Rajasthan Royals is a happy unit once again. The painful memories of the spot-fixing scandal have receded into the background, allowing the return of mirth and cheerfulness in the camp.
Watching the team train ahead of its Group ‘A’ encounter against Highveld Lions here, it was hard to miss the positive energy around the squad. After Royals’ convincing win over Mumbai Indians in the tournament opener, skipper Rahul Dravid himself revealed that the players had got rid of “last season’s hangover.”
Thanks to the downpour in Ahmedabad, resulting in the cancellation of both Group ‘A’ matches on Monday, Royals needs to win only two of its remaining three matches to confirm a semifinal spot. Not an easy task, but Dravid’s men have won eight games on the trot at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium (SMS).
Though Royals will play after the Perth Scorchers-Otago Volts contest on Wednesday, curator Taposh Chatterjee reckons the track will experience minimal change. Most teams prefer to field first at the SMS, aiming to make use of the early assistance for the seamers. Thanks to the variety of quick bowlers at Dravid’s disposal, the skipper feels his team can surprise any opposition here.
However, Chris Morris’ selection for Chennai Super Kings notwithstanding, Lions has most of the squad that won the Ram Slam T20 Challenge, South Africa’s domestic competition, in its ranks.
Its bowling resources seem rich, with the pacemen led by Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Sohail Tanvir, not to forget the leading domestic T20 wicket-taker last season, medium-pacer Hardus Viljoen.
Moreover, the presence of Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso will significantly bolster the Lions’ spin attack. Perhaps, the team’s batting line-up is a little lightweight, but wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, top-scorer in the Ram Slam Challenge, has the ability to provide the impetus right from the start.
The weather factor
Despite a 60 per cent chance of thunderstorms on Wednesday, there should not be long interruptions, but the weather could impact both teams’ plans.
With the exception of Ashok Menaria, who bowled two overs, Dravid used six quick bowlers to unsettle a strong Mumbai Indians batting line-up in the first match.
Overcast conditions would ensure that the specialist spinners, Pravin Tambe and Harmeet Singh, remain in the dug-out.
For Petersen, though, there are tougher decisions to make.
The conditions notwithstanding, the skipper will have to drop either Tahir or Phangiso.