Rajasthan will be starting with a clean slate or so they will hope after the blot of the spot-fixing scandal of last season. Last edition was Rahul Dravid’s farewell year in top-flight cricket. He is the team mentor while Shane Watson will lead.
Smith, a smart buy
Rajasthan have spent judiciously in the auction and at Rs 4 crore all-rounder Steve Smith could prove to be a smart buy. The Australian provides the balance with his batting, bowling and fielding.
David Warner, Aaron Finch and captain Shikhar Dhawan may not be as dangerous as Gayle, Kohli and Yuvraj but their combined firepower cannot be discounted. Darren Sammy, who has grown into a fine finisher, will ensure that the side bats deep.
Watch out for Rasool
Parvez Rasool is the only player from Jammu and Kashmir to play in the IPL. The spin-bowling all-rounder will be keen to prove his mettle.
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Reputation at stake for Super Kings
Chennai Super Kings have been in the news of late but that’s for all the wrong reasons. Kings XI Punjab have their own concerns, trying to bed in a new-look team around Virender Sehwag and Mitchell Johnson.
Stability vs freshness
Controversies notwithstanding, Chennai has a look of continuity, having retained the core and have recruited well — Samuel Badree, Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum give them more firepower upfront and options with the ball.
Punjab’s problems are that they have the match winners with the bat in a fresh line-up — Virender Sehwag, David Miller, Glenn Maxwell and skipper George Bailey. Deciding who bats where could be the key to unlocking the potential in the batting order.
The pace battery
Pace bowlers are not expected to get too much out of the tracks in the middle east, but if there is one that can, it is Punjab’s Mitchell Johnson. The left-arm quick, roped in for Rs 6.5 crore, missed the World T20 due to a toe infection, but he’s now fit and raring to go.
For Chennai, two between Ben Hilfenhaus, Mohit Sharma and Ishwar Pandey will assume new ball duties, a combination that will not worry the opposition batsmen.
If Chennai is weak in the pace department, which might affect the side in the death, they are over-stocked in the spin department, which could prove an edge for the first 15 overs or so. Chennai can choose between Ashwin, Badree, Jadeja, Suresh Raina and even B Aparajith. For Punjab, Murali Karthik is the lone spin option leaving them very exposed.
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