The arrival of Ben Stokes at the IPL after his extended compassionate leave will give Rajasthan Royals a boost, just as their form has taken a dip.
Rajasthan had topped the league after their stunning two wins in Sharjah, but they have struggled to maintain their excellence since moving away from the UAE’s oldest venue.
They followed defeat against Kolkata Knight Riders in Dubai earlier in the week with an eight-wicket loss to Royal Challengers Bangalore in Abu Dhabi on Saturday afternoon.
While the fixture was going on, Stokes was en route to the UAE from Christchurch, where he has been since the middle of the summer.
The England all-rounder left the UK to spend time with his family in New Zealand. His father Ged has been diagnosed with brain cancer.
On arrival in Dubai, he will have to quarantine for six days, and should be available to join Rajasthan for the second half of the league phase of the competition.
“Our thought are with his family first and foremost,” Andrew McDonald, the Rajasthan coach, said.
“He is on a flight. He is going to join us and will definitely give us a lift because he is an incredible player.
“He will allow us to structure [the team] in different ways, because he is three-dimensional.
“We are excited to have him landing. He will obviously have to quarantine, then can hopefully come out and have an impact in the back half of the season.”
Bangalore v Rajasthan player ratings
Stokes’ return to the Rajasthan line up should add some firepower to the Rajasthan middle order.
The team have been run-shy in the two games since their extraordinary run-chase against Kings XI Punjab.
Steve Smith, their captain, is demanding more from the top-order batting of Jos Buttler, Sanju Samson, and himself.
Rajasthan had been 31 for three in the fifth over against Bangalore. They struggled to 154 for six from their 20 overs, and RCB chased that with eight wickets, and five balls to spare.
“Our top three should be doing the job a lot more,” Smith said.
“In the past three games we haven’t really got going. Us three have to take it a little bit deeper, and then I think we have enough power.
“We have seen what Rahul Tewatia can do, and Jofra [Archer] and Tom Curran as well.
"We bat quite deep, but our top three need to bat for a little bit longer and get ourselves into the innings.”
Devdutt Padikkal made his third half-century of the tournament so far in Bangalore’s run chase, and was thrilled to share in a stand worth 99 for the second wicket with Virat Kohli.
“I have watched him so many time since I was small,” Padikkal said of his captain.
“To bat with him is an unreal feeling and I am enjoying it thoroughly.
“He kept pushing me. I was getting tired, and kept cramping up, but he was pushing me to finish the innings.
“He told me to play to the end. That’s how he bats, and that’s what he was trying to covey to me as well.”
The 20-year-old opener’s start in the IPL has marked him out as a player with a fine future, according to Simon Katich, the Bangalore coach.
“He has been brilliant for us since the word go,” Katich said.
“He had a magnificent season for Karnataka. Once we identified that, we thought there was a role for him to play at the top of the order.
“He is a very talented young player. He has a big future in front of him, and we are seeing the start of it at this IPL.”
Kohli saw RCB over the winning line with 72 not out, and Katich expects the innings to “kick start his IPL” after some low scores so far.
“We don’t see it as Virat being out of form at all,” Katich said.
“We thought he looked magnificent in the first game, but unfortunately holed out. Then he missed out a couple of times and that can happen in T20.
“I think what helped was that he helped get us across the line in the Super Over, he played a great shot, and has carried on from there.”