Team Rajasthan, under the new leadership of Sanju Samson, will begin their Indian T20 League 2021 season against a batting heavy Punjab unit at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Monday, April 12.

Both Rajasthan and Punjab were the heavy spenders during the mini-auction held in February, with the former making Chris Morris the most expensive buy (INR 16.25 crore) in the league’s history. Punjab, on the other hand, spent big on Jhye Richardson ( INR 14 crore) and Riley Meredith (INR 8 crore).

Rajasthan had completed a brilliant double over Punjab last year in the UAE and this included a stunning run chase of 223 and 185. They will be hoping for more of the same this year, but Punjab’s hefty spending has made them a more balanced unit than they were last season.

Rajasthan vs Punjab full squads

Rajasthan: Sanju Samson (captain/wicket-keeper), Jos Buttler (wicket-keeper), Ben Stokes, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Manan Vohra, Anuj Rawat, Riyan Parag, David Miller, Rahul Tewatia, Mahipal Lomror, Shreyas Gopal, Mayank Markande, Jofra Archer, Andrew Tye, Jaydev Unadkat, Kartik Tyagi, Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Mustafizur Rahman, Chetan Sakariya, KC Cariappa, Liam Livingstone, Kuldip Yadav, Akash Singh

Punjab: KL Rahul (captain/wicket-keeper), Arshdeep Singh, Chris Gayle, Darshan Nalkande, Harpreet Brar, Mandeep Singh, Mayank Agarwal, Mohammed Shami, M Ashwin, Nicholas Pooran, Sarfaraz Khan, Deepak Hooda, Ishan Porel, Ravi Bishnoi, Chris Jordan, Prabhsimran Singh (wicket-keeper), Jhye Richardson, Shahrukh Khan, Riley Meredith, Moises Henriques, Dawid Malan, Jalaj Saxena, Fabian Allen, Saurabh Kumar, Utkarsh Singh

Rajasthan vs Punjab playing XI prediction

Rajasthan will be without the services of their pace spearhead Jofra Archer, meaning that they will have to rely heavily on the bowling brilliance of Chris Morris. As far as their batting is concerned, expect them to depend much on the likes of Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.

Punjab, on the other hand, will once again be a batting heavy contingent with captain KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Chris Gayle acquiring the top order. Their bowling department is stacked with Richardson as well as Mohammad Shami. Not to forget their spinning wizard Ravi Bishnoi.

Rajasthan predicted XI: Sanju Samson (captain), Jos Buttler (wicket-keeper), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ben Stokes, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia, Chris Morris, Shivam Dubey, Shreyas Gopal, Andrew Tye/Mustafizur Rahman, Jaydev Unadkat/ Kartik Tyagi.

Punjab predicted XI: Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (captain/wicket-keeper), Nicholas Pooran, Mandeep Singh, Jalaj Saxena, Moises Henriques, Ishan Porel, Ravi Bishnoi, Mohammed Shami, Jhye Richardson.

Rajasthan vs Punjab head-to-head in Indian T20 League

Team Rajasthan, who finished at the bottom of the standings last year, have a superior head-to-head record against Punjab, winning 12 of their 21 meetings while losing nine. It now remains to be seen whether they can replicate their last year’s form against Punjab or not.

Rajasthan vs Punjab head-to-head
Rajasthan Metrics Punjab
21 Matches 21
12 Wins 9
57.14% Win % 42.86%

Even at Wankhede, Rajasthan have managed a superior win rate (50%) than Punjab (45.45%). While Rajasthan have won four of their eight Indian T20 League games in Mumbai, Punjab have won five of their 11 matches at the same venue.

Rajasthan vs Punjab: Match result prediction

The addition of Jhye Richardson changes a lot for Punjab who were mostly reliant on Shami for wickets last year. With the match being played at Wankhede, one can rightly expect this fixture to be a sheer run-fest. Rajasthan have a better boundary rate (an average of 14.6 fours per game) than Punjab (11.4 fours per game), but the latter hit more sixes (6.8 sixes) as compared to their opponents (5.4 sixes). The two teams are tipped to play another high-scoring affair and Rajasthan will once again start as favourites to win the tie.

Best performers in Rajasthan vs Punjab

Top tip: Best batsmen

The likes of Sanju Samson and Jos Buttler just love scoring against Punjab. While the new captain has accumulated 512 runs in 16 matches at 39.38, the Englishman has scored 361 in just nine matches against KL Rahul’s men. If one has to place a bet, go safe on Sanju Samson, who has hit Mohammad Shami at a strike rate of over 200 in the Indian T20 League.

For Punjab, there’s no one better than KL Rahul. The young opener has been in a scintillating form in the league since 2018, scoring 1922 runs, which is the most by any player in the Indian T20 League in three years. Even against Rajasthan, Rahul has scored at an excellent average of 55.71, amassing 390 runs in just nine matches.

Top tip: Best bowlers

With Jofra Archer out, Chris Morris will be given the task to restrict the batting heavy line-up. The South African has troubled the Punjab batting order over the years as he has picked 13 wickets in 11 matches while keeping his economy under seven. Morris has a long history with Gayle as well. The all-rounder has dismissed the West Indian three times in the Indian T20 League while conceding just 43 runs in 42 balls.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Shami for Punjab is someone you need to keep a keen eye on. The pacer is just returning from an injury and will be playing his first game since December 2020. The 30-year-old has picked seven wickets in as many games against Rajasthan, but that has come at an expense of an economy of 9.48. 

Top tip: All-rounders and wicket-keepers

All-rounder Ben Stokes is 80 runs away from completing 1000 runs in the Indian T20 League. Now, this might be a far fledged target, but the Englishman is well and truly capable of achieving it. Stokes does not really have a great record against Punjab, but his recent form duly supports his cause. 

As far as wicket-keepers are concerned, Rajasthan will have two options in Samson and Buttler, but expect the latter to take the duties given his experience. 

For Punjab, a certain Moises Henriques will be in the spotlight. Although the Australian all-rounder hasn’t been in the greatest of form, the pitch of Wankhede is certain to suit his style. As far as Punjab’s wicket-keepers are concerned, they too have two options in KL Rahul and Nicholas Pooran. Expect the former to take the charge as he has done it quite superbly in the previous editions of the Indian T20 League.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Sajjad Hussain