In the news for wrong reasons off the field, both Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings will finally have focus back on their cricket when they open their IPL-7 campaign on Friday.
Chennai Super Kings, owned by the under-fire BCCI supremo N Srinivasan, will face a revamped Kings XI Punjab at Abu Dhabi in the first game while the Royals, who had three of their players banned last year, clash against Sunrisers Hyderabad later.
Two-time champions CSK are still reeling under the spot-fixing scandal in which some of their top officials have been implicated. Coach Stephen Fleming has been candid enough to admit that off-field issues cannot be just brushed aside. “There’s a lot going on, I won’t lie. There are a lot of distractions (leading up to the tournament). I think we were all uncertain about how it was going to play out,” Fleming said.
But for the spot-fixing controversy, CSK led by India captain MS Dhoni look a formidable batting batting side with players like New Zealand swashbuckler Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina and Dhoni himself.
However, up against a strong, revamped Kings XI Punjab, the first challenge will be to counter paceman Mitchell Johnson, one of the prized catches this season. Johnson has been wreaking havoc and it’ll be interesting to see how the strong CSK line-up fares against him. The match will also provide opportunity to KXIP’s new recruit Virender Sehwag, who is looking for a comeback.
One of the worst hit teams in the spot-fixing scandal, Rajasthan Royals ironically ended up being the third best team last year and made it to the Champions League.
New captain Shane Watson said the spot-fixing controversy last year was the case of a couple of bad apples in the side, and assured that the team had got over the distraction and was concentrating on giving its best.
This year, RR have put together a well balanced side. While they picked players like Steven Smith and Tim Southee, they managed to retain Watson, Ajinkya Rahane, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, James Faulkner and Brad Hodge.