A completely new-look Deccan Chargers would look to test their strength when they take on last edition laggards Rajasthan Royals in the battle between two former champions in their opening match of the Indian Premier League here on Saturday.
Deccan, the IPL second edition winners, have changed all their squad after finishing fourth and failing to qualify for the Champions League Twenty20 last year, with a new captain in Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara.
The home side looked less formidable in batting this time around without the likes of Adam Gilchrist, Rohit Sharma and Andrew Symonds and they would hope the new recruits find form quickly to start their campaign on a winning note at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium at Uppal.
Sangakkara was in prime form in the World Cup but the other key batsmen like South African Jean Paul Duminy and Australian Cameron White have not been in the best of their form recently for their respective countries.
Their other two-prized catches in the January auction were Englishman Kevin Pietersen and South African fast bowler Dale Steyn. Pietersen, however, will not be able to play this season as he had undergone a hernia operation during the World Cup and that has dealt a blow to Deccan.
Steyn, who has been in red-hot form recently, will be available and he will be joined in the pace department by India discard Ishant Sharma who would want to prove a point after being ignored by the national selectors for the World Cup.
With the West Indies and England tours coming up after the IPL, Ishant would want to impress the national selectors and stake a claim for a place in the Indian squad.
In the spin department India Test players Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha would take the bulk of slow bowling responsibility and they would also want to do well with the West Indies and England series coming up.
Rajasthan Royals, on the other hand, would be looking to revive their IPL fortunes as they have been on the downslide in the last two editions after their inaugural crown.
They have not added many big names in their squad this year except for ropping in former India captain Rahul Dravid and dashing New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor as they are set to continue relying on local talent.
Dravid and Taylor will have to form the bullwork of their batting till utility man Shane Watson of Australia returns from national duty in Bangladesh. They were also hit hard by the late withdrawl of England’s 2009 Twenty20 World Cup winning captain Paul Collingwood.
Australian Shaun Tait and South African Johan Botha will be the key men for the Royals in the pace and spin departments while the likes of New Zealand all-rounder Jacob Oram and Shiddarth Trivedi are expected to play the supporting role.
The wily Shane Warne, the captain-cum-coach has been showing in the last three edition that he has the uncanny ability to bring out heroes out of his local players and it will have to be seen that his side can maintain the good record against Deccan in the Twenty20 league.
Rajasthan Royals have won five out of the six matches the two sides have played in the three editions so far, including both home and away wins in 2008 and 2010.
Deccan Chargers: Kumar Sangakkara (captain), Ashish Reddy, Anand Rajan, Ankit Sharma, Akash Bhandari, Bharat Chipli, Daniel Christian, Kedar Devdhar, Shikhar Dhawan, Jean-Paul Duminy, Manpreet Gony, Harmeet Singh, Ishank Jaggi, Michael Lumb, Chris Lynn, Ishan Malhotra, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Ravi Teja, Jaydev Shah, Ishant Sharma, Sunny Sohal, Dale Steyn, Rusty Theron, Cameron White, Arjun Yadav.
Rajasthan Royals: Shane Warne (capt), Amit Singh, Swapnil Asnodkar, Stuart Binny, Johan Botha, Deepak Chahar, Ankeet Chavan, Aakash Chopra, Aditya Dole, Nayan Doshi, Rahul Dravid, Samad Fallah, Faiz Fazal, Ashok Menaria, Sumit Narwal, Jacob Oram, Pankaj Singh, Amit Paunikar, Ajinkya Rahane, Abhishek Raut, Dinesh Salunkhe, Pinal Shah, Shaun Tait, Ross Taylor, Siddharth Trivedi, Shane Watson, Harendra Yagnik.