In the most closely fought season ever, it was a roller-coaster ride for the Royals(RR) in 2020. From a rollicking start with back to back wins at Sharjah to losing their path after moving out of Sharjah, then winning 3 out of four games to remain in the hunt and then finally blowing it away in their final league fixture to get knocked out and bagging the wooden spoon, the Royals’ campaign was way more entertaining than any other side’s which had finished last in a season.
Jofra Archer was phenomenal with the ball. He was exceptional particularly in the powerplays where he conceded just 4.3 runs per over and picked four wickets.
Rahul Tewatia was the find of the season. The spin-bowling allrounder won games with his explosive batting, consistently bowled economical spells and was also excellent in the field. Tewatia finished the tournament with 255 runs at a strike rate of 139.04 and 10 wickets at an economy rate of 7.08.
Sanju Samson again produced a few match-winning performances. The young wicketkeeper-batsman made significant contributions in four out of six games Royals won as he struck three half-centuries and a quickfire 48 in those games.
Ben Stokes won two matches on his own at the back end of the tournament. He smashed a brilliant unbeaten century against Mumbai Indians in a high run chase and followed it with an outstanding all-round performance against the Kings’ XI Punjab.
What didn’t work?
The inconsistency of their top batsmen hurt the Royals. The likes of Jos Buttler and Steve Smith couldn’t deliver as per the expectations while the veteran Robin Uthappa was a total failure. The youngster like Riyan Parag, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Mahipal Lomror also failed to impress.
Samson lost his way in the mid of the tournament while Stokes failed to create any impact barring his two match-winning performance.
However, the bigger problem for the Royals (RR) this season was their bowling. Archer single-handedly carried their pace attack while Tewatia did a reasonable job as the support spinner of the team. Jaydev Unadkat, Tom Curran, Ankit Rajpoot, Varun Aaron & Andrew Tye were all terrible in whatever opportunities they were provided while Shreyas Gopal also disappointed as he failed to provide his team with breakthroughs in the middle overs. Kartik Tyagi provided glimpses of brilliance but failed to produce a single match-winning spell.
There were also some tactical errors which cost the team. The team tried five different opening combinations. The likes of Robin Uthappa and Shreyas Gopal were persisted with even after repeated failures. Riyan Parag looked like he had no role in the side. Smith was also not astute with his bowling changes. His decision to bowl Unadkat instead of Archer in the penultimate over against RCB cost his side the match they should have won.
What do they need to do for next season?
The Royals(RR) have gone 12 years without a trophy and have entered playoffs just four times, which is only more than KXIP among the current franchises. But every time the focus has been shifted to them promoting young talents which have helped them in hiding their failures. The young talents of RR have however not lived up to the hype as over the years, the franchise has been carried by overseas match-winners with most Indian players just making up the numbers in the XI and this season was not much different. Other than Tewatia and Samson, all of their Indian players were below par.
The Royals need to invest on performers at the domestic level and if possible, they should rope in an Indian capped batsman for experience who is still good enough to perform at this level. An Indian pacer who can partner Archer either in PP or the death will be a welcome addition for next season. A change in captaincy might also help them. T20 isn’t the strongest suit of Steve Smith and his performance this season proves the same.