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IPL 2021 team watch: Can Samson-Sangakkara turn it around for Rajasthan Royals?

Owners: Lachlan Murdoch, Manoj Badale

Captain: Sanju Samson

Star man: Ben Stokes

Director of Cricket: Kumar Sangakkara

Home ground: Swai Man Singh Stadium, Jaipur

Best finish: Winners (2008)

Kolkata: The Rajasthan Royals journey in the IPL had been one of stark contrasts - if they had a fairytale run as underdogs in the first edition in 2008, they have failed to come anywhere close to it in the following seasons. Their performance last year was even more galling when with the Big Four of Steve Smith, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer in their ranks, they still finished as the wooden spooners.

A despondent team management had taken some radical measures in the lead-up to the new season - releasing an under-performing Smith and removing his compatriot Andrew McDonald as coach. They have thrust the leadership on young Sanju Samson while the highly respected Kumar Sangakkara - who had been an active IPL player till 2014 - will be accountable as the Director of Cricket.

Samson, incidentally, had been picking on the Sri Lankan great’s brains to fine-tune his batting and wicketkeeping skills for the last two years and the Royals management are banking on their chemistry to turn things around this season.

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They also pulled out on all stops to get South African Chris Morris for a record price tag of $ 2.25 million as the team is high on allrounders like matchwinner Stokes, Rahul Tewatia, Shivam Dube.

The team’s pursuit of a play-off will depend a lot on the form of Stokes, who is likely to form an explosive opening pair with Buttler. Stokes, who joined his team’s campaign only halfway in the league stage in 2020, smashed 285 runs from just eight innings, with his highest score being an unbeaten 107 in a memorable chase against Mumbai Indians.

Another positive in their batting line-up is the current form of David Miller. The South African is high on confidence after quite a while, having scored two back-to-back half-centuries against Pakistan in the ODI series though finding a regular berth as an overseas player in the playing XI may be tricky.

Coming to bowling, the Royals added Bangladesh bowler Mustafizur Rehman to their fast-bowling arsenal for the season at his base price. In a major blow, the franchise will not have the services of Archer in the first half as the player is currently undergoing a period of rehabilitation following a surgery on his right hand on March 29. The absence of Archer will mean Morris will have to shoulder the responsibilities of handling the new ball as well as the death.

The Royals open their campaign against Punjab Kings in Mumbai on April 12 while they will be playing their league games in Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Bangalore.

THE SQUAD

Sanju Samson (Captain), David Miller, Manan Vohra, Liam Livingstone, Riyan Parag, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Chris Morris, Ben Stokes, Rahul Tewatia, Shivam Dube, Shreyas Gopal, Mahipal Lomror, Jos Buttler, Anuj Rawat, KC Cariappa, Mayank Markande, Andrew Tye, Jaydev Unadkat, Jofra Archer, Mustafizur Rahman, Kuldip Yadav, Chetan Sakariya, Kartik Tyagi, Akash Singh.