One of the worst hit teams in last year’s spot-fixing scandal, Rajasthan Royals will be keen to clear its off-field image with good on field performances when it begins its IPL campaign by taking on a formidable Sunrisers Hyderabad here on Friday.
The Royals were left feeling betrayed when errant Indian pacer S. Sreesanth and two other teammates — Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan — were arrested for allegedly indulging in spot-fixing in at least three IPL matches last season. But they hardly let that hamper their performance on the field.
Ironically, RR ended up being the third best team in last year’s event. Led by veteran Rahul Dravid, it dominated the sixth edition, despite lack of big names in its ranks.
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 has managed to put together a well balanced side. While it picked up players like Steven Smith, Tim Southee, Unmukt Chand and Rajat Bhatia, it managed to retain match-winners such as Watson, Ajinkya Rahane, Stuart Binny, Sanju Viswanadh, James Faulkner and Brad Hodge.
Watson has always been a key player for the Royals and the team is expected to excel under his leadership.
The Sunrisers team, which went down to the same opponent — Rajasthan Royals — in the Eliminator last season, will be looking to avenge its defeat.
The Sunrisers’ fourth finish stunned everyone considering it was their debut season in the last edition.
Sunrisers have already showed their brilliance at the auction, where they have bought some talented players to assemble a strong unit.
The team has Shikhar Dhawan, Aaron Finch and David Warner at the top, while there is Darren Sammy down the order along with India youngsters — Ricky Bhui and Manpreet Juneja.
Its bowling will be spearheaded by South Africa’s Dale Steyn along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, while Amit Mishra and Karan Sharma form a great spin attack in the company of Parveez Rasool.
With both teams looking solid on paper, a keen battle is on the cards.