Rajasthan Royals could become the England fan’s IPL team, claims Liam Livingstone

11:26 AM ET

  • Andrew MillerUK editor, ESPNcricinfo

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      Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England’s historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate – it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007

Liam Livingstone believes that Rajasthan Royals could become the favoured IPL team among England fans, as he gears himself up for his debut in the competition alongside three fellow countrymen in Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and the soon-to-be-qualified Jofra Archer.

This year’s IPL gets underway in March with a total of 11 English players in the mix, including Sam Curran, this season’s most expensive overseas signing, who was picked up by King’s XI Punjab for £800,000.

And while Livingstone’s £50,000 fee wasn’t quite in the same league, he feels his destination will give him a unique opportunity to thrive in the IPL spotlight, thanks to his longstanding friendships with the star names alongside him.

“I’ve played cricket with Ben at Cumbria and Jos at Lancs, so I think that will be the best part of it, some familiar faces,” Livingstone told ESPNcricinfo. “It’s great to be going to a franchise with guys I already know, so hopefully that’ll help me settle into the environment a little quicker.

“It’s obviously great to have the English contingent, and that’ll give us a big following back home in England, for people who don’t really support a team in the IPL, they’ll see four English lads in one squad and take a lot of interest in that.”

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Livingstone’s success at the auction was a welcome boost at the end of a tough year, which began with a call-up to England’s Test squad in New Zealand, but was badly disrupted by a broken thumb, sustained during Lancashire’s championship defeat against Yorkshire in July. That loss would prove a major factor in the club’s relegation and Livingstone subsequently chose to step down from the captaincy.

And yet, in T20 cricket, Livingstone enjoyed a fine run of form at the top of Lancashire’s order, blasting 318 runs in seven matches, including a 49-ball century against Derbyshire and a brilliant matchwinning 79 from 37 balls in a one-run Roses thriller at Old Trafford.

“It was a disappointing year but there were a few highlights as well, so it wasn’t all doom and gloom,” he said. “To average 45 at a strike-rate of 190 in T20 meant that, going into the winter, I knew there was a chance to be picked up in a few tournaments with that behind me.”

So it proved, with a stint with Karachi Kings in the PSL looming large next month, before he heads straight to Jaipur for the start of the IPL on March 23.

“It’s going to be a life experience, as well as an experience on the field, because you can’t get that sort of big-game experience anywhere else in the world apart from international cricket. It is going to be a great learning curve.”

Unsurprisingly, Livingstone’s Lancashire team-mate Buttler was an especially keen advocate of the IPL when Livingstone was weighing up the pros and cons of putting himself forward for this season’s auction.

In 2018, Buttler produced one of the storylines of the tournament when, after being promoted to open the Rajasthan innings, he responded with a run of five consecutive half-centuries, a vein of form that led directly to his England recall for the first Test against Pakistan at Lord’s a fortnight later.

“Speaking to Jos, he always says it’s one of the best things he’s done in his career,” Livingstone said. “This time last year, if you said that Jos would do what he’s done in Test cricket, people would have said you were crazy, but that shows not only the level of skill Jos has got, but that, so long as your basics are in good order, you can temper what you do in T20, and use it in 50-over and Test cricket as well.”

The same is clearly true of Stokes, who was MVP in the 2017 IPL while playing for Rising Pune Supergiant, and was recently singled out for praise by England head coach Trevor Bayliss, following his starring role in England’s 3-0 Test series win in Sri Lanka.

None of which came as any surprise to Livingstone, who became accustomed to Stokes’ exploits while playing age-group cricket in his native Cumbria.

“Ben was two years older than me so we used to travel around together,” he said. “I was in the U13s and he was U15s. so we didn’t play in the same team much, but we’d be playing our matches on different pitches, usually at a big public school, and if you wandered round, you’d usually find he was on about 140-odd.”

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Livingstone is realistic about his chances of breaking straight into a powerful Rajasthan squad, one that will also feature India’s Ajinkya Rahane and Australia’s former captain, Steve Smith, who will be returning to top-level cricket for the first time since his year-long ban for ball-tampering. But even if spends most of his stint warming a bench, he doesn’t believe it will have been a wasted trip.

“I think that was one of the reasons I wanted to go into the auction, even though I’ll miss part of the season with Lancs,” he said. “The experience of being in the changing room with some of the best players in the world, and playing against them, and seeing how they operate from day to day, that was one of the attractions of going in.

“If I get the chance to play, I hope I can show people what I’m about,” he said. “I would like to see myself as flexible and willing to try a few different positions. I’m just going out there with an open mind and, if I get the chance to do anything, hopefully I’ll be ready to take it.”

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