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March 17, 2009

Rajasthan Royals

Shane Warne

Shane Warne did the trick in the first season of the IPL when he led a team branded 'the weakest' to the Twenty20 tournament title. It was not only his captaincy that worked wonders, but equally effective was his leg-spinners that saw him claim 19 wickets in 15 games. At 39, the Australian still looks fitter than some of the current cricketers and no one will bet against him doing well in this second IPL season, especially since it is being hosted in South Africa, where he always excelled with the ball.

Graeme Smith

The left-hander deserves much of the credit for South Africa's rapid rise in international cricket in the last couple of years. Smith enjoys batting at the top of the order and on his day is capable of shredding any bowling attack to pieces. In the last IPL, he smashed 441 runs in 11 matches and formed a lethal opening combo with Swapnil Asnodkar. With the IPL being staged in his home country this year, one can bet on Smith playing a major role with the bat yet again.

Shaun Tait

Shaun Tait has a major role to play for the Royals after Pakistan's Sohail Tanvir, the highest wicket-taker in the inaugural IPL, was ruled out along with other Pakistan players on security grounds. Tait is regarded as one of the best fast bowlers in the world and is expected to make most of the seamer-friendly conditions in South Africa. He surely must be itching to come up with some good performances, which could earn him a recall to the Australian team.

Yusuf Pathan

On his day, Yusuf Pathan can destroy any bowling attack. Twenty20 is his cup of tea, as he proved in the last IPL. His powerful strokeplay saw him smash 25 sixes and 43 boundaries in 16 matches. Not only did he smash quick runs but was consistent throughout for a return of 435 runs and the highest strike rate of 179. His part-time off-spinners can also prove handy. He is central to Royals plans of retaining the title and hoping to repeat last year's magic.

Dimitri Mascarenhas

Shane Warne, during his time with Hampshire, regarded Dimitri Mascarenhas as the best finisher with the bat in all situations, while terming his bowling clever and accurate. He played just one match in the IPL last year but this year he could be expected to feature in more games since the conditions in South Africa suit him. Indian fans vividly remember his assault of five sixes in an over against Yuvraj Singh in a one-dayer.

Tyron Henderson

Tyron Henderson is regarded as a Twenty20 specialist and his successful exploits for Middlesex and Cape Cobras are a testimony to it. The 34-year-old, who has played just one Twenty20 international, was purchased by the champions for a whopping US $650,000. Surely, there was reason for it. The bulky all-rounder played a stellar role in helping Middlesex win the Twenty20 Cup last year. Now Royals are hoping he can repeat some of his magic for them too. He is a useful bowler in the Twenty20 format and can bowl tight overs in the closing stages; besides, his explosive batting can turn around any match.

Text: Bikash Mohapatra and Harish Kotian
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