Dubai: Rajasthan Royals, the Indian Premier League (IPL) team which boasts of Expo 2020 Dubai as their title-sponsors, feel that the availability of their top international stars throughout the season will make a difference to their campaign this season. The Jaipur-based team, to be captained by the prolific Australian batsman Steve Smith, is scheduled to open their campaign against Chennai Super Kings at the latter’s backyard on April 2.
The outfit from the Pink City, who has the most enviable collection of international stars on their roster like Smith, arguably the best allrounder in the world in Ben Stokes and England dasher Jos Buttler, had been slipping up on the home stretch for the last few seasons. However, Jake Lush McCrum, their Chief Operating Officer, refused to buy the argument if the foreign pros had been failing to deliver for them.
Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive chat, McCrum said: “I don’t think it’s right to say that our international players haven’t been able to deliver for us, it’s actually more that we’ve lost them in previous seasons towards the business-end of the tournament. Thankfully, it will not be the same case this year as we have them through to the final (if we make it). This season, we’ve got the captain with the best-win record in the IPL in Smith, one of the most destructive batsmen in the world in Jos who had hit five fifties in a row in 2018, and of course, Ben Stokes.
This season, we’ve got the captain with the best-win record in the IPL in Smith, one of the most destructive batsmen in the world in Jos who had hit five fifties in a row in 2018, and of course, Ben Stokes
“Furthermore, our team doesn’t rely on its foreign contingent alone. Shreyas Gopal was magnificent last year, taking 20 wickets and winning a few matches with the bat. Then Sanju Samson’s century against Sunrisers Hyderabad was one of the innings of the season and Riyan Parag was probably the find of the IPL,’’ he pointed out.
However, their pace attack has lost a fair bit of punch when Jofra Archer - the revelation of world cricket last year - had to be ruled out of the tournament with a hamstring injury. Asked how they plan to cope with it, the Royals official pointed out: “Jofra is a unique player for which there is no like-for-like replacement - so it is certainly a blow. However, we invested heavily in our seam department in the auction to prepare for such circumstances.
“We have the most diverse and broad group of fast bowlers we’ve ever had with three pure international seamers (plus Stokes) and five Indian seamers. Everyone we signed at the auction we believed had the ability to win us matches this IPL, hence we will be preparing these players to step up and execute,” he said.
Asked whether Robin Uthappa, the former Indian international and Kolkata Knight Riders veteran, will be able to bring in the experience quotient of Ajinkiya Rahane - whom the team had traded off - McCrum said: “We traded ‘Jinks,’ rather than released him, which is an important point to highlight. He is an incredibly talented cricketer and would have remained part of our franchise had we not received a trade offer that filled key roles in our side.
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“Robin’s experience will obviously be immensely valuable to the team, especially with so many youngsters in the squad. We have the youngest squad and three youngest players in the IPL, however, still have a vast amount of experience to guide them.”
Finally, it must be heartening for you to see your faith on the young Yashaswi Jaiswal being vindicated? “We have been delighted by the performances of our three U-19 players in the World Cup. Jaiswal winning Player of the Tournament is a fantastic accolade and something for him to be proud of.
“With regards to Jaiswal, we had actually been tracking him for a number of years. He came to our trials in 2018 and showed incredible ability but also bravery with his shot selection. We wanted to sign him that year but he hadn’t played a first class match so we couldn’t. We have scouts up and down the country and also continuously review video footage of all competitions to find the next Indian stars.”