Shane Warne and Rahul Dravid constantly motivated their team © IANS
They have been the moneyball team since the first edition of the Indian premier League (IPL). What is it that makes Rajasthan Royals great without boasting of star players? Abhijit Banare notes down some key lessons from the RR set up.
1) It’s all in the leadership (mentor): Shane Warne and Rahul Dravid, two of the finest brains in cricket, led Rajasthan for six seasons. Their abilities were unquestionable, but leading an underdog team requires ability to motivate and channelise young talent to get the results. It’s interesting to note the phase in which these two players were in when they led RR. Warne had no pressure of impressing any selector out there. It was all about enjoying the leadership and helping the team win. Having seen their personal highs and lows, it was about putting the team first. When two remarkable cricketers have set such a legacy, captains who follow have a path paved out for them.
2) Understanding your resources: One of the reasons why Rajasthan is looked upon as an underdog is because of how the team-sheet looks like – they have consistently looked among the least intimidating sides in every edition. Yet, that’s not the way the team management looks at it. What typifies the Rajasthan team is how the jigsaw puzzle fits in to form a perfect picture. Take any example and you can define their identity. Rajat Bhatia has been a reliable batsmen for Delhi, yet when it comes to Rajasthan he is the one to make the run-scoring difficult for batsmen. And match after match, the captain unfailingly uses him. The well-defined identity allows each player to feel comfortable in their own space. This has been a less noticed hallmark of Rajasthan’s success right since the first season. When each player knows his role and how to complement with the other, the team automatically gels and the results start coming in. Even if results go wrong, there is no panic in the team.
3) Big names were created not bought: Today Sanju Samson, Pravin Tambe , Ajinkya Rahane and others are among the finest in the shortest format. But none of them have an awe-inspiring record. However, Rajasthan chose what fits in and the results are there to be seen. These players have given an invincible feel to the team by delivering consistently. It’s an easy task to shell out money in the auction and build a team around match-winners, but Rajasthan have created match-winners of their own. Rahane’s calmness at the top, Watson’s brutal hitting skills, Sanju Samson’s elegance make them among the many match-winners RR now possess. Rarely have we seen the Royals dependent on the form of one batsman or bowler throughout the season. That clearly defines what team effort means.
4) Having faith in your resources: Building a pool of talent and ensuring they perform are two different tasks. Every IPL team has new faces, yet seldom do teams take the risk of using them in the playing XI. Players like Apoorva Wankhede and Pawan Suyal would have already learnt a lot from such an esteemed set of support staff in the Mumbai Indians camp. But all that matters only when you get to put them to use. Meanwhile, Rajasthan have never shied away from using unheralded players. Kamran Khan, Sanju Samson, Rahul Shukla, Vikramjeet Malik, Kevon Cooper. The list goes on. The delightful part of the story is that most of them have managed to make their opportunities count. And it’s not a coincidence, but the team atmosphere which makes a difference.
5) Underdogs forever: With the limelight on Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid was often perceived as the unsung hero. No wonder that he carried the same identity happily to a team with similar characteristics. Thanks to the lack of big names, Rajasthan have been stereotyped as underdogs season after season. And they weren’t worried about it one bit. Instead, they enjoy the lack of pressure carrying on their work with calm and focus.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)