After a few forgettable seasons in the IPL, Rajasthan Royals has built a rather formidable unit this time, with some of the top Indian cricketers in its ranks.
With spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal in RR’s ranks, CEO Jake Lush McCrum believes that the team has enough firepower to live up to its favourite tag.
What are your thoughts on the team ahead of yet another edition of the IPL?
We are happy with the team we built. It was a complex auction and you had to be flexible and agile. Going into the auction, we had to pick our values early, because players, later on, would be inflated in terms of their prices. And that seemed to come. On day two, we kept the fans waiting until the end for the overseas players, which was a bit of excitement for them. But part of the plan was to try and ensure there were no other bidders for those individuals. Now we must deliver on the field. In the last few seasons, we’ve had a strong side but were hampered with availability and injury challenges. We’ve obviously learned from those availability challenges with who we’ve looked to sign.
This time in the auction, it was evident that Rajasthan Royals desperately wanted to fix its spin bowling department. What was the idea behind roping in Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal?
I think to start with, we wanted a strong Indian core. We’ve been challenged with that over the last few years that if you miss out on those quality Indian players in a mega auction, then you’ve then got to wait three or four years until you can have another go. So, we wanted to take our opportunity and sign quality Indian players throughout the side and make sure our weightage of spend was heavily on those Indian players. With regards to spinners, we want wicket-takers through the match. If you look at last season, middle overs wicket-taking was something we lacked. And so, we wanted to fill that with a quality spinner. And we managed to get two quality spinners. The good thing about Ash is that he can bowl pretty much anywhere and Yuzi can bowl in a variety as well.
You said the focus was to have an Indian core. Is this a lesson learnt from the last few years where the team was heavily dependent on overseas superstars?
Availability is a significant reason, and you know that the Indian players are going to be available for the whole tournament, whereas with overseas players, there can be some challenges. So, that was factor one. Factor two: we were able to work with and develop our Indian players year-round. Yes, they will be with their state sides, but it’s much easier to fly them into our academy in Nagpur and work with them. We’ve seen in all years of the IPL that the teams with a strong Indian core win more consistently than others. And so, we wanted to build a group that doesn’t just win this season but can win consistently moving forward. If you look at the age profile of our sides, and you’ve got some extremely experienced players like Yuzi and Ashwin, but you’ve also got an incredibly talented core of Indian players who are between the ages of 20 and 26, which means you’ve got five to 10 years potentially with them as a group to build that continuity and quality for years to come.
The team now has senior players like Ravichandran Ashwin and Jos Buttler around. Does that help captain Sanju Samson?
It’s great to have experienced players on your side and it’s great to have supporters for Sanju in terms of tactical inputs during the game. Sanju loved working with Jos last year for the first seven matches and having that bond with him and having that soundboard during a match. Ash is another person who’s a very smart thinker. And, Sanju has been sort of speaking to him quite a lot in the build-up to and post-auction. When I assemble a management team within my business, I want people that are better than me in different areas of the business feeding me. Sanju also needs people with more experience in different areas who have different tactical thoughts, so he can bring those together.
Your thoughts on the team’s choices in the batting department…
Shimron Hetmyer was a key target for us because he’s got experience in that finisher role. He can take on spin and pace, and he’s finished games in the IPL as well as outside of it. I think Sanju sort of being in a No. 4 role again gives you that depth in batting. His strike rate is unbelievable. And then, you have Riyan Parag or overseas players.
Riyan has now had three seasons in the IPL. He’s continuing to mature and develop. We invested in him for a reason because we see him being with us for the long run and with people like Daryl Mitchell – those are quality bats who’ve done it on the international stage and are hungry to learn, develop and help us win matches.