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IPL 2018: Rajasthan Royals, Sunrisers Hyderabad eye winning start after distractions

Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad will be aiming to put the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner behind and get off to a winning start in the 2018 Indian Premier League

cricket Updated: Apr 08, 2018 22:23 IST
Bihan Sengupta
Bihan Sengupta
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
IPL 2018,Indian Premier League 2018,Rajasthan Royals
Ajinkya Rahane will lead Rajasthan Royals in the 2018 Indian Premier League after Steve Smith was banned for this edition due to the ball-tampering scandal. (PTI)

They were champions in 2016 and have made it to three qualifiers in the past five years. However, there is no buzz about Sunrisers Hyderabad when one enters Hyderabad. No banners, no posters, no billboards anywhere. Even the rain Gods seem to be in a mood to play spoilsport with odd showers expected on Monday.

There’s plenty about actor Rana Daggubati though. Almost every other lane has him posing in a larger-than-life figure.

It was supposed to be a clash between David Warner and Steve Smith. Both Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals had marketed their promotions around them and had picked their options at the auctions revolving these two talismanic Australians. However, as luck would have it, both their poster boys are no longer available owing to the sanctions imposed on them in the ball-tampering saga by Cricket Australia and the BCCI.

Ajinkya Rahane will head the charge for the Royals while Kane Williamson will don the captain’s hat for the Orange brigade. It will, thus, be an interesting season-opener for both teams

A balanced side

Besides the absence of Warner, the only dilemma that might bother Sunrisers is the happy headache of problem of plenty. A major reason why the side made it to the semifinal stages last season was because of a power-packed opening pair of Warner and Shikhar Dhawan who had two century stands to their name.

This year, Williamson will be looking to lead from the front, having played just seven games scoring 256 runs in the last year.

With all-rounders like Carlos Brathwaite, Shakib Al-Hasan, Yusuf Pathan and Mohammad Nabi, they have a packed middle-order besides the likes of Manish Pandey, Tanmay Agarwal and Deepak Hooda to carry on the carnage. All of them can hit big and provide enough on the board for their bowlers to defend.

However, Sunrisers Hyderabad will be expected to get a boost from Alex Hales, who is David Warner’s replacement. The England opener had a lengthy practice session and he could start the game.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar will lead the bowling unit and will have the likes of Siddarth Kaul and Sandeep Sharma for. However, Rashid Khan, the leading spin-bowler in Twenty20s, will be the team’s X-factor

From purple to blue

Rajasthan Royals resemble a semi-reincarnation of Rising Pune Supergiant. With the exception of Smith, the former champions have Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul Tripathi, Ben Stokes, Jaydev Unadkat and Ankit Sharma from the erstwhile Pune franchise. While Smith won’t be around, the loss is perhaps not as great as that of Warner. Smith’s 472 runs last season came at a modest rate of 121.96 and while he is one of the best batsmen in the world, he is probably not explosive as Warner.

The Royals, however, have enough ammunition in their arsenal. Quite like Sunrisers, if Tripathi and Rahane can give Rajasthan Royals a flying start, they have Ben Stokes, the most expensive player in the 2018 auction, Jos Buttler and the explosive D’Arcy Short to run riot. The bowling unit isn’t as impressive, although they would benefit from Jaydev Unadkat’s magnificent performance in the last IPL when he was the leading wicket-taker. No wonder, he was the most expensive Indian buy in the auction.

Sunrisers, ought to start as favourites. With their core intact with decent buys in the auction, the experience might score over the side that have an exciting outlook but somehow misses the core.

First Published: Apr 08, 2018 18:51 IST