A depleted looking Rajasthan Royals will have an onerous task of stopping the mighty Chennai Super Kings in their IPL opener on a Sharjah belter with no Ben Stokes for the first part and question-mark over Steve Smith’s full recovery from concussion injury. Add to it Jos Buttler, their impact player at the top-order will be missing the first game as he arrived separately with his family and need to undergo mandatory 36-hour quarantine in Dubai.
Last edition’s runner-up, CSK exacted revenge upon defending champions Mumbai Indians, beating them by five wickets in the tournament opener in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. And the three-time winners would definitely start as favourites against Royals, who would be missing their premier all-rounder Ben Stokes for an unspecified duration and opener Jos Buttler for at least opening game due to quarantine rules.
The absence of Stokes would severely impact Royals’ campaign at least at the beginning because of the balance it lends to the side. But his father’s terminal illness has kept Stokes out of action for some time now and his absence, certainly in the first half of the league, would disturb the balance of the Royals, perennial underperformers.
But Smith’s possible absence in case Cricket Australia’s medical team doesn’t give a go-ahead to take part in the opening game would be a big dent while taking on a set team like CSK.
The responsibility of keeping Royals alive for the Play-offs would be on their foreign recruits since Indian players in the set up do not inspire much confidence.
Jofra Archer’s presence will be important along with seasoned T20 stars like South African batsman David Miller and Australian pacer Andrew Tye.
The Royals’ main problem lies in their Indian core, which hasn’t exactly been consistent. The likes of Sanju Samson, Robin Uthappa, Jaydev Unadkat and Varun Aaron have failed to live up to the expectations over the years.
CSK, on the other hand, should be brimming with confidence after their dominant show in the opener. They have again shown how to work around with resources and Sam Curran coming good with an all-round show means that Dwayne Bravo would not be missed even if he is set to miss a few more games due to injury.
Rayudu and Faf du Plessis maintained the CSK “run-chase template” of attacking in the back 10 by preserving wickets to perfection.
The addition of Piyush Chawla, a very successful IPL bowler, is also a big plus. However, it needs to be seen how Deepak Chahar is shaping up after sustaining a niggle in the final over of the MI innings. In case, Chahar can’t make it, they have a ready replacement in Shardul Thakur.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (captain, wk), M Vijay, Ambati Rayudu, Faf du Plessis, Shane Watson, Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Lungi Ngidi, Deepak Chahar, Piyush Chawla, Imran Tahir, Mitchell Santner, Josh Hazlewood, Shardul Thakur, Sam Curran, N Jagadeesan, KM Asif, Monu Kumar, R Sai Kishore, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Karn Sharma.
Rajasthan Royals: Steve Smith (captain), Jos Buttler, Robin Uthappa, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Manan Vohra, Kartik Tyagi, Akash Singh, Oshane Thomas, Andrew Tye, David Miller, Tom Curran, Aniruddha Joshi, Shreyas Gopal, Riyan Parag, Varun Aaron, Shashank Singh, Anuj Rawat, Mahipal Lomror, Mayank Markande.
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