Team Owner: Emerging Media, Shilpa Shetty, Raj Kundra
Emerging Media is a media group focused on sports development in the Indian sub-continent. The company began as Investors in Cricket (IIC), founded in 2005, to create and commercialize sports that have relevance in the Indian sub-continent. Through this subsidiary, Emerging Media launched India’s first cricket talent hunt and reality show (Cricket Star), after developing a partnership with Leicestershire county cricket club, and staging the first international club T20 championship. Emerging Media has been a significant and long-standing investor in Indian cricket, and they paid USD 67 million to own the Jaipur franchise in the IPL which has only enhanced their reputation.
Shilpa Shetty, the famous Bollywood actress, bought a twelve percent stake in the 2008 champions in partnership with her husband, industrialist and producer Raj Kundra. They paid an estimated 16 million USD for the same. Shilpa gained cult status after she won the UK reality show, Celebrity Big Brother. Her career and her personal life have only rocketed skywards after that and she spices up the media campaign for her team, presenting stiff competition to other Bollywood owners in the IPL.
Squad: Shane Warne (captain), Swapnil Asnodkar, Johan Botha, Faiz Fazal, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Kamran Khan, Michael Lumb, Damien Martyn, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Morne Morkel, Sumit Narwal, Naman Ojha, Munaf Patel, Yusuf Pathan, Amit Paunikar, Syed Ahmed Quadri, Abhishek Raut, Amit Singh, Graeme Smith, Shaun Tait, Siddharth Trivedi, Shrikant Wagh
Coach: Shane Warne
A living legend, the greatest spinner ever, Shane Warne is captain and coach of this IPL franchise. The second highest wicket taker in Test cricket brings in vast experience and is a master strategist as seen in the first season of the tournament, when he was single handedly credited with the team’s success by players and onlookers alike. Given that he is a committed to the core player, one can see the Australian flair in his play and the work ethics he brings to the table with him. He knows the game in and out and there can be no greater inspiration for this team. He has never really lead Australia and the first season was his first coaching stint, and it paid out in a marvelous way.
2009 Record: Sixth
2008 Record: Champions
Prior to the start of the inaugural IPL season, many considered the Royals as possibly the weakest team in the IPL giving them little chance of competing well in the tournament. However the Royals built up an impressive 11-3 record in the league, which included a consecutive 5-game and 6-game winning streak and an undefeated record on their home ground resulting in a spot at the top of the points table. They made good this run of momentum and eventually were crowned inaugural champions brushing aside two most favored teams of the competition in the finals, Delhi Dare Devils and Chennai Super Kings.
It was widely believed that playing in India suited the eventual champions a bit too much for even their lesser players shone brightly. This notion was proved to be true when the IPL went to South Africa in 2009 and the conditions became a bit too hot to handle for the inexperienced youngsters in the side. The pressure increased on the foreign players and they were found short as wrecker in chiefs in 2008 Sohail Tanvir and Shane Watson were missing for most of the action. End result was a poor finish for the champions as they even failed to make the knock-out stages finishing a lowly sixth.
Strengths & Weaknesses:
The return to home conditions this third season of the IPL will surely play to their strengths once again. Shane Warne is a shrewd man and he will know that the confidence he inspired in his team two seasons ago was mostly down to the same reason. Now that they are back, all he needs to do is revise his pep talks from 2008 and get the adrenaline pumping again. Only this time he can add to it by saying that the title that was theirs has been taken away.
It is a side that has a lot riding on its foreign players. But that is true for any side in the IPL. What stands them apart is the fact that they need their young guns to fire if they are to do well. And that is a heavy ask if they cannot find any form. But that shouldn’t really be a problem for they have endured a hard domestic season and are more or less aware of where they stand. T20 should help them feed off their learning and it could be an event to watch out for the youngsters from Rajasthan.
The other highlight would be two Australian players in the side apart from Warne. Damien Martyn and Shaun Tait will return to high profile action after considerable time. Martyn is indeed a good purchase for the side for they let go off Mohammad Kaif. The former Australia middle order batsman can pace the innings and at the same time attack the bowling with flair. The only question remains is whether he will be able to bring it to the table?
We know Shaun Tait will. He has been in stupendous from this past season, especially in the KFC T20 Bash, and has even managed to return back to the national fold thanks to that. In 2008, Shane Watson benefited from playing under Warne and his international career just shot from there. This could be Tait’s year.
Player to watch out for: Yusuf Pathan
The first season of the IPL was really Yusuf’s arrival on the big stage and ever since his exploits two years ago, his foray into the Indian team hasn’t been quite smooth. At first, he didn’t really get many chances. When he started getting those chances, he didn’t really use them to good effect and even had to sit out a series in Sri Lanka. But with this domestic season, especially that well timed double hundred in Duleep Trophy, one things that probably he has got his thinking right and went back to what he did best – hitting the ball out of the park and not thinking about what everyone is thinking about his batting.
Hopefully the results will be there for every one to see on a stage that is to him like water is to fishes. He is an important part of Indian plans in the shortest format of the game and if he can get a good run going with the T20 World Cup looming large, that might have a lot of bearing on how India do in the Caribbean.
© Cricket World 2010