Royal Challengers Bangalore will take on defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad in the opening match of the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad on Wednesday. Hampered by injuries to some of their biggest stars, RCB will have their task cut out when they take on the title holders. Captain Virat Kohli and star batsman AB de Villiers will be unavailable for the match due to injuries. While Kohli is ruled out because of a shoulder injury, de Villiers is nursing a back problem.
They have also lost star batsman KL Rahul for the whole tournament owing to injury. In addition, RCB's young batsman Sarfaraz Khan will most likely be unavailable for the entire season after hurting himself on the field during a practice match in Bengaluru.
Sarfaraz Khan was was expected to partner Chris Gayle in the absence of Kohli.
As Kohli is likely to miss the first few matches in the tournament, the team has named Shane Watson as its captain in the interim.
RCB can still bank on Gayle and Watson who are both capable of destroying any opposition on their day. Kedar Jadhav, a rising Indian star, can rise to the occasion and fill the gap caused by Rahul's absence.
Australian Twenty20 star Travis Head, Indian players Sachin Baby and Mandeep Singh, who have previous experience of playing in the IPL, are also valuable assets in the batting order.
RCB boasts of some deadly bowlers in English paceman Tymal Mills, an expensive buy at the IPL 2017 auction, and Yuzvendra Chahal. Chahal's six-wicket haul had helped India clinch last year's series against England.
West Indies' Twenty20 specialist leg-spinner Samuel Badree, Kiwi pacer Adam Milne and left-arm seamer Aniket Choudhary add to the bowling strength of the Bangalore outfit. Indian players like Sreenath Aravind, Stuart Binny and all-rounder Pawan Negi are also expected to help the team's cause. Sunrisers Hyderabad, on the other hand, are determined to repeat last year's magic to grab the title. Hyderabad has one of the most formidable batsmen in IPL in its skipper David Warner, who led from the front last season.
Though Warner was not in the best of forms during Australia's recently-concluded tour of India, he did score well in the match at Dharamshala. And he is expected to be a key player for Hyderabad.
Warner opens batting in the company of Shikhar Dhawan, who is keen to make a mark after losing his berth in the Indian national side.
Dhawan was impressive in the recent Deodhar Trophy and would look to carry the good form into the IPL.
Seasoned campaigner Yuvraj Singh also adds to the batting strength of SRH, but the much-talked about middle-order needs to raise the bar, especially in the event of Warner and Dhawan falling short of expectations.
Moises Henriques, Kane Williamson, Naman Ojha, Deepak Hooda, and Vijay Shankar are no pushovers and make for a solid line-up.
The SRH bowling is one of the best in IPL. Though the team would be deprived of the services of Mustafizzur Rahman for tomorrow's match, the seasoned Ashish Nehra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Barinder Sran are quality bowlers, who can turn the match at any given time.
The team has acquired Rashid Khan, a unique leg-spinner from Afghanistan, this year to add to its bowling strength. All-rounders like Yuvraj Singh, Henriques, Ben Cutting, Mohammad Nabi and Chris Jordan would also be crucial to the team's fortunes.
The teams (from):
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Shane Watson (Captain), Sreenath Aravind, Avesh Khan, Samuel Badree, Stuart Binny, Yuzvendra Chahal, Aniket Choudhary, Praveen Dubey, Chris Gayle, Travis Head, Iqbal Abdulla, Kedar Jadhav, Mandeep Singh, Tymal Mills, Adam Milne, Pawan Negi, Harshal Patel, Sachin Baby, Tabraiz Shamsi, and Billy Stanlake.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner (Captain), Tanmay Agarwal, Ricky Bhui, Bipul Sharma, Ben Cutting, Shikhar Dhawan, Eklavya Dwivedi, Moises Henriques, Deepak Hooda, Chris Jordan, Siddharth Kaul, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ben Laughlin, Abhimanyu Mithun, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammed Siraj, Mustafizur Rahman, Ashish Nehra, Naman Ojha, Rashid Khan, Vijay Shankar, Barinder Sran, Pravin Tambe, Kane Williamson and Yuvraj Singh.
(With inputs from PTI)