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IPL 2018: Ben Stokes’ worrying form has hit Rajasthan Royals hard

Stokes part of the struggling middle-order.

Ben Stokes of Rajasthan Royals
Ben Stokes of Rajasthan Royals. (Photo by Twitter)

After a strong 2017 campaign for the Rising Pune Supergiant, Englishman Ben Stokes once again was auctioned to become the costliest player in the Indian Premier League 2018 season. Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals returned, and the latter broke the banks to get Stokes for a mammoth Rs 12.5 crore.

Interestingly, Stokes was bought for Rs 14.5 crore last season, which in turn also made him the highest-earning player. But what happened for Pune, is now not happening for the Royals. RPS reached the final of 2017 edition of the IPL as Ben Stokes had a superb campaign and was considered the most valuable player.

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316 runs from 12 matches blended with a century in addition to 12 crucial wickets, Stokes was the heartthrob of the IPL 2017. This term, things seem not to have gone well for the player, who hasn’t quite lived up to the reputation and is yet to take off. Eight matches have gone by, Stokes finds himself in a position of discomfort.

So where it has all gone wrong for the celebrated all-rounder?

Royals in trouble midway through the season

Sanju Samson
Sanju Samson of Rajasthan Royals in action. (Photo by: IANS)

The way RR played the last two matches against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Delhi Daredevils, they looked very out of sync and could not build upon the chances that came along. Batting has been an issue for the Royals and that was visible once again against SRH. Against DD it was a Jos Buttler show, but they still couldn’t get past.

The team that is highly dependant on Ben Stokes and when he isn’t clicking, the team itself have been poor.

After eight games Royals have six points and its the manner in which they have been defeated is the worry. Its a big work for the seniors to get together and chalk out a game plan so that they can get results in their way. Stokes needs to get into the groove as a lot of hopes is pinned on him. RR need victories and almost in every game.

Stokes’ bowling a worry

Ben Stokes
(Photo Source: Twitter)

Stokes, in particular, has bowled poorly so far. He has taken just one wicket in eight games, that tells you the feature of his bowling. He has often chosen to bowl on the zone for batsmen to go big and that’s been an issue as he has leaked runs.

The striking factor of this IPL was the way he bowled against Suresh Raina against CSK in Pune. The short balls did not work, low full-toss deliveries into the pads were dispatched, as Stokes groaned and looked unhappy with his performance.

Having said that, he also allowed the frustration to get the better of him as he got involved in an exchange of words with Shane Watson. Since then nothing has gone his way. His economy rate of 8 besides a high average 196.00 tells the story.

Stokes part of the struggling middle-order

Ben Stokes
Rajasthan Royals’ Ben Stokes in action. (Photo by Surjeet Yadav/IANS)

A strong middle-order is vital to a team’s success and that’s precisely has been concerning the Royals. Stokes has scored 148 runs in eight matches and it’s his strike rate (122.31) that has not allowed him to bat freely. He has struggled against spin in large.

The versatile southpaw has not got into the groove in which he would have liked. Pune thrived on Stokes’ middle-order aggression last season and that is something RR are struggling to find. Against DD at the Kotla, Stokes came in a crucial situation with RR being in the game while chasing. But a shot off the second ball straight to Vijay Shankar off Trent Boult ended his night.

He was bought for situations like these, but the talented player has failed to live up to his reputation.

Prior to this, RR missed the plot by not sending England wicket-keeper batsman Jos Buttler to open, who never got going lower down the middle-order. But finally, Buttler opened the innings and scored a whirlwind 50 against DD. He thrived in this role for MI last season.

What next for Stokes?

Ben Stokes
Ben Stokes of RR. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Against DD, Stokes was fielding on the boundary and a throw from Buttler on the stumps missed the woodwork. Stokes on the recovery did not close his legs, and the ball hit the ropes. That has been Stokes’ journey so far this year. A player that is lacking confidence.

Stokes needs to keep to the basics and play with a calm head from here on. Rajasthan have six matches left in the group stages and the England player needs to have a change of fortunes. Given his attributes and quality, he can do wonders for the Ajinkya Rahane-led side. Maybe an intelligent pep talk from Shane Warne could do wonders.

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