IPL: How Rajasthan Royals went from a robust start to tame exit

May 22, 2023 07:56 PM IST

CricViz analysis of how the 2008 champions won four of their first five games but ended with a 7-7 win-loss record to be edged out of the IPL 2023 playoffs

On April 27, Rajasthan Royals were flying high after a 30-run victory over Chennai Super Kings put them atop the IPL table with 5 wins from their opening 8 games – just a few weeks later they found themselves out of the IPL playoffs. What happened?

Rajasthan Royals' captain Sanju Samson, right, and Jos Buttler run between the wickets during the Indian Premier League cricket match (AP) PREMIUM
Rajasthan Royals' captain Sanju Samson, right, and Jos Buttler run between the wickets during the Indian Premier League cricket match (AP)

Fourth Overseas Player Troubles

Alongside regulars Jos Buttler, Shimron Hetmyer and Trent Boult, Rajasthan Royals used a combination of Joe Root, Adam Zampa and Jason Holder to fill the fourth overseas spot – a varying combination of player styles in the hope of being flexible to the opposition, pitches and ‘form’ of other players in the side.

Despite their reputation as high quality international players – all three made a negative impact according to CricViz’s Match Impact model.

Player Average CricViz Match Impact

Shimron Hetmyer +2.3

Jos Buttler +2.2

Trent Boult +1.9

Joe Root -3.6

Jason Holder -8.0

Adam Zampa -10.0

Instead of cycling through their big three international names, the answer to Rajasthan’s fourth overseas problem could’ve been in front of them all along in Obed McCoy. McCoy boasts an Average CricViz Match Impact of +1.0 across T20Is and Major T20 Leagues since the start of 2022 and his ability to execute at the death would’ve been a particularly key addition to the Royals attack, which has often faltered in key moments – the left-armer’s death over economy rate of 8.54rpo in IPL 2022 was bettered only by Jasprit Bumrah and Arshdeep Singh among quicks.

Spin to win in Jaipur?

Like many other sides during IPL 2023, Rajasthan Royals failed to make ‘home advantage’ count, losing four of their five matches in Jaipur, including three losses in a row after topping the table.

Jaipur was without IPL fixtures for the last three seasons, perhaps making it tricky for the Royals to know what to expect from their home venue. But they would’ve looked back at the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy which took place last October for some insight. During the 12 SMAT games in Jaipur, spin had an economy rate of just 6.74, suggesting a ‘spin heavy’ approach would be the way to go.

The Royals already had Indian spin twins Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal in their XI and added Adam Zampa to the bowling lineup in three of the five matches. However, despite their perceived spin bowling strength, the Royals spin trio were outbowled by their counterparts during the five home encounters – averaging an additional 9 runs per wicket and conceding at nearly 1 run per over more.

Bowling Spin in Jaipur Average Economy

Rajasthan Royals 27.60 8.65

Royals Opponents 18.93 7.78

The Padikkal problem

At just 20 years of age, Devdutt Padikkal topped the RCB run scoring charts in IPL 2020 ahead of IPL greats Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers – just three years later he’s on a different team, in a different role and struggling to make the most of the talent that was clearly there in his maiden IPL campaign.

Padikkal was given a short run as an opener last season but has since been dropped down to a floating middle order role following the emergence of Yashasvi Jaiswal. With the Royals preferring a left-right combination for a majority of the innings, Padikkal’s entry point as a batter was often delayed with Jaiswal batting through for long periods of the innings.

It was no surprise to see Padikkal struggling to adapt to a new role at a high level – he plays a majority of his cricket as an opener for Karnataka in T20s and 50-over cricket, starting against pace with the field up – a contrast to beginning in the middle of the innings against spin with the field back and pressure on to meet the fast scoring demands set but Buttler, Jaiswal and Sanju Samson before him.

Padikkal’s lack of power (just 39x6s at IPL level compared to 161x4s) and poor showings in the middle overs this season (7 dismissals, avg 12, S/R 105 in Overs 7-15) may prompt change during the off-season – Padikkal should have plenty of suitors should the Royals look to trade their struggling young left-hander for a better role fit.

Buttler’s Variance

T20 cricket is a volatile game - Rajasthan Royals may have learned that the hard way this year with IPL 2022 MVP Jos Buttler registering five ducks – most for an IPL campaign, but it’s not necessarily the games in which Buttler has been dismissed for ducks that have been costly for the Royals.

The Royals fell short chasing 155 against Lucknow Super Giants in Jaipur with Buttler 40 (41b) failing to seal what seemed a straightforward chase. Jaiswal’s 124 (62b) stole the show in Mumbai before Tim David’s 45 (14b) sealed an unlikely MI victory in the chase – Buttler’s 18 (19b) a clear outlier on a night in which 426 runs were scored.

The England captain has a clear strategy when it comes to T20 batting which at times requires him to start slowly and accelerate – he was on 21 (21b) before accelerating to 95 (59b) against Sunrisers Hyderabad in his highest score of the season. This season saw his success rate with this tactic drop well below the heights we saw in IPL 2022 – another outlier season. His true success rate sits somewhere between the two extremes.

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