Rajasthan Royals will have to come up with something special to outplay and outsmart an experienced Chennai Super Kings who have already begun the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League on a winning note. Chennai had defeated defending champions Mumbai Indians by five wickets in the season opener in Abu Dhabi on Saturday and will now look to maintain the rhythm and take an early lead at the top in the points table.
Royals on Monday evening, however, heaved a sigh of relief as captain Steve Smith was declared fit to play the opener after passing the concussion test. He had missed the entire ODI series after incurring a blow to his head during the net session. But was cleared for te CSK tie on Monday.
"Been in Dubai for a couple of days now with some good rest and then got into a bit of running. Yesterday, I did a bit of zig-zag running, which is part of the protocols to pass to get back to play," Smith was quoted as saying in a press statement, issued by the franchise.
"And today I will have a hit in the nets. Hopefully, pull up well from the hit and be good to play tomorrow," the Australian said.
Coach Andrew McDonald was also delighted at the skipper's availability.
"Fantastic news that Steve is available. It's fantastic especially on the back of some setbacks back in the UK. It's obviously great to have your skipper available for the first game as I've said before we are in really good hands."
However, the Royals will be without Ben Stokes, who is yet to confirm his availability for the tournament. His father's illness has kept Stokes out of action for some time now and his absence, certainly in the first half of the league, would disturb the balance of the Royals, perennial under-performers. Opener Jos Buttler would also miss the CSK clash as he arrived in Dubai with his family and will have therefore undergo mandatory 36-hour quarantine.
The responsibility of keeping Royals alive for the Play-offs would be on their foreign recruits since Indian players in the set up do not inspire much confidence.
Jofra Archer's presence will be important along with seasoned T20 stars like South African batsman David Miller and Australian pacer Andrew Tye.
The Royals' main problem lies in their Indian core, which hasn't exactly been consistent. The likes of Sanju Samson, Robin Uthappa, Jaydev Unadkat and Varun Aaron have failed tolive up to the expectations over the years.
CSK, on the other hand, should be be brimming with confidence after their dominant show in the opener.
They have again showed how to work around with resources and Sam Curran coming good with an all-round show means that Dwayne Bravo would not be missed even if he missed a few more games due to injury.
Rayudu and Faf du Plessis maintained the CSK "run-chase template" of attacking in the back 10 by preserving wickets to perfection.
The addition of Piyush Chawla, a very successful IPL bowler, is also a big plus. However it needs to be seen how Deepak Chahar is shaping up after sustaining a niggle in the final over of the MI innings. In case, Chahar can't make it, they have ready replacement in Shardul Thakur.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (captain, wk), M Vijay, Ambati Rayudu, Faf du Plessis, Shane Watson, Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Lungi Ngidi, Deepak Chahar, Piyush Chawla, Imran Tahir, Mitchell Santner, Josh Hazlewood, Shardul Thakur, Sam Curran, N Jagadeesan, KM Asif, Monu Kumar, R Sai Kishore, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Karn Sharma.
Rajasthan Royals: Steve Smith (captain), Jos Buttler, Robin Uthappa, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Manan Vohra, Kartik Tyagi, Akash Singh, Oshane Thomas, Andrew Tye, David Miller, Tom Curran, Aniruddha Joshi, Shreyas Gopal, Riyan Parag, Varun Aaron, Shashank Singh, Anuj Rawat, Mahipal Lomror, Mayank Markande.
(with PTI inputs)