15 Sep 2020: IPL: Will Stokes play this season? RR coach opens up
Rajasthan Royals will begin their 2020 IPL campaign against Chennai Super Kings on September 22.
While they boast a sturdy side this season, the availability of marquee all-rounder Ben Stokes still shrouds in mystery.
Notably, Stokes had pulled out midway through the Test series against Pakistan to be with his father, who has been diagnosed with brain cancer.
Here is more.
Stokes: 'Don't want to second-guess right now', says Andrew McDonald
RR coach Andrew McDonald clears the air on Stokes' absence.
"Thoughts with the Stokes' family. It's a difficult scenario, we're giving him as much time as he needs, and connecting with him as best we can," he told ESPNcricinfo.
"We're not sure where Stokesy's at right now, but once it has played out, then we can make our decisions. I don't want to second-guess."
Cricket: Stokes yet to play after the first Test against Pakistan
England all-rounder Stokes hasn't competed in competitive cricket since August.
Previously, he emerged as the leading run-scorer of Windies Test series.
Ahead of the second Test against Pakistan, he travelled to New Zealand, where his parents reside presently.
Stokes' father Ged, a former New Zealand rugby league international, was admitted to hospital in Johannesburg, two days before Christmas last year with a serious illness.
Fact: Ben Stokes in IPL (2018 and 2019)
Stokes hasn't quite done justice to his hefty price in the previous two seasons. He racked up 196 and 123 runs in 2018 and 2019 respectively. With the ball, he has accounted for a total number of 14 wickets (combined).
Variety: RR have the required depth in batting
McDonald added the team has variety in the batting segment.
"We've added some depth in terms of our left-hand batting, in particular in (Anuj) Rawat and (Yashashvi) Jaiswal among the home-grown players, so we think we've got some options there" he added.
"The way we set up at the auction, we feel we can structure our side up to three or four different ways."
Absence: Will Stokes' absence hurt RR?
Stokes might have not performed as effectively in the cash-rich league, but his presence makes the team balanced strong on paper.
His recent display in international cricket speaks volumes about his stature.
However, the Royals have plenty of options this time to fill in for Stokes.
South African star David Miller is one such batsman who could replace Stokes in the batting line-up.
Miller: 'Miller has been fantastic for the group'
The RR coach highlighted the credentials of Miller, who was bought by the franchise for Rs. 75 lakh at the auction.
"He was the first overseas player to land, which is great because you don't get access to overseas guys until 10 days out," he stated.
"He's been fantastic for the group and creating energy around the group. His fielding is second to none."