Rajasthan Royals captain Shane Warne said absence of Australian all-rounder Shane Watson and Pakistan medium-pacer Sohail Tanvir has dealt a big blow to the team's chances of defending the Indian Premier League (IPL) crown.
Watson, the player of the tournament last season, and Tanvir, the leading wicket-taker with 22 wickets, were two star performers for the Royals, who made a mockery of the underdogs tag to win the inaugural season.
Watson, who recently came off a long-term injury, joined the Royals for their training camp here but will go back on national duty for the series against Pakistan next week. He will take part in the later stages of the IPL.
Tanvir will be missing the entire tournament after the IPL cancelled the contracts of Pakistan players because of political tension between India and Pakistan. "They are big losses," Warne said. "Shane misses the first nine games playing for Australia so he will be available for the last five games and hopefully the finals. He's not bowling at the moment but he's still a big loss. Tanvir was sensational last year, taking early wickets and bowling at the end."
Both players will be playing against each other during the Australia-Pakistan series in the UAE from April 22-May 7.
The loss is complicated for Royals as IPL rules restrict teams to fielding a maximum of four non-Indian players. Warne and South African captain Graeme Smith are likely to fill two of those places.
England's Dimitri Mascarenhas, who appeared in only few matches last season, and South Africa's Tyron Henderson could take up the all-rounder's role. South African fast bowler Morne Morkel and Australia's Shane Harwood will be competing for the strike bowlers slot. Royals will play Bangalore Royal Challengers in their first match April 18.