As far as the wicket keeping slot is concerned, Joss Buttler was solid and Heinrich Klaasen excellent when given the opportunity – the South African’s stumpings were lightning fast. Bearing in mind Sanju is also an excellent glove man, then we are in good shape behind the wickets.
The coaches and management will have an interesting dilemma next year when it comes to who should lead the side. Jinks did a good job – at times putting fielders in exactly the right position at the right time. He is also one of the nicest people in the game and represented the Royals brand impeccably. However, his batting was slightly below par – 370 runs at an average of 28.46 isn’t up to his usual standards – he can be one of the best T20 exponents in the world. Jinks may benefit from being given the chance to focus on his batting with someone else at the helm. And who could that be? Well the answer is the same two words as before – Steve and Smith. He is a seasoned and effective winner with that ‘nuggety’ Australian tendency to “find a way” to getting his teams over the finish line. Royals fans can only wonder what might have happened in IPL 2018 in a parallel universe where sandpaper doesn’t exist!
But we played in this universe, and Royals fans enjoyed a thrilling ride throughout the campaign. It doesn’t get much more exciting than making it into the play offs by net run rate – and at times during that eliminator we looked like we would go through – but it wasn’t to be. Again luck didn’t favour us – another parallel universe has Buttler and Stokes not returning to England to play a test match as well as Steve Smith opening up with Jos to extend our batting order. The good news is that this parallel universe, all being well, is only ten months away!
Halla Bol – see you in April 2019!
|Rajasthan Royals batting averages|
|Rajasthan Royals bowling averages|