These teams are fire. Delhi Capitals once struggled to find an identity for themselves. Now they are the home of young Indian batting geniuses. Rajasthan Royals see-sawed from one extreme to the other, not so much a cricket team as an unruly teenager. But now mum's put her foot down - yes, we want you to picture Kumar Sangakkara as mum - and they've finally promised to behave.
Sanju Samson threatened to exceed those expectations on Monday, when he stayed calm even though he couldn't time the ball at the start of his innings. By the end of it, he wasn't so much a man with a piece of wood in his hand, he was King Kong with an axe. If the new captain can reprise this zen at the crease for, say, a full season, the Royals are going to be trou-bleeee.
The Capitals probably aren't too worried though. They have got monsters of their own. Well-rested ones too. Hear them roar in T-minus 24 hours. Give or take.
In the news
Anrich Nortje will not be available for the game against the Royals too due to delay in getting his Covid-19 test result. His South African fast-bowling partner Kagiso Rabada, though, has joined the team following his negative test result, and is available for selection.
Ben Stokes wows the world with his acrobatics. He doesn't need to. He's got power. He can banana swing the ball. But he still insists on trying to be the best fielder in the world and hurt his finger to rule himself out of the IPL.
In better news for the Royals, Jofra Archer has been cleared to train again. Only train. Not play.
The Capitals' Axar Patel is unlikely to take any part in this game as he continues to recover from a bout of Covid-19.
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Jos Buttler, 2 Manan Vohra, 3 Sanju Samson (capt & wk), 4 Liam Livingstone, 5 Shivam Dube, 6 Riyan Parag, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Rahul Tewatia, 9 Shreyas Gopal, 10 Chetan Sakariya, 11 Andrew Tye/Mustafizur Rahman
Delhi Capitals: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Rishabh Pant (capt & wk), 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Shimron Hetmyer, 7 Chris Woakes, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Amit Mishra, 11 Avesh Khan
Losing an allrounder like Stokes can potentially break a team because he just doesn't have a like-for-like replacement. All you can do is plug the batting hole or the bowling hole and pray that in the end you made the right choice. Liam Livingstone might be that choice. He was Perth Scorchers' second-highest scorer as they stormed into the Big Bash finals only two months ago. He also hit 28 sixes in that tournament, the second-most after Alex Hales.
Once a bowler who appeared enchanted by his own pace, Avesh Khan now seems to have learnt how to use it better. Take his wicket of MS Dhoni for example. He knew it was crucial to hit that back of a length and cramp the Chennai Super Kings captain for his natural talents to yield any results. If he can keep this up - especially in the powerplay when he got the white ball to move around - the Capitals can use their big guns, when they're ready, to address a problem they had in the 2020 season. Their economy rate of 8.62 through the middle overs (7-16) was the worst among all the teams.
Stats that matter
A T20 opener needs to get off the blocks quickly. But from 2008 to 2013, Shikhar Dhawan's strike-rate in the powerplay was just 118. Perhaps that was a function of him playing second fiddle to the likes of David Warner when he was at Sunrisers Hyderabad. However, since his move to the Capitals in 2019, he too has become a fearsome ball-basher, with a strike-rate of 143 in the first six overs.
Last season, Royals had the worst economy rate (12.28) and picked up the fewest wickets (17) in the back end (16-20) of an innings. So, they broke the bank to fix it. Chris Morris had an economy rate of 7 in the last four overs of a game in IPL 2020. It was the best among everyone who bowled at least 50 deliveries in this phase. But, based on the events of their last match, perhaps even he needs a little help. So, is it time for Andrew Tye? The Australian maintained an economy rate of 8.3 in the death in the recent Big Bash League, the third best among those who bowled at least 50 deliveries in this phase. Only Rashid Khan (8.00) and Adam Milne (8.36) fared better.
Among those who have taken at least 30 wickets in the IPL, Rabada's strike-rate of 13.1 is the absolute best. He even manages to improve on that while doing the most difficult part of his job - death bowling, where he conjures a wicket every eight balls.