Australia star batsman Steve Smith will lead Rajasthan Royals for the remainder of the IPL season after the franchise removed Ajinkya Rahane from the position on Saturday following an indifferent first half.
Smith was the original leader of the team but the ball-tampering episode last year led to change in hierarchy. But after six defeats from eight games this season and with Rahane himself not in the best of forms, the Rajasthan management has hit the reset button in order to get their campaign back on track.
In a statement, Rajasthan stated that “Ajinkya Rahane did a fantastic job in leading the team to the playoffs last year, however, the franchisee now thinks a fresh approach is needed to bring their 2019 campaign back on track.”
Zubin Bharucha, Head of Cricket for Rajasthan Royals, said: “Ajinkya is and will always be a true Royal. He led the team to the play offs in 2018 in a very challenging scenario and that will go down as one of the great comebacks of the IPL. He remains a key part of our side and leadership team and will extend support wherever required to Steve.
“Steve is one of the most innovative and successful captains in the world, in all formats of the game. We are confident he can lead the Royals to success.”
The spotlight will be well and truly on Kolkata Knight Riders and their batting order as they look to stop their alarming slide in IPL 21019 against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday.
Andre Russell has been the undisputed MVP of this season with his incredible hitting, despite a hurt wrist and wonky knees, holding a disjointed KKR together. The Knight Riders have now lost four matches in a row and they only have themselves to blame as their batting revolves mainly around Russell and they aren’t utilising him properly.
Russell at No4?
After his unforgiving 65 off 25 balls against RCB took Kolkata to within 10 runs of the target of 214, Russell said he would like to bat higher up the order.
In the game against RCB, Robin Uthappa crawled to nine off 20 balls when the asking rate was way beyond 10 an over. It was a monumental waste of deliveries given the final margin of result and it is high time Russell gets to bat more overs.
Nitish Rana gave Russell excellent support with 85 off 46 balls. Which means there is a case for Russell to bat at No 4 instead of No6 and Uthappa to bat lower down or even be replaced as he has made just one fifty in the tournament.
Sunrisers on the rise
Sunrisers Hyderabad were starting to sink with three successive defeats. The clash against Chennai Super Kings could have knocked them down for good but against the table toppers, Sunrisers came out with their A game and defeated CSK by six wickets with star leg-spinner Rashid Khan (2-17) and talismanic opener David Warner (50 off 25 balls) getting the job done.
That’s the thing with Hyderabad – when players like Rashid, Warner and Jonny Bairstow get going, they take the team past the finish line.
It is the final week or so for English and Australian players to do their thing before they are asked to join their respective teams for World Cup preparations. So both Warner and Bairstow will be keen to leave the team in the best condition possible.
SRH: David Warner, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Kane Williamson (c), Vijay Shankar, Deepak Hooda, Yusuf Pathan, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Shahbaz Nadeem, Khaleel Ahmed
KKR: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik (c and wk), Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Harry Gurney, Prasidh Krishna
While a win can take Mumbai over CSK to the top of the standings, it will also help avenge their four-wicket loss to the same opponents at the Wankhede stadium exactly a week ago.
For Rajasthan, a win is imperative if they are to have any chance of making the IPL play-offs after registering just two victories in eight games previously.
Will Mumbai climb above Chennai in the table or will the Royals do the double over Rohit Sharma and his men? Find out by following the ball-by-ball action from Jaipur below.