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Indian Premier League 2021

IPL 2021: How can Rajasthan Royals rejig their line-up in Ben Stokes’ absence?

Stokes IPL 2021
Aadya Sharma by Aadya Sharma
@Aadya_Wisden 3 minute read

Ben Stokes‘ untimely injury has left Rajasthan Royals without a key overseas player just one game into their IPL 2021 campaign, but they still have  enough resources to sufficiently fill the void.

After a heartbreaking four-run loss to Punjab Kings which would have mentally and physically sapped them, Sanju Samson’s side were dealt a much bigger blow with the news of Stokes’ injury, and his subsequent exit from the tournament. A replacement player is likely to be announced soon for Stokes, who is set to stay with the Royals set-up for their upcoming matches.

While Stokes’ all-round credentials are difficult to match, Rajasthan have enough depth in their squad to, in bits and pieces at least, fill the dual role by tweaking their combinations a bit, at least until a replacement player joins the camp.

Here’s the complete IPL 2021 schedule, along with TV and live streaming details.

Who opens the batting?

In their opening game, Stokes opened the batting with Manan Vohra – a move not everyone was convinced by. Stokes fell for a three-ball duck, but it wasn’t long ago that he had blasted a century from the very same spot against Mumbai Indians, ending with a match-winning 60-ball 107 in IPL 2020.

One straightforward option would be to bump Jos Buttler up the order – the wicketkeeper-batsman batted at No.4 in the last game, a move that prompted Michael Vaughan to tweet “What are you thinking @rajasthanroyals?”, asking why the 30-year-old was not facing the new ball instead. As a T20I opener, he averages 48.46 at a strike-rate of 153.05. Doesn’t seem to be a bad choice at all.

Another option would be to have the young Yashasvi Jaiswal fill in Stokes’ spot, and have additional overseas options cushioning the middle. However, a Jaiswal-Vohra combination doesn’t exude a lot of confidence, especially after Jaiswal’s show in the last edition, where he managed just 40 runs in three games.

Who are the overseas options?

Among the existing options, David Miller and Liam Livingstone are the frontrunners to claim a batting spot. After being a regular in the IPL for years, Miller’s stock in the tournament has dipped a bit: since 2017, he has played just 19 games, 10 of which came in 2019. He is a proven performer though, and could easily occupy the No.4 spot if Buttler is pushed to the top.

Alternatively, Miller could also be tried as an opener, since he could be a like-for-like option to attack quicks in the powerplay, even though it’s an untested move. In a similar way, Livingstone, too, can be a suitable candidate to take the opening spot, having done so in the BBL for Perth Scorchers, and for Lancashire in the T20 Blast.

How does the bowling workload change?

Rajasthan won’t be too fussed about the gap in their bowling attack. In the last game, Stokes bowled just the one over, conceding 12 runs, and was one of eight bowlers employed by Samson against Punjab. While Rajasthan may not use as many bowlers all the time, they are packed with enough seam all-round options in Chris Morris and Shivam Dube to plug the gap without tweaking the balance too much. Additionally, Andrew Tye is also out of quarantine and presents Rajasthan with another bowling option to try out.

If they require further pace options, talented Indian domestic bowlers in Kartik Tyagi, Akash Singh and Kuldip Yadav are waiting on the bench, along with the experienced Jaydev Unadkat. On top of that, when Jofra Archer is fit and available, his addition to the XI will bolster the pace attack substantially.

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