Kolkata: The Indian Premier League (IPL) may be coming back to India after a successful sojourn in the UAE in 2020, but Rajasthan Royals will still be carrying a bit of Dubai during their campaign this season. The likes of Ben Stokes and Sanju Samson will be sporting the logo of ‘Dubai Expo 2020’ on their shirts with them coming on board as principal sponsors for the year earlier this week.
A new season brings about a glimmer of hope for all franchises and the Royals, who finished as wooden spooners last season despite having four of the best overseas recruits possible, are hoping to put their best foot forward on the ground while the management feels their association with Dubai Expo will play it’s role in boosting both brands.
Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive interview, Ranjit Barthakur, Executive Vice-Chairman of Royals said: ‘‘Dubai Expo 2020 attracts the world, so does the IPL - so there is a lot of synergy. We are a quasi-international company with a strong presence in the UK - hence we have got multi-national brands as sponsors and now Dubai Expo. Also, our academy business in Dubai makes Middle East a great destination for us.’’
While the IPL ends in end-May, the sponsorship agreement extends till December 31 and the Royals management are thinking about avenues on leveraging this association in the latter part of the year. ‘‘Now that the announcement has been made, we will speak to Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) to try and explore the possibility of a series of exhibition cricket matches in the UAE under the Expo brand,’’ Barthakur said.
Royals had been one of the biggest movers and shakers of the mini auction in February, where their astronomical bid for South African allrounder Chris Morris ended in him emerging as the highest paid overseas player in the history of the league with a price tag of $ 2.25 million.
Asked if it was not way too high, the Royals COO Jake Lush Mccrum termed it as a common phenomenon in the smaller auctions. ‘‘The structure of the IPL auction cycle means that in later years, when teams just need one or two key players, there can be heavy bidding for certain individuals. If two teams want the same individual to play a specific role, then the price will be inflated.
‘‘However, what is important to look at is the overall spent and the squad that has been built. We secured every one of our targets and spent less than our budget - which we see as a successful auction. On Chris specifically, he is a Royal at heart. We have great memories of him playing for this franchise and look forward to many more.
The Royals, who had their high points in the UAE campaign, still fell short of making the cut-off. What are the expectations for this year? ‘‘The competition in the IPL is so high which is why the fans love it. The difference between last and third was just one win which makes for a brilliant spectacle, but means even more so now that the fine margins matter. We were delighted to add Kumar Sangakkara as Director of Cricket, which gives clarity to the whole structure - he is the head of all things cricket and others will report to him.
‘‘We also believe the Sanga-Sanju combination will be fantastic. Two wicketkeeper batsmen who like to play fearless cricket is an exciting prospect for our fans,” said a buoyant Lush Mc crum.
Fair enough, but there seems to be a growing perception that the management has not been harsh enough on the team for failing to deliver. ‘‘We believe that Sanga as Director of Cricket and Sanju as captain will get the best out of this team. There were many incredible performances from a variety of players last year and everyone is looking to step up and win matches for this franchise,’’ he added.