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A battle among the equals

Abu Dhabi: One of the worst hit teams in last year’s spot-fixing scandal, Rajasthan Royals will be keen to clear their off-field image with good on-field performances when they begin their IPL campaign by taking on a formidable Sunrisers Hyderabad, here, on Friday.

With both teams looking solid on paper, a keen battle is on the cards.

The Royals were left red-faced when Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan were arrested for allegedly indulging in spot-fixing in IPL matches last season. But they hardly let that hamper their performance on the field.

The Royals ended up being the third best team in last year’s event. Led by Rahul Dravid, they dominated the sixth edition, despite lack of big names in their ranks.

With Dravid retiring from all forms of cricket last year, it will be a challenge for the newly-appointed captain Shane Watson to steer the team to success again.

Watson, though, said the spot-fixing controversy last year was the case of a couple of bad apples in the side, and assured the team had got over the distraction and were concentrating on giving their best.

Watson will receive the guidance of Dravid, who will be seen in mentor’s role this time around and coach Paddy Upton.

This year, Royals have managed to put together a well-balanced side. While they picked up players like Steven Smith, Tim Southee, Unmukt Chand and Rajat Bhatia, they managed to retain match-winners such as Watson, Ajinkya Rahane, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, James Faulkner and Brad Hodge.

Sunrisers Hyderabad, who went down to Rajasthan Royals in the Eliminator last season, will be looking to avenge their defeat.

The Sunrisers’ fourth finish stunned everyone considering it was their debut season last year. Sunrisers have already showed their brilliance at the auction, where they have bought some talented players to assemble a strong unit.