Captain: Sanju Samson
Home ground: Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur
IPL titles: 1 (2008)
Owners: Amisha Hathiramani, Manoj Badale, Lachlan Murdoch, Ryan Tkalcevic, Shane Warne
Rajasthan Royals, the team that received the lowest bid when the IPL franchises were first sold, went on to win the first season despite the odds. They’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs since then, only making the playoffs three times. Off the field, they’ve also been dogged by controversy. A legal struggle over ownership erupted in 2010. Three of its players were arrested on suspicion of spot-fixing in 2013, and the franchise was suspended for two years as a result of the inquiry for its involvement in illegal betting and match-fixing.
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The Royals have a history of succeeding through a “Moneyball” strategy of cost-cutting and scouting mainly unknown players.
Ravindra Jadeja, Sanju Samson, and Yusuf Pathan are just a few of the names they’ve discovered throughout the years. They have, however, made some of the most significant purchases in recent seasons. In 2018, they paid Rs 12.5 crore ($1.7 million) for England allrounder Ben Stokes and Rs 11.5 crore ($1.6 million) for India left-arm fast bowler Jaydev Unadkat.
Shane Warne led them to victory in their first season, and he continued to do so until 2011 when Rahul Dravid took control for two years. Shane Watson led for a short time before turning over to Steven Smith, who has generally been in command since 2014, with the exception of a period when he was banned for his role in the ball-tampering incident in Cape Town in 2018.
The franchise is most known for its fairy-tale victory in 2008. That, and for mainly adhering to their mission of promoting and providing opportunities to a variety of young, undiscovered talents over the years.
The lowest points
The Royals have had their fair share of scandal over the years, the most significant of which occurred with the arrests of three players, Sreesanth, Ajay Chandila, and Ankeet Chavan, for spot-fixing. Following the Lodha Committee’s investigation into the BCCI’s workings in the aftermath of the scandal, the board suspended the franchise for two years and Raj Kundra, one of its owners, for life.
who were considered underdogs going into the tournament, made headlines with a stunning run in the group stage, winning 11 of 14 games? Throughout the season, standout performances from Watson, Sohail Tanvir, Pathan, and the captain, Warne, helped them win the trophy, defeating MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings in the final.
2009 is the sixth year.
The Royals were without two of their top players from the previous season: Tanvir was ineligible after the BCCI barred Pakistani players from participating in the IPL, and Watson was unable to play due to commitments in Australia. In the middle of the competition, they lost seven players, and they concluded with seven losses.
The year 2010 was the seventh.
Pathan lit up the stage in the Royals’ season opener against the Mumbai Indians, striking the fastest IPL century of all time off 37 balls, although his team finished four runs short. They dropped their following two games as well, but then went on a four-game winning streak before dropping five of their next seven games and finishing last on the table.
2011 is the sixth year.
The Royals began the season with a string of victories before being derailed by a string of devastating losses, including four in a row in the second half of the group stage. They had Rahul Dravid, Ross Taylor, and Paul Collingwood on their team, and had even managed to reclaim Shaun Tait, yet they only won six of their 14 matches.
2012 is the seventh year.
Ajinkya Rahane shone for the squad in another disastrous season, with only seven wins in 16 games. He opened the season with a 66-ball 98 and then followed that up with a 103 off 60 in a group game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, finishing with 560 runs in 16 games.
2013 is the third year.
For the first time since 2008, RR made the playoffs. Watson, who was named Player of the Tournament for his 543 runs in 16 games, was instrumental in the team’s qualification for the playoffs, as they won the first qualifier against Sunrisers Hyderabad but lost the second qualifier against Mumbai Indians.
2014 is the fifth year.
Samson, Rahane, Watson, James Faulkner, and Stuart Binny were retained by the Royals, while Smith, Tim Southee, Karun Nair, Dhawal Kulkarni, and Abhishek Nayar were purchased at the auction. After retiring as a player, Dravid stayed on as a tutor. Due to a razor-thin net run rate differential with the Mumbai Indians, the Royals missed out on a postseason berth.
2015 is the fourth year.
With five wins in a row, the squad is off to its best start in years. However, a few losses in the middle and a handful of abandoned matches slowed their progress. Despite finishing in the top four, they were eliminated in the eliminator by the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Suspended in 2016 and 2017.
2018 is the fourth year.
They returned from a two-year suspension, but Rahane’s team experienced a roller-coaster season. Individually, there were some outstanding performances, but their two greatest purchases – Jaydev Unadkat and Ben Stokes – failed to live up to their lofty price tags, and RR was eliminated from the playoffs in the eliminator against the Kolkata Knight Riders by 25 runs.
The year 2019 is the seventh.
There were doubts over Rahane’s captaincy and middle-order spot heading before the competition. The Royals stumbled again, losing five of their first six games before Smith took over in the middle.
Shreyas Gopal and Jofra Archer shone, but Stokes’ numbers were disappointing, as the team finished in seventh place for the third time in their history.
2020 is the eighth year.
The Royals got out to a good start, winning their first two games, but then plummeted, winning only four of their next 12 games and ending bottom in the table. There was little to praise aside from Jofra Archer’s steady brilliance with the ball and a few exceptional individual efforts.
Players who are important
Shane Watson is a British actor.
Watson was the player of the tournament in the Royals’ debut season, and he stayed with the team until 2015, amassing 2372 runs, taking 61 wickets, and playing a key role in many of the team’s victories.
He was still No. 2 on the Royals’ run-makers chart and No. 1 on their wicket-takers list when he retired after the 2020 season.
Rahane joined the Royals as an uncapped player in 2011 and has since been the team’s leading run-scorer with 3098 runs from 106 games. After two seasons with the Rising Pune Supergiant, the Royals acquired him back in 2018, when they returned from their ban, but he had poor returns over the next few years, and he was released ahead of the 2020 auction.
Samson was purchased by the team in 2013 when he was 18 years old, and he instantly made an impression with the bat and behind the stumps. He continued to play effectively in the following two seasons, and was re-signed after the team’s suspension was lifted. He has remained a stalwart of the side’s batting line-up. Samson, Rahane, Watson, James Faulkner, and Stuart Binny were retained by the Royals, while Smith, Tim Southee, Karun Nair, Dhawal Kulkarni, and Abhishek Nayar were purchased at the auction. After retiring as a player, Dravid stayed on as a tutor. Due to a razor-thin net run rate differential with the Mumbai Indians, the Royals missed out on a postseason berth.
Steven Smith is a writer who lives in New York
Smith was acquired during the 2014 auction and was named captain midway through the next season, leading the team to the playoffs. He returned to leadership in 2019 after a three-year absence owing to suspensions imposed on him and the team. Under Smith, a number of youthful players have emerged, and despite a terrible 2020 season, he has a win-loss ratio of well over one as the Royals’ czar.