With both Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals coming on the back of contrasting wins, the first match of the 2013 IPL at the impressive Sawai Man Singh Stadium here should be able to whet spectators’ thirst for a classic contest.
Royals’ nail- biting win over Delhi Daredevils at the Kotla should give them enough reasons to believe that they can upset the applecart of the defending champions.
At the magnificent Rajasthan Cricket Academy (RCA) here, the Knight Riders were the first to hold their nets session under the scorching sun. The Royals had their session under floodlights but the KKR team management looked pretty happy with the practice facilities.
The Knight Riders go into the match with their confidence sky high after recording a convincing win over Daredevils in the opening match last week in Kolkata. Although people may assume Daredevils to be a weak side following their back-to-back defeats, these are still early days and it takes only a few matches for the momentum to shift in a long tournament like the IPL. The Knight Riders had a full net session, with all their top guns having a go. The confidence in the camp was palpable as the players looked relaxed. They would also be looking to avenge defeat at the hands of Royals at this venue last year, when they went down by 22 runs on April 8 — the same date that they would be locking horns again.
Gautam Gambhir, who had a good outing in the first match (he scored 42), seemed determined to add more finesse to his pull shot as fielding coach Trevor Penney kept hurling short balls at him in the farthest corner of the nets. Brett Lee also spent around 20 minutes with the bat and then rolled his arms over for another 10.
Sunil Narine, who has been bamboozling batsmen with his mystery deliveries since last edition, kept a low profile. Gambhir would once again be looking to make optimum use of his trump card.
Nets was optional for Royals but the star player of Saturday’s match — Kevon Cooper — was very much involved and he was also seen giving tips to the local bowlers.
Cooper, who took three wickets against Daredevils, would once again be the key player for his team and the accuracy of his yorkers would play a crucial role in his team’s fortunes.
The return of Shane Watson is obviously a big boost for the Royals, who would want to put the recently concluded stressful Indian tour behind him and inspire his side with some telling contributions. The 31- year- old Aussie looked his confident self at the nets and was seen stroking the ball with élan.
Royals captain Rahul Dravid, who suffered a niggle in the previous match, and Brad Hodge had to deputise, did not practice. But according to the team management, he has recovered and is raring to go.
With a half- century under his belt and his team off to a good start, the incisive skipper would surely not want to miss an opportunity to outwit the most glamorous side in the league on his home turf.
The pitch is expected to be a sporting one and 150 would be a par score. However, the dew at this time of the year could turn out to be a factor.