Rajasthan Royals skipper Ajinkya Rahane won the toss and elected to bowl against Kings XI Punjab in their first match of the Indian Premier League in Jaipur on Monday.
Kings XI Punjab: Ravichandran Ashwin (Capt), Chris Gayle, K L Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Khan, Nicholas Pooran, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Sam Curran, Mohammad Shami, Ankit Rajpoot.
Rajasthan Royals: Ajinkya Rahane (Capt), Jos Buttler, Steve Smith, Ben Stokes, Sanju Samson, Krishnappa Gowtham, Rahul Tripathi, Shreyas Gopal, Jofra Archer, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni.
Cricket is in the air in this ancient, royal city.
The men in pink greet you from the billboards inside the airport. At the hotel lobby there is a replica of the cricket pitch — with stumps, bat and ball — right next to an idol of Ganesha, the god of auspicious beginnings.
Some 10 minutes away is Sawai Mansingh Stadium, where host Rajasthan Royals will be looking forward to begin its campaign on a winning note in the 12th edition of the IPL as it takes on Kings XI Punjab on Monday.
Ajinkya Rahane’s men will be hoping history continues to favour them — they have never lost to the Kings at this venue. And they lead 10-7 head-to-head.
Smith in focus
The Royals had made it to the playoffs last year, and are looking even stronger now, with the return of Steve Smith — who will be in focus after missing out last season following the ball-tampering controversy — and the addition of fellow-Australian Ashton Turner. Neither of them will be available for the entire league though, because of national duty.
Gayle factor worries Rajasthan Royals
As Rajasthan Royals (RR) are set to take on Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, they consider Chris Gayle as a dangerous player and hope to devise new strategies on ground, depending on the play of the rival team.
“Rajasthan Royals is not going to take the Kings XI lightly. Gayle is a dangerous player. Also, it’s not only about him, but the 11 players who represent the team. We are not going to take them or any of their players lightly,” Rajasthan skipper Ajinkya Rahane said.
While the RR worries about the Gayle factor, Punjab is banking on the Caribbean’s experience.
Punjab skipper Ravichandran Ashwin said: “The team is happy to have the Gayle’s experience in dressing room. Last year, he was quite focussed and the team performance was also good. As Gayle is getting old, his energy is getting higher. It’s great for the team.
“He is the player who loves interacting with young team and shares his experiences with them. This time again, we are looking for more strong partnerships here.”
Ashwin said there are other exciting players too. “We have balanced team and are hoping it to be an interesting match,” he said.