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Rajasthan Royals begin their IPL 2012 campaign with a home fixture against Kings XI Punjab. RR, playing their first season without Shane Warne, will look to repeat their title-winning performance in the inaugural IPL in 2008. Kings XI Punjab, meanwhile, will be hoping to progress past the league round and into the playoffs; the Mohali franchise made it to the semi-final in the inaugural season (where they were beaten by Chennai Super Kings), but have since failed to finish the season in the top four teams.
Thursday, April 6, 2011, 08:00 p.m.
Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur
Watch out for Brad Hodge, Stuart Binny and Shaun Tait in the Rajasthan Royals line-up. 37-year-old Hodge is among the most experienced Twenty20 cricketers in the world, and though he hasn’t set the IPL on fire yet, this could be his season. Hodge no longer plays the other formats of the game and is somewhat of a T20 specialist. Karnataka all-rounder Stuart Binny was in outstanding form – with both bat and ball – in the domestic first-class season and will be looking to carry that form into the IPL too. Among the bowlers, look out for the express pace of Shaun Tait (who holds the record for bowling the fastest delivery in international cricket), and for the spin of Johan Botha. And with Rahul Dravid at the helm, expect some strategic aces too.
In the Kings XI Punjab jersey, watch out for Paul Valthaty who impressed in IPL 2011 (he scored a century and finished among the top two run-getters for the team). Adam Gilchrist is always a key player, as much for his captaincy as for his batting; the 40-year-old dashing opener hasn’t played any competitive cricket since IPL 2011, but like any true champion, Gilly belies his age and gives it his all every game. Also, look out for 37-year-old all-rounder Azhar Mahmood who will be making his IPL debut.
Rajasthan Royals have a slight edge over Kings XI Punjab in meetings between these two teams with four wins from seven matches. RR have remained unbeaten in two home fixtures against Kings XI Punjab and will want to keep that record intact. Trivia
• Kings XI Punjab have in their line-up the most-capped Twenty20 player in the world – David Hussey. Hussey Jr. has so far appeared in 171 T20 matches.
• This match will feature the top two run-getters in the T20 format; KXIP’s David Hussey tops the list with 4270 runs, while RR’s Brad Hodge comes in a close second with 4226 runs.
• Among the 19 bowlers in the world to have taken 100 or more wickets in Twenty20 cricket, Rajasthan Royals’ Johan Botha has the best economy rate – 6.04. What next?
Rajasthan Royals will stay put at home after this fixture and will host the Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday, April 7. Kings XI Punjab, meanwhile, will travel west to the brand new Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium in Pune to take on Pune Warriors India on April 8.
Rajasthan Royals’ new skipper feels local players make the difference
By IPL staff
Jaipur 05 April 2012
Newly instated Rajasthan Royals skipper Rahul Dravid backed local young talent to come through for the team in IPL 2012. The veteran cricketer hopes that the IPL will help set a platform for the youngsters to stake a claim to the national side. He expressed faith in domestic players Ashok Menaria, Ajinkya Rahane and Stuart Binny when he addressed the media after training at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium ahead of the match against Kings XI Punjab on March 6.
Excerpts from the pre-match press conference:
On the expectations from their first game of IPL 2012
I think in some ways the opening match is always one where there is a lot of anticipation. We have been practicing and preparing for this event for the last week here but even before that behind the scenes. From our point of view, we are looking forward to it. We feel we are quite well prepared and we have worked hard. That is all you can ask for. I am very happy with the effort and enthusiasm of the team over the last week. There is good team spirit. We just need to put in some performances now.
