Now this is a team that I have grown to hate over the last couple of years, despite the awesomeness of Warney and his underdogs. They always seem to be on the verge of a loss to the Mumbai before they suddenly decide to stick a finger in our sides and rudely wake us up. Anyway, the past is not to be dwelled upon. I still hate them though.
RR never have had the stars, apart from cricket's favourite blond guy, Shane Warne. Graeme Smith and Shane Watson were the only other big players they had, but tactical skill, Yusuf Pathan and good performances by Swapnil Asnodkar and other Indian players saw them through to the title in the first season. Last year, the Indian players did not have the home advantage in South Africa and struggled to cope. Ravindra Jadeja, Pathan, Naman Ojha and Kamran Khan put in some decent performances as RR weren't completely out of it, but they tapered off towards the end.
This is the squad this year -
Shane Warne (capt), Damien Martyn, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Abhishek Raut, Faiz Fazal, Amit Paunikar, Amit Singh, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Shaun Tait, Yusuf Pathan, Swapnil Asnodkar, Naman Ojha, Johan Botha, Michael Lumb, Shrikant Wagh, Sumit Narwal, Syed Quadri, Kamran Khan, Graeme Smith, Morne Morkel, Siddharth Trivedi, Mahesh Rawat, Munaf Patel.
Graeme Smith and Asnodkar form a decent partnership at the top, but the middle and lower order had no big players last year. This year looks more positive with the purchase of the reliable Damien Martyn, and the acquiral of Abhishek Jhunjhunwala (back from the ICL), as well as Michael Lumb and, oh, Shaun Tait. Explosive keeper Naman Ojha is in great form of late, so is Yusuf Pathan.
They have lost Jadeja, unfortunately, as he decided he liked money too much and went hunting for some more. I don't know the latest on RR's best quicks of last year, Amit Singh and Kamran Khan, both of whom were reported for suspect actions. No Shane Watson again.
The four foreign players policy poses problems for RR - the obvious choices among those four should be skipper Warne, Graeme Smith and Shaun Tait. That leaves Martyn, all-rounder Dimitri Mascarenhas, Johan Botha, Morne Morkel and Michael Lumb fighting for one spot. I'll predict my line-up, and see how wrong I am in 11 days when they lose to Mumbai.
Naman Ojha (wk)
Shane Warne (c)
Of course, if Kamran Khan and Amit Singh are cleared to play, expect Munaf Patel to make way for either of them. They really are light on batting either way.
My Official-sounding prediction for RR this season: No good. Getting clever batsmen like Warne's Aussie buddy Martyn and Warne's Hampshire buddy Lumb doesn't always help. They've got the worst contingent of Indian players in the IPL, especially without Jadeja now. With glee, I must say they will be last this season. That is, 8th Position.
Deccan Chargers up next. Until then, do something else.