Words may not be enough to explain or even understand the amount of joy we are about to experience when the Rajasthan Royals boys walk out to the field in our Dream 11 IPL opener against Chennai Super Kings. It’s been 507 days since the boys in pink went on to the field to entertain the Royals fans around the world. Okay, enough of drooling over the waiting period, let’s get talking about the game of cricket we are about to witness. It’s an age-old battle, one that started during the inaugural season in 2008, when Rajasthan Royals beat CSK in that epic final. 12 years on, the battle still remains intense.
You could say that the battle is between two camps, on either side of their 30s. There have been a few changes in both teams after last year’s auction. We have had strong additions on both the Indian & the overseas contingent. Uthappa, Rajpoot, Miller, Tye & Curran have joined the Royals ranks, bringing in tonnes of experience. And, then there is young blood in the 3 U-19 boys – Yashasvi, Akash & Kartik. All of them have been very impressive during training over the last 20 days or so.
CSK don’t have the experience of Raina & Harbhajan in their squad this year. However, as they showed during the season opener, you can’t write them off, no matter what. Rayudu & Faf du Plessis brought in all their experience during a tough chase against MI. Sam Curran and Piyush Chawla, two of their new recruits played their parts well too.
The last 3 times the two sides met; the game went down to the final over – all of them were thrillers. In 2019, CSK edged past us right at the end. A Royals fan may not forget the drama that unravelled when we played them last, at the SMS. The final over saw Dhoni being bowled by a Stokesy yorker, Dhoni walking out onto the field after a no-ball called by the umpire, a six by Jadeja as he lost his balance completely and a six by Santner that finished the game. We all lost our nails that night. The battles between the two sides have been nothing short of fierce.
Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Of the three venues in this year’s IPL, the iconic Sharjah Cricket Stadium has the shortest boundaries. The average first innings winning total is 171. Small boundaries and a batting-friendly track means that chasing teams have a slight advantage. Since 2018, 26 of the 46 games saw the chasing team get across the line.
David Miller vs Leggies
CSK have leggies in the form of Piyush Chawla and Imran Tahir and a left-arm spinner in Ravindra Jadeja. Their stock balls turn in towards Miller, who loves to send balls packing when in full flow. In Stokes’ absence, Miller could be a key member in the Royals middle order if he plays against CSK.
Jofra Archer vs CSK’s top order
In the 2 years Jofra Archer has played in the IPL for Rajasthan Royals, he has had considerable success against CSK’s top order. Archer has 5 wickets in 3 games against them, and he comes into this game on the back of some form he picked up against the Aussies. Can he torment the yellow brigade in the IPL too?
Shreyas Gopal vs right-handed heavy CSK line-up
With no Raina, Shreyas Gopal can have a crack at all the right-handers in the CSK batting line-up. He was Rajasthan Royals’ leading wicket-taker last year with 20 scalps. Gopal has the knack of out-witing some quality batsmen and CSK have quite a few in their ranks.
The Royals have prepared really hard over the last month or so. Apart from training, they have also played three intra-squad practice matches where the boys spend some quality time in the middle, both with bat and ball. We have a well-balanced squad and there seem to be more than 11 lads who are making a strong case to play the game – a good selection headache to have. The good news is that Rajasthan Royals are about to take the field within hours. Halla Bol!