Rajasthan Royals welcome Kings XI Punjab at their fortress of Sawai Mansingh Stadium
Jaipur's Sawai Mansingh Stadium gears up for the clash between Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) on March 25.
Rajasthan Royals are in pursuit of their second IPL title since clinching the first title back in 2008. Kings XI Punjab's best performance include finishing runner-up in 2014 and a semi-final spot in 2008.
Last season RR made a strong statement for itself on its return to the league after a two-year suspension. The Rajasthan based franchise finished in top-four before bowing out to Kolkata Knight Riders in the knock-out stage.
KXIP started the 2018 season with five wins in six matches but crashed to seven losses in remaining eight to finish seventh in the league standing.
During the match, eyes will be on Steve Smith as he returns to RR after missing the action last year due to the ill-fated ball tampering incident. But this season of IPL is Smith's first step in his journey of redemption. In previous six seasons for RR, the 29-year-old has scored 1703 runs at an average of 37.02 and at a strike rate of 131.70. Royals are banking heavily on Smith's exploits.
Royal's batting looks strong as along with Smith they have the services of Jos Buttler, captain Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Sampson and Rahul Tripathi. Much of RR's success last season can be attributed to Buttler's contributions and the narrative is expected to remain the same this time around as well.
Buttler's England teammate Ben Stokes is capable of winning a few matches on his own with his all-round abilities. Shreyas Gopal, K Gowtham and Ashton Turner are other notable all-rounders in the squad.
In Jaydev Unadkat, Jofra Archer, Oshane Thomas, Dhawal Kulkarni and Varun Aaron, RR boast of a great pace attack.
On paper, RR looks a fairly balanced squad.
In the opposite camp, are KXIP who boast of Chris Gayle. Gayle, by his lofty standards, had a relatively poor season but he can never be discounted in a T20 game. Last season, whenever Gayle and KL Rahul fired the team won. If the opening pair clicks then the middle-order comprising of Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair and Mandeep Singh can mount a late charge.
The team has added to its arsenal England all-rounder Sam Curran. Should the likes of Aussie all-rounder Moises Henriques, Windies keeper Nicholas Pooran and South African David Miller get going, KXIP will be a strong team to stop.
The pace department will be looked after Mohammed Shami, Ankit Rajput and Andrew Tye. The team has a variety of spinners with Captain R Ashwin and Mujeeb-UR-Rahman being the off-spinners, M Ashwin being the leg-spinner and Varun Chakravarthy offering his leg break googlies. It is said that Chakravarthy can unleash 5-6 different types of deliveries in one over.
The kind of star-studded line-ups the two teams offer, this clash is certainly a battle royale.
Timing – 8 pm
Venue – Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur.
Where to watch –Star Sports 1/1HD/1 Hindi/1HD Hindi/1 Tamil/1 Telugu/1 Kannada/1 Bangla/Select 1/Select 1HD
The two teams have gone against each other 17 times. Rajasthan has enjoyed much success winning 10 of those encounters. Punjab has won six matches while one match finished with scores tied.
For Rajasthan Royals, English players Stokes, Buttler and Archer, who are now eligible to play for England and is in the frame for selection will leave on May 1 for their World Cup camp. Smith is available for selection while Ashton Turner will be available from April 1 following Australia's ODI series in Pakistan in UAE. There are no injury concerns for Rajasthan camp for now.
Punjab has the services of all its players from the word go. No injury for them either.
Rajasthan are a formidable side at Sawai Mansingh Stadium. The home advantage should work in their favour. Royals should prevail over Kings in this fixture.
Betting Odds (bet365)
Other popular bets on the match can be checked on Oddschecker.
The pitch is expected to favor batsman.
Moneycontrol Dream XI
Chris Gayle, Ajinkya Rahane (c), KL Rahul (wk), Steve Smith, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, K.Gowtham, R. Ashwin, Varun Chakravarthy, Mohammed Shami, Jayadev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni
Players to watch out for
Jos Buttler for RR
The hard-hitting wicket-keeper batsman has 1,075 runs in 37 IPL matches at an average of 34.68 and a stunning strike-rate of 150.56. He did exceptionally well for RR last time and expectations would be the same in this season as well.
Chris Gayle for KXIP
If there is one true king in KXIP squad then it is none other than Chris Gayle. The West Indies is a legend of T20 cricket. In IPL he has a record six centuries and 292 sixes. Should Gayle get going, he will rip apart RR bowling. Considering how he treated England bowlers recently in the Caribbean, Gayle looks set for IPL.