There are only 120 balls in an innings in T20 cricket. The most a batsman can play if he stays unbeaten right through is somewhere around 55-65 on average. To face those many deliveries during a game, a batsman goes through rigorous net sessions where many of them face more than 100 balls; well over the average they would face during a game. All kinds of shots are practiced and all kinds of bowlers run in to bowl at them. What matters at the end though, is the number of runs they score in the middle, with over 20,000 fans in the crowd, and with no coach around, highlighting the mistakes they make.
Rajasthan Royals are the one of five teams with centurions in it; in fact, the Royals had two centuries in Vivo IPL 2019. The batting line-up was infused with a mix of experience and youth. Our batsmen fared well, even in some of the games we lost during the season. Several of them were consistent throughout the season, and deserve special mention.
Ajinkya Rahane: 393 runs
Jinks has been around a long time at Rajasthan Royals and knows most of the venues around the country pretty well. Therefore, it’s no surprise that he finished the Vivo IPL 2019 season as RR’s highest run scorer with 393 runs. With a strike rate of 137.89 and a batting average of 32.75, Rahane hit the highest number of boundaries for RR this season - 45.
Rahane played a fine knock against SRH in our first away game of the season. He scored a quick 49-ball 70 that laid the perfect foundation for the rest of the batting line-up to build on. At his home ground in Mumbai, Rahane got going on fifth gear right at the start of the chase. While Buttler took his time to settle in, Rahane played an array of classic and attacking shots during his 21-ball 37.
The best was yet to come from Rahane’s blade. In our home game against Delhi Capitals, Rahane was at his vintage best. He picked up the gaps against pacers and used his feet to good use against spinners. It looked like nothing could stop Rahane, as he went on to score a sublime century, his second in the Vivo IPL. Rahane was a treat to watch right through the season. As an opener, he got the team off to solid starts more often than not.
Sanju Samson: 342 runs
It’s quite unbelievable to watch Sanju Samson toy with some of the top bowlers in the Vivo IPL. He seems to have that extra second against the quicks and is quite nimble-footed against spinners, whether he has to step out of his crease or go down on one knee to sweep. The season got off to a brilliant note for Sanju, as he scored an elegant century against Sunrisers Hyderabad, in just our second game. He looked at ease against the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid Khan.
Samson had to miss two games due to an injury to his leg, but returned soon. After taking over wicket-keeping duties, he got some handy starts in both our encounters against Mumbai Indians and the away game against Kings XI in between.
Samson kept a calm head during the chase against Sunrisers at home. In two meetings against them, Samson piled up 150 runs and was unbeaten as well. In the curtailed game at Bengaluru, Samson kept our chase on course with a quick-fire 28. All in all, the Kerala batsman had quite a promising season. He would have loved more than the one 50+ score to his name, but he still finished as Rajasthan Royals’ second highest run-getter in 2019.
Steve Smith: 319 runs
Before the season, Steve Smith last played for RR in 2015. Returning to the squad after 4 years, and returning to the IPL after a year built up a lot of intrigue among fans to watch him play. The Australian star was eased into the captaincy role in the latter half of the season, and that turned his fortunes with the bat as well.
Nursing an elbow injury before the Vivo IPL, Smith didn’t seem in fine touch in our first few games. He did score a fighting 73 against KKR at home, but his best was what came later on during the tournament. Smith scored two consecutive half centuries after he took over the captaincy against MI at home. In a tense chase, he played some of his trademark strokes in his unbeaten 59, and followed it up with 50 against DC.
Those cuts and flicks took some time to make it to the crease, but when they did, it was an absolute pleasure to watch. Smith has taken the form he picked up with Rajasthan Royals into Australia’s warm-up matches against the Kiwis back home.
Jos Buttler: 311 runs
When this man gets going, everything around him comes to a standstill. Buttler, along with Smith, had the joint highest number of 50+ scored in the season – 3. Jos was also the first one to get past 50 for RR, during our opening game of the season against KXIP. It took a Mankading from Ashwin to stop him that day on 69.
After a couple of quiet games, Buttler scored an important 59 during our first win of the season, when we faced RCB at home. He followed this up with a couple of good starts, before he went absolutely belligerent against MI at the Wankhede. Jos smashed 28 runs off Alzari Joseph and took the game away from the hosts with an aggressive 89.
Jos’ journey in the Vivo IPL was cut short, as he had to rush to England to be with his wife and his soon-to-be-born baby. He was our leading run-getter last year, and could’ve well been the one yet again, had he stayed right till the end.
Riyan Parag: 160 runs
At the start of the season, Riyan Parag was a 17-year old who was part of India’s U-19 World Cup winning squad. He was an unknown quantity to all our opponents at that point. But, at the moment, everybody in the Vivo IPL knows who Riyan Parag is, and what he is capable of.
At 17, Parag showed how matured he can be when he bats or bowls in the middle. It all started with his cool-as-a-cucumber 43 off 29 balls. He formed a crucial stand with Smith to take RR home against MI. Another innings of substance came in when he scored a 31-ball 47 against KKR at Eden Gardens. He got us close to the finish line in a steep chase, and a hit-wicket is what stopped him in his tracks.
That was not all! In our last game of the league stage, most of our batsmen faltered on a dry Delhi surface against the Capitals. The ball was turning square and the bounce was quite uneven for Vivo IPL standards. However, there was one man who was unfazed by all of this – Riyan Parag. He stayed calm and composed, while wickets fell at the other end. He avoided risky shots, right till the end of the innings, something MS Dhoni would be proud of. When it looked like we wouldn’t cross 100, Para ensured that we reached 115 and played out the 20 overs. In the process, the teenager became the youngest batsman to score a Vivo IPL fifty. At the end of the season, we can safely say – a star is born.
Our batsmen managed to score runs in all kinds of situations, whether we batted first or chased. We had a century n a hoke game as well as an away game. Four of them scored over 300 runs in the season. There were some handy partnerships as well, that bailed us out of trouble at times and won us a few games as well. Both experienced and young batsmen came to the fore and shone at various occasions. Next season seems to be quite promising for all these stars.