Dubai: The seamless conduct of the IPL 2020 in the UAE, against all odds, has won the country major kudos from the cricket fraternity around the world - be it the players, administrators and franchise owners. Manoj Badale, the lead owner of Rajasthan Royals, is no exception as he thanked the UAE for it’s role in executing a project which hopefully helped to bring some cheer to millions in these ‘‘challenging times.’’
‘‘We are all extremely grateful for the support from Emirates Cricket Board and the UAE government, without whom this may not have been possible. I’m sure the tournament has helped to bring smiles to millions around the globe in these challenging times. It was wonderful to have all the players come to the UAE to participate,’’ said Badale.
Speaking to Gulf News during a whirlwind visit to Dubai to attend his team’s last league match, Badale however minced no words at the Royals’ failure to eventually make the play-offs. The Jaipur-based franchise boasted of the ‘Big Four’ among the overseas players in captain Steve Smith, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer - not to speak of an assembly of experienced and uncapped Indian cricketers - but lacked the much-needed consistency to make the cut.
There were a few too many matches in the middle phase of the tournament that we should have won and didn’t. We saw some wonderful performances from a lot of our players through the course of the season with Jofra Archer and Rahul Tewatia obvious highlights, and we are pleased that they are both in the top 5 MVP list
There had been a few extraordinary moments for them during the campaign, like when the Royals chased down a record target of 223 in Sharjah or when Stokes and Sanju Samson guided them past a 190-plus target against Mumbai Indians, but the team still finished last in the league table. They had won the same number of matches as Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings (six), but slipped down the rankings due to the run-rate.
‘‘From a personal perspective, as RR owner, it has been hugely frustrating to see the inconsistency of our own performances but we should all be grateful that the tournament took place. These are also challenging times for the players but I am sure they’ve enjoyed getting back on the field and bringing some entertainment back into people’s lives,’’ said London-based industrialist Badale, a cricket connoisseur who combined with the highly regarded sports columnist Simon Hughes to write a book, ‘A New Innings,’ on the business of IPL changing the landscape of the sport.
Elaborating on his team’s performance, Badale broke it down: ‘‘See, the IPL is one of the toughest competitions in the world. All eight teams are evenly matched wihch is why it’s such a fantastic competition. We have, however, under-performed this year given the quality of our squad and were extremely disappointed not to make the play-offs.
‘‘We have played in some incredible matches and certainly entertained our fans throughout. However, there were a few too many matches in the middle phase of the tournament that we should have won and didn’t. We saw some wonderful performances from a lot of our players through the course of the season with Jofra Archer and Rahul Tewatia obvious highlights, and we are pleased that they are both in the top 5 MVP list,’’ he observed.
The team management, however, is extremely grateful to the character showed by Stokes - who left the company of his ailing father and family in Christchurch to join the team’s campaign midway in the league stages. ‘‘Our first thoughts are always around what is best for Ben and his family – whom we know well and who have been at previous tournaments. We’re grateful to have a player like Ben with us at Rajasthan Royals. His cricketing skills are universally recognised - He is a matchwinner and is someone who has delivered in the short time he’s been here this season, helping us win two matches with fantastic performances.
‘‘What’s less well known, however, is how selfless a character he is. He lifts any team that he is in and he has been a huge motivator for the whole squad,’’ Badale noted.
In a major ‘first’ among the IPL franchises, the Royals announced the launch of their own academy at the Sevens facilities - a project about which the management is quite gung ho about. ‘‘Our vision has always been to invest in grassroots cricket and give back to the cricket community, while developing top cricketing talent from around the globe. We believe in providing opportunities to cricketers of all levels, opportunities that help them utilise their full potential and just as importantly, have fun.
‘‘Our aim is always to provide best in class facilities for budding cricketers of all ages, to have the best people in strategic positions to ensure maximum learning and smooth transitions in development for the players. The new facility in Dubai is sensational,’’ he added.