Unfortunately, Rajasthan Royals have been one of the least successful franchises in the 15-year history of the Indian Premier League. Before the start of the season, they played a part in 12 editions, out of which they qualified for the semifinals/playoffs only four times. This puts them second to last in the list of most playoff appearances, with only the Punjab Kings behind them with two. To put matters into perspective, the Sunrisers Hyderabad have made six playoff appearances, playing three fewer editions.
But they did win the title in the inaugural season under an inspirational Shane Warne, defying all expectations. 15 years later, that triumph remains their greatest moment in the league. They had some good campaigns under Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane in the middle but ultimately couldn't win the title.
They came pretty close to ending their title drought this year, but it was a case of "so near, yet so far" for the men in pink. After putting up some impressive performances throughout the season, they couldn't cross the final hurdle, losing at the summit clash against the Gujarat Titans. So, how did the Rajasthan Royals reach the final this year, after finishing the last three seasons in the bottom two?
IPL 2022 Season Review
The Rajasthan Royals made some key decisions before the start of the tournament by bringing in Lasith Malinga from the Mumbai Indians as the bowling coach, while Kumar Sangakkara, who was the Director of Cricket last year, was given dual responsibilities as the head coach and the batting coach. Long-term coach Paddy Upton was brought back into the mix as well.
As far as retentions are concerned, it was a no-brainer to retain their captain Sanju Samson and their best player Jos Buttler for ₹14 crores and ₹10 crores respectively, while they continued to invest in the talented Yashasvi Jaiswal, keeping an eye on the future.
At the mega-auction, their plan was clear: go for established international stars coupled with a handful of youngsters. They went big for experienced T20 stars in Shimron Hetmeyer, Trent Boult, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravi Ashwin. With this, their starting XI was set and remained intact through the tournament, something which Sangakkara stressed after the auction.
“At the auction table, we spent 90-95% of our purse on putting together our first XI. We worked hard on the data to work on the players we wanted. We put emphasis on experience at the moment. We have a spattering of youngsters who will become stars later, but our first XI has a strong share of seasoned internationals.
The Royals had a terrific start to their campaign, defeating the Sunrisers Hyderabad by 61 runs. They continued their good form as they won six out of their first eight games. They had a slight wobble in the 2nd half of the tournament, losing three out of their next four which put their playoff chances in jeopardy. But they recovered well to win their last two games to qualify in the top two with 18 points.
What Worked For Them?
Jos Buttler's Runs
Jos Buttler has been in a league of his own this year, scoring 863 runs in 17 matches at an average of 57.53. He eventually fell short of Virat Kohli's tally of 973 runs in 2016 for RCB but surpassed David Warner's record of 848 runs in the same year. He also equaled Virat's tally of four centuries in a single season.
The Englishman almost single-handedly carried Rajasthan's batting line-up throughout the tournament, playing an instrumental role in their run to the finals. He started the season in blistering fashion, scoring 521 runs in the first 7 games, including three centuries. He was on course to beat Kohli's record but suffered a form slump in the 2nd half of the tournament, which coincided with the Royals' worst phase of the season as well.
Buttler returned to form in the 1st Qualifier against GT with a gritty 89 before dismantling the RCB bowling attack with a masterful hundred to take RR to the final.
Spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Ashwin
After a couple of below-par seasons where he lost his place on the national side, Yuzvendra Chahal found his mojo in the 2nd leg of last year's tournament and the leg-spinner has kicked on to claim the purple cap this season. Chahal has picked up 27 wickets this season at an impressive economy of 7.8, becoming the highest wicket-taking spinner in an IPL season.
While Buttler carried the batting, it was Chahal who was the mainstay in the bowling department, providing timely breakthroughs for the team. Every time the Royals needed a wicket, Samson turned to his marquee leg-spinner and Chahal, more often than not, delivered. His five-wicket haul against KKR, where he picked up four wickets in an over to win the match, will be one for the highlights reel.
His spin twin Ravi Ashwin had a good season as well, although he hasn't picked up as many wickets as his partner. Ashwin proved to be an able deputy for Chahal as the duo controlled the mid-overs for the Royals. With RR playing with just 6 batsmen, they fully utilized the batting abilities of Ashwin at No.7.
He scored a match-winning 40 off 23 balls after finishing with figures of 1/28 against CSK, showcasing his all-around abilities.
What Went Wrong?
Samson's Indifferent Form
Samson has continued to divide opinion with his batting once again this season as the Kerala batsman's inconsistencies don't seem to go away. Samson has scored 458 runs from 17 matches with two half-centuries. On paper, these are decent numbers but the Royals would want more consistency from their skipper.
He started brilliantly in the opening game but his form tapered off as the season went on. Too often, he looks set for a big score but perishes trying to up the scoring rate.
Lack Of A Proper All-Rounder
It was predicted before the tournament that Rajasthan might have an issue with the make-up of their side. Apart from Ashwin, none of their bowlers could bat, while none of their batsmen could bowl. This left a gaping hole at No.7, who more often than not played with five bowlers. They tried Jimmy Neesham at No.7 but the New Zealander couldn't deliver 4 overs every game, and his batting was not up to the mark either.
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