Rajasthan Royals look to rule on home turf

Jaipur, April 17 -- If Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals were to fight it out in the boxing ring or the wrestling mat, the referee would not even allow the contest. You can't have a flyweight taking on a heavyweight, simple as that.

Definitely on paper, the chasm between the sides in terms of personnel is too huge. One struggles to find more than a couple of recognisable faces in the Royals squad; the effort required to spot an unfamiliar face in the Mumbai ranks is even greater.

"They are a great side. Even if you look at their bench strength, you feel they could have easily turned out in place of the side on the field. We know we are the underdogs, but we are comfortable with that," said Royals skipper Rahul Dravid.

Thin resources

Be that as it may, Dravid has so far done remarkably well with the meagre resources at his disposal. Not only is he leading the team well, he has also looked in much better touch than the other two contemporary batting greats donning the Mumbai blues - Sachin Tendulkar and skipper Ricky Ponting. And considering he had to fill the big shoes of Shane Warne - who inspired a bunch of no-hopers to become champions in the inaugural edition in 2008 - it shows him in an even more favourable light.

"Warne was unpredictable, Dravid is simple, his work ethic is exemplary. And just like Warne did, he backs players to the hilt and knows how to get the best out of them," said Dishant Yagnik, a Royals player.

Pinning hopes

Despite Dravid's touch with the willow and leadership, Mumbai remain as big a challenge as ever.

And the Royals would be counting on two factors to have a fighting chance of victory - the short format and a wicket on which the batsmen will need to toil for runs.

"We do have an edge over them, but a couple of strong performances from either side could change the course of the game in this format. So, how the sides look on paper really doesn't matter," said Mumbai Indians coach John Wright, elaborating that the hosts would like to exploit the short format.

The wicket is likely to help the Royals more than the big-hitting Mumbai Indians batsmen.

Although the Mumbai Indians' daunting line-up would any day bat the Royals out of the contest on a flat track, the hosts' dogged batters could fight it out in a relatively low scoring contest.

In case the wicket helps bowlers as much as it has in the last two contests at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, David could hope for an outside chance to upstage the Goliath.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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