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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

IPL 2018: Ben Stokes makes low-key exit after costing Rajasthan Royals $10,000 per run

All-rounder has left subcontinent having scored just 196 runs in 13 games

As one pundit put it, Ben Stokes, centre, may have played with the cloud of a court case hanging over his head. Bikas Das / AP Photo
As one pundit put it, Ben Stokes, centre, may have played with the cloud of a court case hanging over his head. Bikas Das / AP Photo

Ben Stokes cost the Rajasthan Royals US$10,000 (Dh36,700) for every Indian Premier League (IPL) run he managed this year, making him a luxury even by the opulent league's standards.

Stokes, under pressure over a looming court case for a street fight, was voted the IPL's Most Valuable Player last year and was the top foreign signing for 2018 with a $1.96 million deal.

But he left India this week having scored just 196 runs in 13 games.

By contrast New Zealander Kane Williamson, captain of table-topper Sunrisers Hyderabad, has bashed his 625 runs so far for less than $725 each. And he is still going strong.

Many commentators believe England star Stokes' off-field troubles have blunted his performance on the pitch.

"Ben Stokes hasn't been that aggressive in-your-face cricketer in this tournament due to what's happened," former New Zealand all-rounder Scott Styris said.

"And part of that reason I think is because he has to keep a low profile. That's not his personality," Styris told AFP on the sidelines of his Star Sports show Select Dugout.

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Our take: Stokes worth price tag?

Two years in a row Ben Stokes has been the IPL’s most expensive player. In 2017 he went to the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant for $2.17 million. This year he was picked for roughly the same amount by the more imaginatively-named Rajasthan Royals – the league’s inaugural champions in 2008.

In 2018 Stokes has scored a paltry 147 runs across seven innings at a strike-rate of 123.52 - below-par figures by his standards. And the less said about his bowling the better. But all that would be overlooked if Stokes could live up to his billing as a game changer, the rationale behind Rajasthan’s investment.

Indeed, there was an expectation the England all-rounder would snap back into the form of yore after he was cleared to play for his national side following a charge of affray outside a nightclub in England. But his inability to inspire a win or two has been down to lack of game time over the past few months, as a result of his suspension. Perhaps, it could also be due to the toll the ongoing court case may be having on his mind.

Who knows?

This is not to write Stokes off. He may yet rediscover his mojo and Rajasthan could still reach the play-offs. But at this stage of the season, the franchise will be rightly worried they are not getting worthwhile returns on a very large investment.

- Chitrabhanu Kadalayil, Assistant Sports Editor

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Stokes in a rut

The Royals, coming back after a two-year corruption ban and struggling in the race for a play-off place, have badly missed the explosive batting and bowling that made Stokes one of the world's leading all-rounders. He managed just eight wickets with the ball.

"He needs to be that Ben Stokes the character who dominates the game," Styris added. "He was the No 1 all-rounder in the world, he was MVP," the cricketer-turned-commentator said.

Stokes was picked up for $2.16m with Rising Pune Supergiant in 2017 and lived up to his reputation by hitting 316 runs and taking 12 wickets in 12 matches. It sealed him a big reputation in India, which is why the Royals took the risk.

Former Australia batsman Dean Jones said Stokes' relative lack of international cricket in recent months had affected his performance.

"Stokes was MVP last year and this year he has missed out and that's the game T20," said Jones, adding that Stokes should have played himself into this year's IPL pressure cooker.

"Don't go there and start smacking from the word go.

"It's all about momentum at the start. If you have scores under your belt then you relax in your job, but he hasn't got that."

Opener Jos Buttler was in fine form for Rajasthan Royals this season. Rafiq Maqbool / AP Photo
Opener Jos Buttler was in fine form for Rajasthan Royals this season. Rafiq Maqbool / AP Photo

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It was another Englishman, Jos Buttler, who stole the Royals show this year. Buttler's showing was in stark contrast to Stokes' as he hit 548 runs in 13 games at a strike-rate of 155.4.

Like Stokes, Buttler has returned home to prepare for England's first Test against Pakistan at Lord's on May 24.

The English duo recorded a video message for Royals fans before leaving, in which they expressed hope that the champions of the IPL's opening 2008 season would at least make the final four.

Royals play their last league game against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday.

The seven-week tournament has $8 million in prize money, including $4m for the team crowned champions at the May 27 final in Mumbai.