Champions League 2013 September 19, 2013

Back to cricket at Royals' fortress


Rajasthan Royals have been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the last few months but the Champions League offers them a chance to bring the spotlight back to their cricket. The corruption scandal that came to the fore towards the end of this year's IPL took much of the gloss away from what had been an excellent season for the Rahul Dravid-led side. Royals were one of two teams this year to remain unbeaten at home and despite lacking in star value when compared to other IPL teams, players like Brad Hodge, Stuart Binny, James Faulkner, Kevon Cooper, Ajinkya Rahane and the captain himself made their performances count.

Royals have always been a personality driven team. From the days of Shane Warne to the current arrangement under a vocal version of Dravid, the team's captain has remained the most visible part of it on the field. And understandably so - the biggest domestic player in the team Rahane is an introvert, so someone has to compensate to keep the young team buoyant.

It will be the last time Dravid will be seen on the cricket field and after the sadness that came with the realisation he was sailing a ship with numerous holes, he would be looking forward to a good sign-off. Despite the heavy losses the team has incurred in terms of personnel, it still remains an efficient battery, with a cannon the size of Shane Watson. What's more, they are playing all their league matches at their fortress.

Key players
This IPL season, Shane Watson was intimidating with the bat, top-scoring for the team with 543 runs at a strike rate of 142.89, the highlight not being his century, but his 34-ball assault on Chennai Super Kings' bowlers in seaming conditions. He also picked up 13 wickets, bowling for the first time after a gap of a few months. In the absence of Siddharth Trivedi he would assume a bigger role in the team's bowling plans. Batting-wise, he is always a threat at this level, and his recent century against England will be a major boost to the team.

Then there is Brad Hodge, the second-highest run-scorer in T20 cricket behind Chris Gayle, who brings that 196-match experience to lend stability to the batting line-up in the lower half. Add Rahane, the silent accumulator at the top, to the list and the batting has a sense of depth to it. The bowling will be led by Faulkner, who was second in the list of leading wicket-takers in IPL 6.

Surprise package
Ashok Menaria featured in only one game in the IPL earlier this year, but he has struck rich form ahead of the tournament. Playing against New Zealand A, he picked up 10 wickets in three matches with his left-arm spin and scored a match-winning half-century as well. Along with Stuart Binny, he could form the backbone of the middle order.

In the IPL this year, Royals enjoyed the extra pace and bounce afforded by the Jaipur pitch and they will get the same home advantage in the Champions League. However, the teams they are going to play against include Perth Scorchers, Otago Volts and Lions, who would also prefer those conditions. In such a scenario, the absence of a quality spinner could hurt Royals. Pravin Tambe is the lone specialist spinner, but at 42 and with no first-class experience, his inclusion would always be a gamble.

Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 21, 2013, 13:54 GMT

    sachin rocks royle's socks

  • Dummy4 on September 21, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    Did they release Brad Hogg? he would be the spinner they need .

  • Ashok on September 20, 2013, 18:13 GMT

    RR start the match as favourites! RR has plenty of fire power despite the spot fixing incident depriving them of a couple of bowlers. Openers Rahane & Watson are going to be handful for any team. Samson, Dravid, Hodge & Menaria will be a force to reckon in the middle order followed by Binny, Faulkner, Cooper in the lower order. In bowling Watson, Faulkner & Cooper will lead the attack supported by all rounders Bunny, Hodge & Menaria. They face rather weakened Mumbai bowling without Malinga. Mumbai will have to rely on their strong batting to bail them out. Rohit Sharma, Ponting, Tendulkar, Pollard, Smith, Rayudu have all done well in the IPL. However, MI will rely heavily on Kulkarni, Harbhajan & ZAK in the bowling. If they perform well, than it is "Game On". It promises to be an interesting battle of the Giants. RR seems to be better balanced. But it is really the teamwork & performance on the match day that matters.Which giant will go down is anybody's guess! Good Luck Guys.

  • Dummy4 on September 20, 2013, 17:57 GMT

    you didnt mention anything about sanju samson!

  • Dummy4 on September 20, 2013, 6:59 GMT

    Rahul Shukla ll be The Find from this CL20,I d like to watch his pace...!!

  • Android on September 20, 2013, 6:25 GMT

    Dravid's team is capable of lifting the trophy

  • Khem on September 20, 2013, 5:30 GMT

    Rahul Dravid is the greatest batsman ever for India.

  • Himanshu on September 20, 2013, 3:42 GMT

    Though I never really like IPL or CL t20, I want RR to win this one. Only reason for hoping so is Dravid. He deserves a good farewell and after all that has gone by over the past 6-7 months, it would be a fairytale farewell for him. No one deserves it more.

  • Suchith on September 20, 2013, 3:24 GMT

    Rahul Dravid, Ajinkya Rahane, Shane Watson, Ashok Menaria, Brad Hodge, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, Kevon Cooper, James Faulkner, Vikramjeet Malik and Rahul Shukla.... will be an ideal first choice with spin department in hands of Menaria and occasional choice of Hodge

  • Dummy4 on September 20, 2013, 1:47 GMT

    You have left out Sanju Samson from the list of performers for Rajasthan Royals. He did wonderfully well for Rajasthan Royals in the last IPL, whether as batsman or wicket-keeper, he contributed his bit and even won a match on his own.