Match 4 of the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) will feature Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Punjab Kings (PBKS) at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Monday, 12 April. Rajasthan had won the inaugural season in 2008 but have never reached another final since then. Punjab, on the other hand, are yet to lift the prestigious trophy. Both teams are typically considered underdogs of the tournament, a tag they will want to eliminate once and for all.
In IPL 2020, Punjab and Rajasthan had secured six wins each out of 14 matches. Punjab finished at sixth place and Rajasthan at eighth. However, while RR were being outplayed, several of Punjab’s defeats were in close encounters. However, both sides have made substantial changes ahead of IPL 2021 and come in with new stars.
After releasing Steven Smith, Rajasthan have appointed Sanju Samson as their new skipper. Samson, 26, has done well in the IPL, and has always got the ideal start in the first few games of the tournament. However, with the squad Samson has at his disposal, it will be interesting if he manages to deliver something out of the box in IPL 2021.
Jofra Archer, MVP of last season, set to miss at least first four matches. Archer, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, and the INR-16.25-crore-signing Chris Morris, were expected to be automatic overseas choices for Rajasthan. They will now have to field one of Andrew Tye and Mustafizur Rahman along with Kartik Tyagi and Jaydev Unadkat.
Rahul Tewatia, one of the heroes from UAE last year, will be a candidate to watch out for, along with the talented young batsman Riyan Parag.
Punjab, too, had a lot of problems in their pace bowling department. However, from the auctions, they brought BBL stars Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith. At least one of them is set to make it into the starting XI to join Mohammad Shami and Arshdeep Singh. Ravi Bishnoi, who made a promising debut last year and played all games for PBKS, can be a contender for the Purple Cap this time in India.
The Punjab batting looks solid. With KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal to open and Chris Gayle (or Dawid Malan) and Nicholas Pooran to follow, they have one of the strongest cores of top-order batsmen. Mandeep Singh, a seasoned IPL campaigner, is likely to feature at No. 5.
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Although RR and PBKS have similar difficulties in their respective inexperienced lower-middle order. An even contest, with Punjab possibly holding an edge due to Archer’s absence.
Head to head
Rajasthan have played Punjab 21 times in IPL and have won 12 occasions. Also, one of their wins came in a Super Over.
Ben Stokes (Rajasthan Royals): Stokes has 920 runs in the IPL so far, at a strike rate of just over 135, along with 28 wickets. He was MVP four years ago, but that was for Rising Pune Supergiant. Is this when he does it for Rajasthan as well?
KL Rahul (Punjab Kings): Rahul’s 670 runs won him the Orange Cap last year. He had also scored 593 in 2019 and 659 in 2018. If he raises that strike rate a bit, he will perhaps be Rajasthan’s biggest threat.
Rajasthan Royals: Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Sanju Samson (c), Riyan Parag, Shivam Dube, Rahul Tewatia, Chris Morris, AJ Tye, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Kartik Tyagi
Punjab Kings: KL Rahul (c & wk), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Mandeep Singh, Nicholas Pooran, Shahrukh Khan, Jhye Richardson, Riley Meredith, Mohammed Shami, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh
A close contest but Punjab likely to snatch the win over Rajasthan.