One returning franchise is already dominating the conversation this IPL, and now it’s time for the other to come up on stage and say what’s up. But before all that, Rajasthan Royals might just want to check that Chennai Super Kings haven’t used up all of the re-beginners’ luck. The only player they retained ahead of the auction is no longer available. Their biggest buy – worth USD 1.9 million – is nursing a back injury. And their new captain is a bit of a rookie.
Of course, Steven Smith’s loss is more than compensated by the fact that their opposition Sunrisers Hyderabad can’t play David Warner. Ben Stokes forgets pain when his team needs him; two weeks ago, he batted for longer than the length of a full T20 game. And Ajinkya Rahane has been India’s vice-captain for a good while. He is also intimately familiar with the Royals system. So they should be feeling pretty good about themselves. At least until Rashid Khan does his thing. He shattered the record for fastest to 100 ODI wickets recently and considering an unknown wristspinner is already making headlines, expect more magic. Bowling has always been Sunrisers’ strength in the IPL. This season, it it looks all the more important.
The likely XIs
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Alex Hales, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Deepak Hooda, 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Siddarth Kaul, 11 Sandeep Sharma
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 2 Rahul Tripathi, 3 Sanju Samson (wk), 4 Heinrich Klaasen, 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler, 7 Stuart Binny, 8 Ankit Sharma/K Gowtham, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Dhawal Kulkarni, 11 Jaydev Unadkat
Ajit Agarkar, Cyrus Broacha and the ESPNcricinfo team discuss the potential impact of the absence of the explosive Australian opener
Stats that matter
Rahane will be wary of the bowlers Sunrisers have. He has only made 191 runs off 208 balls against them. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, in particular, has taken him out six times – three times more than anyone else in the IPL.
Kane Williamson has a T20 strike rate of 192 against the bowlers in the Royals roster. He’s made 73 runs off 38 balls, losing his wicket only once. Forty-two of them have come off Stokes, at a strike-rate of 210.
Alex Hales has lost his wicket to spinners 20 times in 41 innings for England. He’s especially vulnerable to the left-arm orthodox variety – 12 dismissals. Ankit Sharma might want to pass that on to the Royals think tank.
Between Bhuvneshwar, Rashid and Shakib, Sunrisers can count on 12 good overs. And in Bhuvneshwar, they have an excellent death bowler – 43 wickets in 71.1 overs. But who will partner him? Shakib, Rashid and Sandeep Sharma have been conceding at least nine an over in this stage of an innings since IPL 2015. Siddharth Kaul might be asked to strap on that headband again (economy rate 8.3, including 11 wickets in 10.4 overs)
Try the new kid. The cult of Jofra Archer has grown past English shores even though he’s not played a single game of senior international cricket. The 23-year-old fast bowler is impressive at any stage of the innings, with a T20 economy-rate of 8 in the Powerplay (1-6), 7.05 in the middle overs (7-15) and 8.42 at the death (16-20)
Rashid Khan. Gives instant satisfaction. A Powerplay expert with 12 wickets, he also gives away only 6.5 runs per over in this stage of an IPL innings.