Rajasthan Royals have the ability to last distance

Under skipper Rahul Dravid, the former champs hope to replicate their effort in the inaugural edition

Not since the wizard from Oz, Shane Warne, inspired a bunch of unknowns to win the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League in 2008, Rajasthan Royals have come anywhere near replicating that feat in the succeeding years.

Often mired in controversy, either related to their finances or their problems with the host association, the Rajasthan Cricket Association, the Royals have just about managed to keep their head above water in the past few seasons. Till about a few weeks ago, there was an uncertainty over Royals playing their home matches at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium. With the issue now resolved, the Royals, under the leadership of former India skipper Rahul Dravid, hope to turn the clock back in the sixth edition.

Where Warne was able to extract the best out of Ravindra Jadeja, Swapnil Asnodkar, Yusuf Pathan and Siddarth Trivedi among others on their way to title triumph in maiden year, Dravid looks to pull off a similar act with the help of Ajinkya Rahane, their highest run-getter last time, Stuart Binny, Ashok Menaria, Sreevats Goswami and under-19 World Cup star left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh. Kerala’s hard-hitting batsman Sachin Baby may just turn out to be a surprise package while his temperamental State-mate S Sreesanth hopes to get his career back on track.

Just as Warne was their biggest trump card for the duration of his stint with the side, Dravid, without being as assertive and animated, is quite capable of inspiring his young team to deliver the goods. One of the finest readers of the game, Dravid has made tremendous strides in this format as a batsman too. That he was the second highest scorer for them the last season shows how much value he brings to the side.

Another encouraging sign for the Royals is the presence of Aussie all-rounder Shane Watson. The player of the series when Royals won the tournament, the right-hander is one of the most destructive batsmen going around today. The Queenslander missed half of Royals’ campaign last year but his availability from the start is a definite shot in the arm for the former champions. He may not be able to contribute with the ball this time due to injury but he can walk into any side based on his batting prowess alone. It’s quite possible that Watson may open with Rahane to make the most of the Power Play period.
Another interesting addition to the ranks is West Indian leg-spinner Samuel Badree who can be effective on slow surfaces just as paceman Shaun Tait can be lethal if he can mix his pace with accuracy.

Key players: Shane Watson, Ajinkya Rahane.

Best performance: Winners (2008)

Worst performance: Seventh (2010 & 2012).

The squad: Rahul Dravid (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Shane Watson, Brad Hodge, James Faulkner, Ashok Menaria, Sreevats Goswami, Owais Shah, Shaun Tait, Siddarth Trivedi, S Sreesanth, Brad Hogg, Samuel Badree, Fidel Edwards, Kevon Cooper, Kusal Perera, Ajit Chandela, Ankeet Chavan, Dishant Yagnik, Amit Singh, Pravin Tambe, Rahul Shukla, Harmeet Singh, Sachin Baby, Sanju Samson.

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