As the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League gets underway, we preview the teams in contention, analyse their past performances and look at the key players in the franchise. In this piece, we look at inaugural champions Rajasthan Royals.
Past performances: Rajasthan have never been among the top contenders for the crown, but over the years they have stitched together fighting performances, and have undone some much- fancied sides even with a group of players devoid of superstars. In fact, in the first edition in 2008, they shocked all to claim the trophy following a thoroughly professional performance. In subsequent years, they haven’t been as commanding. They reached the playoffs last season, but were eliminated in the group stage itself in the other four competitions.
Shane Watson: The veteran Aussie all-rounder had a disastrous World T20 campaign, but the RR camp would be having plenty of hopes from him as they kick off their IPL campaign in 2014. Watson was Royals’ talisman when they claimed the championship back in 2008. Over the years, his pace bowling has fallen apart owing to injuries and confidence issues, but he remains a powerhouse with the bat. This season as well, Watson will have to get those big shots out, which he is eminently capable of. There will be additional responsibility on Watson since he would also be leading the side with Rahul Dravid having announced his retirement. It remains to be seen how Watson responds to the challenge.
Ajinkya Rahane: Over the last couple of seasons, Rahane has played some stellar knocks opening the innings in the company of Dravid. This season, Rahane has gone a step ahead and made a serious impression at the Test level as well, with his wonderful performances abroad. Now, he returns to the T20 league, buoyed by his international success. There have often been talks that Rahane is not fit for this version of the game since he doesn’t possess the big stroke. But, Rahane has proved critics wrong, hitting over the top without slogging the ball. With no Dravid, a lot would depend on Rahane at the top of the order.
Kevon Cooper: He has been a surprise IPL success. A bowler who is hardly medium pace, in Cooper the Royals have found a bowler who has the knack of picking wickets without conceding a lot of runs. Accuracy is one of Cooper’s biggest strengths, and he can land the ball in the block hole better than most other pacers in the competition. His success in the format has actually proved that there is place for smart thinkers in T20 as well. Can Cooper continue his good run, this season too? Let’s wait and watch.
Other important players: James Faulkner, Sanju Samson, Steve Smith, Amit Mishra and Tim Southee
Men who matter off the field
Head Coach: Paddy Upton
Coach: Monty Desai
Mentor: Rahul Dravid
Owners: Manoj Badale, Shilpa Shetty and Raj Kundra
--By A Cricket Analyst