After winning the inaugural edition in 2008 under Shane Warne, Rajasthan have failed to shine in the competition. Last year, they had Steve Smith as captain, but released him after disastrous returns. Sanju Samson has been appointed as the new captain of RR. It is an interesting choice. While Samson is genuinely talented without doubt, he has displayed a tendency to throw his wicket away time and again. As captain, he must avoid such discrepancies.
RR will be missing the services of Jofra Archer, which means they will be heavily dependent on Chris Morris in the pace department. Bangladesh left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman will miss the first match due to quarantine protocols. It remains to be seen what kind of attack they go in with.
The England duo of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler will be key figures in the RR line-up. Among Indian cricketers, Riyan Parag, Shreyas Gopal, Rahul Tewatia and Shivam Dube can play key roles. Tewatia was a surprise success story last year and will be keen to improve again.
Punjab Kings (PBKS) had made it to the final IPL 2014, where they finished runners-up. They have never come close to winning the title since. Punjab do have some incredibly talented players. Their skipper KL Rahul was the Orange Cap winner last year and has been one of most consistent performers with the bat over the last couple of seasons.
Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran are all match-winners with the bat in their own right. This season, they have hired the likes of Dawid Malan, Shahrukh Khan and Fabian Allen to try and plug the gaps in their middle and lower-order batting.
The bowling pretty much wears the same look. Led by Mohammed Shami, there is Chris Jordan, Arshdeep Singh, Ravi Bishnoi and Murugan Ashwin. The Aussie pace bowling duo of Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith will also be looking forward to make an impact.
Rajasthan Royals: Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Sanju Samson (C), Riyan Parag, Shivam Dube, Rahul Tewatia, Chris Morris, Liam Livingstone, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Kartik Tyagi.
Punjab Kings: KL Rahul (C/wk), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Prabhsimran Singh, Nicholas Pooran, Shahrukh Khan, Deepak Hooda, Jhye Richardson, Riley Meredith, Mohammed Shami, Ravi Bishnoi.
--Renin Wilben Albert