Abu Dhabi: One of the worst hit teams in last year`s spot-fixing scandal, Rajasthan Royals will be keen to clear their off-field image with good on-field performances when they begin their IPL campaign by taking on a formidable Sunrisers Hyderabad here on Friday.
The Royals were left feeling betrayed when errant Indian pacer S Sreesanth and two other teammates -- Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan -- were arrested for allegedly indulging in spot-fixing in at least three IPL matches last season. But they hardly let that hamper their performance on the field.
Ironically, RR ended up being the third best team in the last year`s cash-rich event. Led by veteran Rahul Dravid, they dominated the sixth edition, despite lack of big names in their ranks.
New captain Shane Watson said the spot-fixing controversy last year was the case of a couple of bad apples in the side, and assured that the team had got over the distraction and was concentrating on giving its best.
Under the able guidance of Dravid, who will be seen in mentor`s role this time around, coach Paddy Upton and skipper Watson, the team that is often considered underdog, will be looking at springing up surprises once again.
This year, RR have managed to put together a well balanced side. While they picked up players like Steven Smith, Tim Southee, Unmukt Chand and Rajat Bhatia, they managed to retain match-winners such as Watson, Ajinkya Rahane, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, James Faulkner and Brad Hodge.
Watson has always been a key player for the Royals and the team is expected to excel under his leadership.
RR has always given chance to young players despite their lack of experience. While 19-year-old Samson has mesmerised one and all, 42-year-old Pravin Tamble ended up being the match-winner on more than one occasion last season.
The Royals will be keen to strike the right balance this time as well. The Sunrisers Hyderabad, who went down to the same opponents -- Rajasthan Royals -- in the Eliminator last season, will be looking to avenge their defeat.
The Sunrisers` fourth finish stunned everyone considering it was their debut season in the last edition.
Sunrisers have already showed their brilliance at the auction, where they have bought some talented players to assemble a strong unit.
The team boosts of the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Aaron Finch and David Warner at the top, while there is Darren Sammy down the order along with India youngsters -- Ricky Bhui and Manpreet Juneja.
Their bowling will be spearheaded by South Africa`s Dale Steyn along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, while Amit Mishra and Karan Sharma form a great spin attack in the company of Parveez Rasool. With both teams looking solid on paper, a keen battle is on the cards.
Rajasthan Royals: Shane Watson (c), Ajinkya Rahane, James Faulkner, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, Brad Hodge, Steven Smith, Abhishek Nayar, Ben Cutting, Kane Richardson, Tim Southee, Unmukt Chand, Ankush Bains, Vikramjeet Malik, Rahul Tewatia, Ankit Sharma, Amit Mishra, Deepak Hooda, Rajat Bhatia, Kevon Cooper, Iqbal Abdulla, Dhawal Kulkarni, Pravin Tambe, Karun Nair, Dishant Yagnik.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Shikhar Dhawan (c), Dale Steyn, David Warner, Darren Sammy, Amit Mishra, Aaron Finch, Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Brendan Taylor, Moises Henriques, Venugopala Rao, Jason Holder, S Aniruddha, Manprit Juneja, KL Rahul, Amit Paunikar, Naman Ojha, Ricky Bhui, Ashish Reddy, Chama Milind, Parveez Rasool, Prashanth Parameshwaran, Karn Sharma.