The fourth match of IPL 5 will be a battle of two under-performing teams. Rajasthan Royals, led by the recently retired Rahul Dravid, take on Kings XI Punjab, led by captain-cum-coach Adam Gilchrist, at Jaipur's Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Friday.
Rajasthan - who won the inaugural IPL in 2008 - will be without their former mentor Shane Warne who called it quits last season. His replacement at the helm, Dravid, has a challenge on his hands as he attempts to make do with a bunch of young and unproven players, in a tough competitive tournament.
With Shane Watson absent due to his Australia commitments, the Rajasthan batting will be reliant on the Indian contingent of Dravid, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Menaria and Faiz Fazal. As for the overseas players, Brad Hodge, Paul Collingwood and Owais Shah will be counted on heavily. Each team is allowed to field four overseas players, and it is likely that Rajasthan will accommodate two of Hodge, Collingwood and Shah. Hodge and Collingwood are wicket-taking options and may edge out Shah. Until Sri Lanka's Dinesh Chandimal arrives in India, former Under-19 wicketkeeper Shreevats Goswami will keep wicket.
On the bowling front, Rajasthan look much more settled. The inclusion of Sreesanth has given the bowling department a competitive edge, and he is expected to share the new ball with Shaun Tait. The duo will be backed by Siddharth Trivedi, one of Rajasthan's most successful medium-pacers, and Gujarat seamer Amit Singh. In Brad Hogg and Johan Botha the team has two competitive spinners who can bat, but it is highly unlikely that both will play.
At the IPL auction this year Punjab opted not to go for any big players, thus making the team a bit weak as compared to the other franchisees. Coached and led by Gilchrist, the team will rely on the likes of the destructive opener Paul Valthaty, Shaun Marsh, David Hussey, David Miller, Abhishek Nayar, Paras Dogra and Sunny Singh. It is probable that Marsh and Hussey will be first-choice selections for the No. 3 and 4 spots, with Nayar, Dogra and Singh completing the middle order.
There is also former Pakistan allrounder Azhar Mahmood in the squad, but to fit him in would mean dropping a foreign fast bowler of one of Hussey and Marsh, which is unlikely to happen. In the bowling department, Punjab will be without pacer Ryan Harris, who is away on international duty. That leaves Praveen Kumar to lead the attack, with seamers Nathan Rimington and Vikramjeet Malik and the spin pair of Piyush Chawla and Ramesh Powar forming a capable bowling outfit.
On paper, Rajasthan look slight favourites to prevail in Friday's match, on the back of their more penetrative bowling attack.
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Rahul Dravid (capt), 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Brad Hodge, 4 Owais Shah, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Ashok Menaria, 7 Shreevats Goswami (wk), 8 Johan Botha/Brad Hogg, 9 Sreesanth, 10 Shaun Tait, 11 Siddharth Trivedi
Kings XI Punjab: 1 Adam Gilchrist (capt/wk), 2 Paul Valthaty, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 David Hussey, 5 Paras Dogra, 6 Abhishek Nayar, 7 Sunny Singh, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Ramesh Powar, 10 Nathan Rimmington, 11 Vikramjeet Malik