After making news for all the wrong reasons last year, Rajasthan Royals start with a clean slate today
Abu Dhabi: Rajasthan Royals punched above their weight to finish third in IPL-6. But sadly, the competition last year will only be remembered for the shenanigans of three of their players — S Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila, and the tsunami of developments that have resulted in the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s chief N Srinivasan being ordered by the Supreme Court to stay away from activities of the Board until all investigations into the sordid saga are complete.
Rajasthan Royals, led by Rahul Dravid (right), celebrate a wicket in the last IPL. File Pic
The trio were accused of working in cahoots with bookies and engaging in spot fixing — charges that have already seen Sreesanth and Chavan banned for life.
It is these memories that the Royals have to contend with throughout this season in their quest for redemption, and the game against Sunrisers Hyderabad this evening offers a good opportunity for them to show that whatever happened last season was a bad dream.
Speaking to mid-day a couple of days ago, Royals’ skipper Shane Watson said: “We were doing everything we possibly could to give ourselves the best chance of winning games and to feel like a couple of people in our team were doing things to make winning those games more difficult, was something that I had not experienced till date in my career.”
Now, these are experiences that can jolt the best of sportsmen, and the Aussie may well use this nightmare to drive his players to deliver what he thinks they are truly capable of.
Meanwhile Rahul Dravid, who led by example in the face of extreme challenges, post May 16 — the day Delhi Police made those damning claims — will be mentoring the side this time and the fighter in him would already have prepared the team for the challenges that lie ahead.
On paper, the Royals have strung together a well-balanced side and while the onus of keeping them in contention will rest largely on Watson, Ajinkya Rahane, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson and James Faulkner, the addition of players like Steve Smith, Rajat Bhatia and Tim Southee will only make them stronger.
On the other hand, the Sunrisers Hyderabad, who went down to the same opponents in the eliminator last season, will be looking to avenge their defeat. The team boasts of the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Aaron Finch and David Warner at the top, while there is Darren Sammy down the order along with India youngsters — Ricky Bhui and Manpreet Juneja.
Their bowling will be spearheaded by South Africa’s Dale Steyn along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, while Amit Mishra and Karan Sharma form a good spin attack in the company of Parveez Rasool.
RR’s new boys
Steve Smith (R 4 cr)
FOR someone who started off as a leg-spinner, Smith has come a long way when it comes to batting. And his brilliant fielding abilities make him one of the best players in the shortest format of the game. Smith was part of Kochi, Pune and RCB in previous editions of the IPL. Ironically, two of these franchises have shut shop.
Rajat Bhatia (R 1.7 cr)
Bhatia is a priceless player to have in the ranks, given his never-say-die attitude. In the past, a lot of teams have underestimated his all-round abilities. Bhatia will add great value to a line-up which is eager to erase sordid memories of IPL-6.
Tim Southee (R 1.2 cr)
FOR all the belief that T20 is a batsman’s game, there have been plenty of instances when bowlers have ruled the roost, and that’s where Southee’s inclusion will boost RR.
Iqbal Abdulla (R 65 lakh)
Abdulla enjoyed reasonable success during his stint with KKR and also won the emerging player award a few years ago.
Last match key moments (22-5-2013)
>> SRH were 67 for three after 14 overs but managed to score 65 in the last 6, thanks to some hard-hitting by Darren Sammy and Thisara Perera
>> At 50-1 inside seven overs, RR were on course for victory, but SRH fought back commendably, taking four more wickets, giving away only six more runs
>> Brad Hodge played a blinder for the Royals and his innings of 54 not out off 29 balls made the difference in the