Can Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings make up for lost time as they return to the IPL?
Following their two-year bans the Royals and CSK will be aiming to return to the IPL with a bang
By Kalika Mehta - @Journo_K
Last Updated: 11/04/18 2:16pm
After a two-year absence, Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings have returned from their brief banishment from the Indian Premier League.
The teams' homecomings, of sorts, will bring back some nostalgia for long-time IPL lovers as MS Dhoni dons a yellow shirt once more.
But, with changes abound in the tournament - as DRS and a transfer window are introduced for the first time in the competition's history - both the Royals and Super Kings have recruited stellar line-ups as they seek the ultimate redemption.
And, with English contingents in both sides, Sky Sports Cricket analyses their chances of lifting the coveted trophy once more, with Rajasthan in particular looking like a team to be feared.
The Northern-based side lost captain Steve Smith before the start of the tournament, as the former Australian captain was wrapped up in the ball-tampering scandal.
In new skipper Ajinkya Rahane they have a steady pair of hands and with Shane Warne, who led the Royals to the title in the inaugural season of the IPL, returning as a team mentor they are not short of leaders.
Acquiring Ben Stokes, the most expensive player at this year's auction, Jos Buttler and Jaydev Unadkat was a signal of intent from owner Manoj Badale.
All-rounder Stokes endeared himself to fans in India in 2017 as he blazed a sensational 103 off just 63 balls - his first T20 century - for the Rising Pune Supergiant, showcasing all of his many talents of power, precision and tenacity with the bat.
Left-arm seamer Unadkat, a team-mate of Stokes for Pune last year, became the highest-priced Indian player to be purchased and understandably so having taken 24 wickets at an average of 13 in last season's competition.
The 26-year-old is an exceptional death bowler and had several breathtaking moments, including taking a final-over hat-trick to seal an astounding victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad as the Supergiant reached the 2017 IPL final.
However, the Royals have not acquired only established IPL players but also more well versed T20 competitors, as look to gain a decisive edge this season.
D'Arcy Short and Jofra Archer are relatively unknown names who both enjoyed breakout and outstanding seasons in the 2017/18 Big Bash League to propel them to the top of many sides' wish-lists.
Batsman Short scored 572 runs in 11 innings, at an average of over 57 and hit a match-winning unbeaten 122 although his Hobart Hurricane side came up short in the BBL07 final.
His Hurricane's teammate Archer, who wowed crowds in England for Sussex last summer, was the second-highest wicket-taker in the Australian domestic T20 competition - with 16 scalps - and wowed the crowd with an incredible direct hit run-out from the deep.
And, Smith's replacement, South African wicketkeeper-batsman Heinrich Klaasen, is no pushover either, most recently hitting seven sixes in Centurion in February as he led the Proteas to a T20 victory over India.
In all, Rajasthan have done well to enlist a team of players well known to each other, already comfortable playing together and brilliant in their own right with bat, ball and in the field.
Though they have undoubtedly spent a lot of money, they spent well on proven talent and look like one of the strongest outfits this season.
Chennai Super Kings
The unmistakable yellow jerseys have returned and coach Stephen Fleming's side certainly reminded everyone what they had been missing as they pulled off an unlikely one-wicket win over reigning champions Mumbai Indians in this year's season opener.
CSK have a strong Indian contingent with opener Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay, all-rounder Ravi Jadeja, captain Dhoni and old faithful Harbhajan Singh.
While that undoubtedly endears them to many of the fans across the country, they also have several big match players to call upon.
South African Test captain Faf du Plessis, who has been allowed to miss the first two weeks of the IPL in order to rest following the end of his country's recent four-match Test series again Australia, offers added leadership on the pitch.
Meanwhile, Dwayne Bravo still remains one of the most powerful batsmen in T20 cricket, as his match-winning 68 off 30 balls on Saturday proved and England and Kent wicketkeeper-batsman Sam Billings is waiting in the wings, hoping for a chance to showcase his talents with the bat.
And, though England fast bowler Mark Wood suffered a less than ideal IPL debut, he remains a lethal seamer in short bursts and given time to adjust to Indian conditions he will undoubtedly demonstrate his skills.
Both Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings have amassed teams capable of winning another title but time will tell if there is to be a fairytale ending for either of them.