The Rajasthan Royals, surprise winners of the first Indian Premier League, start this season, the third, as clear underdogs, but Shane Warne takes no offence to the tag and has promised a few surprises in the coming days. "Nobody gave us chance in the first IPL and despite that we emerged the champions," said the Australian spin legend and Royals captain. "This time too, we are having the same feeling and the team has a bunch of youngsters who can help us win the title once again.
"After two years of competition the teams are predictable but there is always an element of surprise. We did it in IPL-1 [the first season]. The other teams copied it, which proves that our brand was successful. This year too, we have a number of options and that might be used as secret weapons." Warne's boast will be put to the test when he takes his squad out against the big-spending Mumbai Indians this afternoon.
In the second match of the day, Kumar Sangakkara, the new Kings XI Punjab captain, will be hoping to get his reign off to a winning start against the Gautam Gambhir-led Delhi Daredevils. Punjab's two biggest stars, Yuvraj Singh and Brett Lee, are still a doubt for their opener at home in Mohali, while they were still awaiting the arrivial of the rest of their Australian contingent, including coach Tom Moody, because of commitments at home. But Sangakkara, who has replaced Yuvraj as captain, is confident there is enough depth in the squad to get their bid for the title off to a flying start.
"We have a very strong team this season," said Sangakkara, the Sri Lanka skipper. "We have a wonderful choice as there is a good mix of both international and domestic players." There will be a new captain at the helm for the Daredevils as well, since Virender Sehwag has given up the hot seat in favour of Gambhir. Eric Simons, the assistant coach, believes this switch will help them go even further after two semi-final appearances.
"He has got no ego and is the perfect man to lead," said Simons. firstname.lastname@example.org