As we go deeper into any edition of the Indian Premier League, the teams in the top half of the table begin to distance themselves steadily from the bottom four, who continue to fight their battles against inconsistency.
One of the teams in the second category this season, who are in dire need of a turn in fortunes, are the Rajasthan Royals. With three wins in eight matches thus far, the Steven Smith-led side are yet to get any form of momentum going for them in this competition, and their odds have been tanking across all cricket betting sites in India.
Their overseas core is arguably the best for any side in this IPL, but not all of them have been firing regularly. Jos Buttler, despite having the luxury of playing full 20-overs, has struggled to give the team consistent starts at the top of the order with a mere 168 runs in eight matches.
Smith’s numbers has been a letdown by his personal standards. 163 runs in eight matches. Sanju Samson has been Sanju Samson: sporadic brilliance squeezed between consistent run of mediocrity. With six games left in the group stage, a change in tactics is essential for the Royals.
At present, Ben Stokes is their opener. While cricket pundits often state that the team’s best player must get to face the maximum number of deliveries, past experience show that Stokes has been most dangerous in the middle-order in this competition.
The Royals need not look any further than putting him at number five, where Robin Uthappa has no form going for him. His best IPL came in 2014, when as a top-order batsman, he won the Orange cap and earned a comeback to the Indian setup. A straight swap between the two could help both players get some consistency going for them.
It could also mean less pressure on Buttler and Smith, who will have other players in their usual position to rally around them. Rahul Tewatia has been the most talked about Royals player ever since he pulled off the miraculous run-chase against the Kings XI Punjab at Sharjah. However, since that evening, he has never come out to bat at four for Royals.
Perhaps, the idea is to use him late in the innings when fewer balls are left and he could have the clarity of thought to tonk the ball from the word-go. However, with that comes the risk of getting out early and looking reckless.
Hence, for their own benefit, the Royals would be better served if Tewatia was used as a floater, even if it meant compromising runs from one of the overseas players.
Their bowling has revolved around Jofra Archer, who may well want a supporting hand from somewhere, anywhere. After his 12 wickets, the next best is five and the Royals will hope for new heroes to emerge in the remaining matches, if they are to make it to the top four.
The Royals face a tricky set of matches against teams who are themselves looking to climb into the top half. They will need to step up a gear to meet their compatriots over there.