Both Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad will begin life without their key overseas players when they face-off in the Indian Premier League on Saturday.
At this stage, Royals are more affected than Sunrisers with the absence of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Joffra Archer — all of whom have left for England to join the World Cup preparatory camp. They will have the services of captain Steve Smith for two more matches.
Sunrisers will surely miss their destructive opener Jonny Bairstow, who formed the most potent opening pairing alongside David Warner.
Things will get tougher for both teams after the departure of Australians – Warner and Smith – next week.
Sunrisers are placed better than Royals on the points table, having won five out of their 10 games. Royals have only won four of their 11 games but they too remain in the hunt for a playoff spot, thanks to a late resurgence.
All-rounder Archer propelled Royals to a thrilling victory over KKR on Thursday night and his absence too will be felt very much.
While the departure of three Englishmen could cost Royals dear but the form of Ajinkya Rahane and Smith is a positive sign.
The real find for Royals has been 17-year-old Riyan Parag, who has shown remarkable skill with bat and ball, demonstrating tremendous temperament. The Assam lad made 47 off 31 against KKR and put Rajasthan Royals back on road to victory from a very tight situation. In an otherwise bleak season for the domestic talent in Royals’ squad, the youngster is a bright spot.
Much more will be expected from the inconsistent Sanju Samson who has repeatedly thrown his wicket away after good starts. The likes of Ashton Turner and Liam Livingstone are likely to be called upon to fill the overseas slots an they will have to raise their game. Especially Turner, who has been dismissed for a first-ball duck in all his three outings.
The bowling will be a bigger worry for the hosts because Archer was the most effective bowler for them in death overs. However, Varun Aaron was very impressive against KKR with 2 for 20 and the Man of the match’ award would also boost his confidence.
Oshane Thomas had a decent debut outing with 1 for 32. But Jayadev Unadkat’s poor bowling at the death continues to be a worry for Royals.
Sunrisers too will be affected by the absence of overseas players but, unlike Royals, have capable replacements in their ranks.
Warner, who would be playing his last match of the season on April 29, could be replaced by Martin Guptill. The Kiwi could partner his skipper Kane Williamson at the top of the order once Warner leaves for a potent all New Zealand opening combo. Manish Pandey’s return to form with the bat, after being promoted to No 3 in Chennai, also augurs well for the side.
Wriddhiman Saha is also waiting in the wings and could don the gloves in the absence of Bairstow, as well as providing an option at the top of the order. Shreevats Goswami is the other option for Tom Moody’s side.
Sunrisers do not have reasons yet to panic but given how tight the race for the fourth spot is shaping up to be, a win against Royals with Warner still in the side becomes extra crucial. The Australian opener will also have his eyes on an IPL record if he gets to a fifty in this match — that will be his sixth consecutive half century. Virender Sehwag (in 2012), Jos Buttler (in 2018) are the other two players to have scored five on the trot, along with Warner.
Head to Head in IPL:
Overall: Matches – 10, Rajasthan Royals – 4, Sunrisers Hyderabad – 6.
Rajasthan Royals: Steve Smith (captain), Ashton Turner, Ish Sodhi, Oshane Thomas, Liam Livingstone, Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson, Shubham Ranjane, Stuart Binny, Shreyas Gopal, Sudhesan Midhun, Jaydev Unadkat, Prashant Chopra, Mahipal Lomror, Aryaman Birla, Riyan Parag, Dhawal Kulkarni, Krishnappa Gowtham, Varun Aaron, Shashank Singh, Manan Vohra, Rahul Tripathi.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Kane Williamson (captain), Basil Thampi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Hooda, Manish Pandey, T Natarajan, Ricky Bhui, Sandeep Sharma, Siddarth Kaul, Shreevats Goswami, Khaleel Ahmed, Yusuf Pathan, Billy Stanlake, David Warner, Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Shakib Al Hasan, Wriddhiman Saha, Martin Guptill, Vijay Shankar, Abhishek Sharma, Shahbaz Nadeem.
[Inputs from PTI and iplt20.com]