On the local players
You have to rely on the local talent at the end of the day. The tournament is such that only four overseas players can play [in a match]. You might have eight or nine overseas players in your team but finally in the playing eleven only four foreign players can play, so your local domestic talent is incredibly important. I am very excited about some of the local exciting talent that we have [like] Ajinkya Rahane. I think Ashok Menaria is a batting sensationally at the moment. Stuart Binny has had a very good Ranji Trophy season. We have got some young exciting talent in the domestic [circuit] and if you look at the record of the teams that do well, you will find that it is their Indian players who have actually have made a big difference. Of course, the overseas players and professionals have a role to play but like I said – you can’t win the game with only four players. You need the other players to contribute and help them, so those seven [local] players become quiet critical. The thing that I like about Rajasthan [Royals] and what I enjoy here is the focus on promoting young talent – identifying and spotting young talent. You will be seeing this year we have three young exciting batsmen in Ajinkya Rahane, Menaria and Stuart Binny. We have a young left-arm spinner in Ankit Chavan. There is Gajendra Singh from Rajasthan and also players like Amit Singh, Pankaj Singh and Siddharth Trivedi. There are guys who are pushing in and out for India selection. As a senior player, it is exciting to play with some of these youngsters and try and help them along their way and probably help them play for India in the near future.
On whether there was a plan to promote Ashok Menaria up the batting order
I wouldn’t want to give away all our secrets here but you will see that we do recognise that Ashok Menaria is at a very important stage in his development as a cricketer. Whatever he has done in the last week has shown us that he is a really exciting talent and we will give him all the opportunities to try and establish himself. If he has a big tournament, [it] can take his name forward.
On his own role in the team
[...] I am the captain of the team. We also have good support staff like Monty Desai and Zubin Bharucha. Mentor, coach etc .are just names given to the roles but finally you have to manage [everything]. It is more like a co-ordination job and [about] ensuring that we are well prepared. I’ll be using some of my experience as an international cricketer, and what I’ve seen, to try and help players. We have a couple of good young Indian coaches. We believe that everyone has a responsibility towards the team [....]. I am looking forward to the season and to getting this team together and working with the support staff and the management. On whether this was a stage for him to continue to play after retirement, like it was for Shane Warne
[...] For the last four years I have been playing [in the IPL] and [I have played before for] this franchise as well; there is nothing brand new for me. At the stage [when Shane Warne came in], the IPL was just beginning. But this is exciting. There is a lot more responsibility this time [around]. There are a lot more expectations but it is a good [thing]. People are quite keen on the game [...].
On whether he would be making any changes to his batting given the format
I don’t think there will be any specific changes [that I will make to my batting]. Like always, I will be practicing and preparing for this tournament no differently [than I did before]. [...] I know that if I am playing well and playing consistently, I will have some good results [...]
On the absence of Shane Watson from the early games
Shane Watson will not be there for the first nine games. There are very few players like Shane Watson in the world so we will definitely miss him. But I believe that the young players that we have picked up in the auction, and some experienced ones like Brad Hodge and Owais Shah, will ensure that we don’t miss him that much. If the rest play well, we will be in a good position [in the tournament] and so when he comes in for the last few matches, we will give him an opportunity to take us through to the final four.
On the competition this season
All the teams in the tournament are good. You can’t take anyone lightly because all teams have match-winners. Last year KXIP had beaten us so we do know that they are good team. This time we will go in with a few different plans and hopefully win and start well in the tournament.
On the players they were planning to target in the game tomorrow
It is a team of eleven good players so we will not be focussing on any one player in particular. [...] We will plan for all whether they are batsmen or bowlers. [...] If you want to do well in this tournament, then six or seven of your players have to perform. We will focus on the team game.
On whether this would be his last IPL
I haven’t decided. I am focussing on these two months [...]
On Sreesanth’s fitness status
Sree has unfortunately not fully recovered from his injury. Hopefully, after three or four matches, [he will be fit]. He has started [practicing] a bit. He bowled a little today too but might take another week to recover completely. On the wicket
It is a good wicket. I appreciate the local curators and groundsmen for the facilities that they have given us here in the last week. There are very few places in India where you can get such good facilities, good wickets, and [find] such hard work being done. I really thank them. [....] I am not going to tell [the curator] how to prepare the wicket; that is his job. My job is to try and get the team to play well. I will leave his job to him and play well. I am confident that he will prepare a good wicket [...]