Four seasons ago, apart from changing the way cricket was perceived, the IPL was also looked at as a platform for unheralded domestic players to get noticed. If there's one team that's mastered the act, it's Rajasthan Royals. Shane Warne's 'if-and-buts' bunch of boys shocked every cricket pundit to lift the trophy in 2008. With Siddharth Trivedi lifting the Man of-the-Match award in the first game and Ashok Menaria striking it hard against the Delhi Daredevils, this year, too, a bunch of waiting-to-shine boys look good to make the IPL even more interesting.
Pool of talent
"If matches are to be won, it's the seven local (Indian) players who'll matter the most," said Sanjay Dixit, secretary, Rajasthan Cricket Association. "After all, you can field only four foreign players." Few know it better than the Royals. Remember Kamran Khan - the wood-cutter's son who never played a first-class match before playing for the Royals in IPL II.
Having nurtured talents like Trivedi, Swapnil Asnodkar and Naman Ojha, it's time for Warne to groom another pool of talent.
The team has four members from the state team -Menaria, Pankaj Singh, Deepak Chahar and Dishant Yagnik - that went on a giant killing spree to lift the Ranji title this year.
"Rajasthan have a great record of winning with the help of local talent," said Chahar, who had 40 wickets in the Ranji season. "Warne keeps protecting and grooming us."
While he may not have made the cut in the opening two matches, Pankaj is among the handful of Indian cricketers who can 'tower over' Jacob Oram and not look silly while bowling in tandem with Shaun Tait. One look at him and you know why bouncers come easy to this 26-year-old. "With Shaun (Tait) there and (Shane) Watson coming in, I may not get a chance immediately," he said. "But, each one of us are match ready," added the highest wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy.
"We have some serious potential in the squad," said Johan Botha, backing the Royals to put up a "great show with Indian players".