Royals have Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Tripathi, two cautious men of contrasting experience levels who can shepherd innings © AFP
Royals have Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Tripathi, two cautious men of contrasting experience levels who can shepherd innings © AFP

Rajasthan Royals (RR) retained Steven Smith, kept their reputation of investing in inexpensive talent aside, did some solid number-crunching, and went all out to acquire T20 specialists. They got D’Arcy Short and Jofra Archer, the big guns from BBL; they made two humongous purchases in Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat; stacked their team with all-rounders and fast bowlers, and when you delve deep, more all-rounders and fast bowlers. Amidst all this, they are going into IPL 2018 without a world-class spinner, something that may prove detrimental on Indian pitches. It is not clear whether the decision was intentional or forced, but whatever it was, RR will have to make up for that with their band of excellent pacers.

Axemen and carpenters

The batting line-up has a no-nonsense look to it. They have Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Tripathi, two cautious men of contrasting experience levels who can shepherd innings; and Jos Buttler, Short, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, and even Archer and Stuart Binny, who can smash their way to glory to varying extents.

And then, there is Smith, who can do both, and more. Rajasthan have traditionally ensured that a legend of the sport, no less, was at the helm. It is the same with Smith.

Where are the spinners?

Archer may yet not be the next Stokes, but no one will scoff if you tell him he may get there. This is as good a pair of all-rounders as they make them. The Indian contingency will give you a solid lower-middle order and a decent group of support bowlers.

What about the seamers, then? Stokes, Unadkat, and Archer will be supported by one or more of Anureet Singh and Dhawal Kulkarni and two overseas seamers to choose from. The attack is more than potent — the seam attack, that is.

Unfortunately, the spin department (where Shreyas Gopal and Krishnappa Gowtham are the biggest names) does not arouse similar hope.

Rajasthan Royals squad: Steven Smith (captain in last season), Jos Buttler (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Prashant Chopra (wk), Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Ajinkya Rahane, D’Arcy Short, Stuart Binny, Jaydev Unadkat, Rahul Tripathi, Aryaman Birla, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jatin Saxena, Mahipal Lomror, Zahir Khan, Shreyas Gopal, Sudhesan Midhun, Ankit Sharma, Anureet Singh, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dushmantha Chameera, Ben Laughlin