A well-balanced squad at their disposal, Rajasthan Royals would look to recreate this year the same magic which saw them emerge second best in IPL 2022, as they take on Sunrisers Hyderabad in their campaign opener in Hyderabad on April 2, 2023.
The Royals, led by Sanju Samson, are a side overflowing with performers, with both the purple cap (highest wicket-taker) and orange cap (highest run-getter) being cornered by their players — Yuzvendra Chahal and Jos Buttler — last season.
Over the years, the Royals have built the reputation of being gritty opponents that do not surrender an inch of their territory.
With the likes of two of India's best spinners in Chahal and Ravichandran Ashwin as well as Australian tweaker Adam Zampa in the side, the 2008 IPL winners have perhaps the best slow bowlers in the league.
Sunrisers Hyderabad's batting will have to guard against the wily leg-spinner Chahal, who had emerged the highest wicket-take in IPL 2022 with 27 scalps.
Ashwin, on the other hand, would be buoyed by his showing in the recent Border-Gavaskar Test series, where he grabbed 25 wickets in eight innings, though he is on to a different format.
If their spin-bowling department is the envy of every other side in the IPL, Royals' batting, led by Buttler, can give any franchise a complex, given the way the England stalwart went about decimating every bowling attack last year to accumulate a mind boggling 863 runs.
With England's top-order batter Joe Root too a part of their squad, along with skipper Samson and pinch-hitters Shimron Hetmyer and Jason Holder, Royals' batting too wears a near-invincible look.
SRH, on the other hand, still look like a side trying to find their feet after debacles in the two previous editions of the IPL. While they finished eighth and last in 2021 in a season marred by captaincy woes involving David Warner, IPL 2022 didn't change their fortunes much, with the side again finishing eighth among 10 teams under new skipper Kane Williamson.
This year, South African opener Aiden Markram has been given the captaincy role, though India pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar will lead the side against the Royals as the designated captain will arrive on April 3 after playing a two-match ODI series against the Netherlands.
With Mayank Agarwal failing to impress with the bat while leading Rest of India in the Irani Cup last month against Madhya Pradesh, SRH's top order looks shaky, though they have wicketkeeper-batter Glenn Phillips — one of New Zealand's mainstays in the run up to the 2021 T20 World Cup final — to provide some solidity to the middle order.
SRH's strength lies in their pace bowling line-up comprising Umran Malik, the experienced Bhuvneshwar and South African quick Marco Jansen, though the latter will also not be available for the opening match.
The Royals are no pushovers in the pace bowling department either, having New Zealand quick Trent Boult, West Indian Obed McCoy and Navdeep Saini among others in their ranks.
Bhuvneshwar has been with SRH since its inception in 2013 and knows how the team functions. Having led the side on seven occasions, he knows the home ground like the back of his hand and the knowledge could come in handy on Sunday.
The Teams (From):
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Abdul Samad, Abhishek Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Anmolpreet Singh, Harry Brook, Mayank Dagar, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Akeal Hosein, Kartik Tyagi, Heinrich Klaasen, Mayank Markande, T Natarajan, Nitish Kumar Reddy, Glenn Phillips, Adil Rashid, Sanvir Singh, Rahul Tripathi, Umran Malik, Vivrant Sharma, Samarth Vyas, Washington Sundar, Upendra Yadav.
Rajasthan Royals: Sanju Samson (c), Abdul Basith, Murugan Ashwin, Ravichandran Ashwin, KM Asif, Trent Boult, Jos Buttler, KC Cariappa, Yuzvendra Chahal, Donovan Ferreira, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Dhruv Jurel, Obed McCoy, Devdutt Padikkal, Riyan Parag, Kunal Singh Rathore, Joe Root, Navdeep Saini, Sandeep Sharma, Kuldeep Sen, Akash Vasisht, Kuldip Yadav, Adam Zampa.
Match Starts at 3:30 p.m IST.