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Maxwell threat adds to Royals' challenge

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Faulkner: Royals have no reason to panic (4:17)

James Faulkner, part of Rajasthan Royals till not too long ago, hopes Jos Buttler earns a promotion in the batting order (4:17)

Big Picture

If you've received a pounding of the kind Rajasthan Royals did on Monday, you don't want too much time to keep pondering over what could've been. Royals, in any case, don't have time to reflect on the nine-wicket defeat because they're back home to Jaipur, once their bastion, to face Delhi Daredevils, also smarting from a loss to Kings XI Punjab.

Both sides have a similar make-up. Two batsmen who like to play anchor in Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane, and two destructive allrounders in Glenn Maxwell and Ben Stokes. They also have a plethora of spin options. Yet, the main concern will be the batting for one and bowling for the other.

Royals endured a problem of plenty in their tournament opener. Having five openers in the top six didn't help matters. While one game is too early to talk combinations, Royals will quickly need to identify who bats where.

At the auction, much of their strategy seemed to suggest a replication of Rising Pune Supergiant's formula. They will do well to implement some of it too, like slotting Rahul Tripathi back at the top of the order, where he struck 391 runs in 14 innings, including six successive 30 plus scores, at 146.44 during a breakout 2017 season.

Royals aren't the only ones with things on their plate though. Daredevils play five away games first up. Having gone down in their opener, they would have to find ways to lift themselves up soon and not get into a rut that could leave them with too much to do at home in the second half.

For starters, they will need to decide how much is too much, before making changes. Colin Munro, as destructive as he can be, was all at sea against spin in Mohali. The Jaipur surface of old offered plenty of zip. Now, with the track slightly slower, there's a case of Royals continuing to stifle him with spin. Munro, though should back himself. In the first game, he was up against R Ashwin and Mujeeb Ur Rehman, Here, he'll possibly face K Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal, who struggled in the opener.

The Daredevils spinners were also found wanting. Amit Mishra was particularly expensive. With one frontline legspinner in Rahul Tewatia to do the job, they could possibly look at fielding Shahbaz Nadeem, the left-arm spinner, who has also proved himself with the new ball in the past.

As such, it's a battle between the two batting line-ups. Who will blink first?

In the news

Daredevils will welcome the return of Glenn Maxwell. A straight swap with Dan Christian is the most-likely possibility, given they have two other seam-bowling allrounders in Vijay Shankar and Chris Morris to bank on.

Given how their batting struggled, they could look at beefing up their lower order by including Stuart Binny in place of K Gowtham, who was out for zero and bowled a lone over. Binny can also chip in with the ball if needed. Jofra Archer is still recovering from a side strain and hasn't arrived until match-eve. There are issues with some other Royals overseas recruits as well: Sri Lanka's Dushmantha Chameera has not arrived because of a fitness concern, and Afghanistan's Zahir Khan was replaced late by New Zealand legspinner Ish Sodhi.

The likely XIs

Rajasthan Royals: 1 D'Arcy Short, 2 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Sanju Samson, 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Butler, 7 Stuart Binny 8 Shreyas Gopal, 9 Dhawal Kulkarni 10 Jaydev Unadkat, 11 Ben Laughlin

Delhi Daredevils: 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Rishabh Pant, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Vijay Shankar, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Rahul Tewatia 9 Shahbaz Nadeem/Amit Mishra 10 Trent Boult, 11 Mohammed Shami

Stats that matter

  • Royals have a win-loss ratio of 2.428 is the best among all teams in the tournament's history. They've won 34 out of their 49 home games.

  • Daredevils captain Gautam Gambhir will be playing his 150th IPL game on Wednesday. His 36 half-centuries are the joint-most in IPL history along with David Warner. His 4188 runs in 148 innings are the most by a batsman without a century.

  • Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat are two of Royals' best bowlers in the Powerplay with a Smart Strike Rate of 6.12 and 6.39 respectively. Stokes wasn't bowled in the first six on Monday.

Strategic punt

  • Maxwell presents a case to be promoted up the order. Far too often, teams have left him for a little too late. Given Daredevils already have Morris for death hitting, Maxwell can be considered a sound choice, perhaps even at No. 3, should Daredevils start well. His Smart Strike Rate of 190.22 between overs 7 and 15 makes him a bigger threat than Shreyas Iyer, who strikes at 154.80 in the same period.

Fantasy picks

D'Arcy Short likes pace on the ball and will be offered just that if Daredevils hand the new ball to Trent Boult and Mohammed Shami. His strong backfoot game having grown up on bouncy Australian decks could help him and Royals on a fresh Jaipur deck. If he's already in your squad, there's no reason to make a change just yet. Not all returns, after all, are instant.