Dravid looks to fill in Warne void in Rajasthan

Jaipur: A recently-retired Rahul Dravid will look to take forward the legacy of the inimitable Shane Warne when he returns to the field as Rajasthan Royals captain who will take on Kings XI Punjab in their lung opener of the fifth Indian Premier League here tomorrow.

Both the teams would be eager to notch up a victory and start their campaign on a high note but the stakes are higher for the Royals who for the first time would be without their charismatic and shrewd captain-cum-coach Shane Warne. The hosts have, however, another legend in Dravid as captain and mentor but the shorter form of the game has never been his cup of tea.

Similarity can be drawn in the fact that Warne after retirement was eager to prove himself as a skipper while Dravid, after announcing his retirement from Tests and ODI, appears to be keen to prove himself in the new challenging role.

It won`t be easy for him to step in the shoes of Warne as the unorthodox, innovative and bold methods of the Australian legend had propelled Rajasthan to the title in the inaugural edition of IPL.

As far as resources are concerned, Rajasthan don`t have big names, and prolific Australian all-rounder Shane Watson would be missed in the first half of the tournament. But the hosts have a decent side with Dravid at the helm.

The rest of batting comprises youngsters such Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Menaria, Kevon Cooper and Owais Shah, who are hard hitters. The side has been bolstered by the addition of the likes of Brad Hodge and Brad Hogg who might turn out to be the dark horses.

The strong batting is complemented by good bowling spearheaded by speedster Shaun Tait and there are seasoned campaigners like Sidhartha Trevedi, Pankaj Singh and Amit Singh. The spin line-up consists of Johan Botha, Brad Hodge and local-lad Gajendra Singh who might also get a chance to play.

Temperamental medium pacer S Sreesanth is still carrying a niggle and might miss a few matches. The absence of Dinesh Chandimal would also be felt because he is on national duty for Sri Lanka.

Kings XI Punjab also do not have too many big stars except skipper Adam Gilchrist, Praveen Kumar and David Hussey. There is the explosive Paul Valthaty and Shaun Marsh who are all good strikers of the ball. Some of the promising youngsters like Abhishek Nayar, Piyush Chawla, Paras Dogra and veteran Romesh Powar are capable of putting in good performances.