The IPL has been in existence for long enough to have its share of heavyweights and minnows. Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab, barring their first season exploits, are established members of the latter club.
Hence, when the two meet on Sunday night at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium here, it’s fair to say that the pre-match excitement will be a notch lower than usual.
Yet, it would be foolhardy to ignore the positive start to RR’s campaign.
Two wins out of three has won the team a spot in the upper reaches of the table, with the side’s victory over defending champion Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday here demanding a serious acknowledgement of its potential.
As skipper Rahul Dravid remarked, “Teams don’t like playing us. They know we will compete and fight.”
RR’s defeat against Pune Warriors India in its previous match, however, has brought some piquancy to a dessert seemingly on course for immaculate preparation.
PWI had suffered two defeats before its facile win over the Jaipur-based franchise and the absence of Shane Watson and Shaun Tait due to injuries hurt Dravid’s side considerably.
Moreover, an unnecessary distraction came up on Friday when S. Sreesanth claimed that the ‘Slapgate’ incident involving him and Harbhajan Singh in 2008 never occurred.
If RR was looking for smooth preparation ahead of its contest against KXIP, the inconsistent senior paceman chose an inopportune time to throw a spanner in the works.
Positively, Watson and Tait are now fit but James Faulkner’s impressive performance against PWI may deny the latter a place in the playing XI.
The opposition, also, is not in the strongest position. Having acquired a Jekyll-and-Hyde reputation over the years, KXIP didn’t surprise many when it succumbed to a 10-wicket loss at the hands of Chennai Super Kings after posting a comprehensive win over PWI in its season opener.
Poor fielding compounded the impact of a similar effort by the side’s middle-order batsmen on Wednesday.
Adam Gilchrist’s team doesn’t have a strong batting line-up at its disposal; neither can it boast of top-quality bowlers.
However, as witnessed in the last match here, quick bowlers enjoyed much assistance from the track and the likes of Praveen Kumar or Ryan Harris could prove to be a handful on Sunday.