'This year's squad is the strongest we have got in three years'
Rajasthan Royals may have lost their first two matches in the Indian Premier League's third season, but if Yusuf Pathan's knock in the one against Mumbai Indians is anything to go by then, rest assured, the former champions will be tough competitors this season as well.
Ask skipper Shane Warne, and he will tell you that his Royals have the potential to beat any team in the competition.
The team is hampered by the absence of Shane Watson and Ravindra Jadeja, who is banned for 'serious non-adherence to player guidelines', but Warne believes it is the best fielded in the past three years.
"When we try to put a squad together form the management we try to pick the right players to their role. We believe it is not just about picking big name players and then trying to make them adapt," the former Australian spin ace said.
"As was the case in season one when we won the IPL, everyone said no names, underdogs, who are these guys. But at the end of the day you need to pick guys who can play their role. The squad we have got this year is the strongest we have got in three years; we have a good collection of international players and the local talent," he added.
Photograph: Getty Images
Image: Yusuf Pathan
'Pathan is the biggest match winner'
Warne believes that Pathan, who dismissed without scoring in Monday's match against Delhi Daredevils, will have a huge role to play in the team's chances of winning back the crown it won in the inaugural edition.
Pathan provided a glimpse of what's in store with a magnificent 37-ball century against Mumbai Indians. He brought Rajasthan from the dead after the loss of a few early wickets, smashing 100 from a mere 37 deliveries, inclusive of eight sixes and nine boundaries, before he was unluckily run-out.
Pathan was the find of the inaugural IPL and Warne believes that he is perhaps one of the biggest match-winners in the team.
"He is probably out of all the teams, the biggest match winner. You look at all the different players and they can all play well. But if Yusuf bats for 7-8 overs he is going to change the course of the game and he is going to win it of his own bat.
Image: Yusuf Pathan
'IPL brings everyone together from all over the world'
"I have seen Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Sachin Tendulkar and many more wonderful strikers, but I don't think anyone hits them as clean as Yusuf does. He is a senior player in our team, he bowls off-spin and we have used him at different times, tactically like opening the bowling to guys like [Matthew] Hayden and [Adam] Gilchrist, who like pace, and he has been successful at it," Warne said.
Warne feels that IPL is a good platform for players to cement their place in their national teams.
"The good thing about the IPL is that it brings everyone together from all over the world. It is not only the Australians that have benefited from the IPL, players from South African, England, Bangladesh and even India have benefited," Warne concluded.
Image: Shane Warne