Rajasthan Royals will begin their IPL campaign as they lock horns with Kings XI Punjab at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Monday. While both teams will be eager to get off to a winning start, Rajasthan will be banking on their home advantage as they have an impressive record of 5-1 margin over Punjab at home.
Before both teams take to the field, there was some action off the field as well. Punjab skipper Ravichandran Ashwin went on to remind Steve Smith that comebacks are not easy. While Ashwin expressed the belief that Smith is a quality player and that he must have worked and prepared hard during the break, he added that it is never easy to make a comeback. At the same time, the veteran off-spinner also added that they would look to take advantage of Smith's rustiness when he will be out in the ground to perform.
Meanwhile, even Ashwin is struggling to make a comeback in the Indian limited overs squad. The 32-year-old has not been playing white ball Cricket since 2017 as wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have been making a tremendous impact in the limited overs format.
On the other hand, Smith would be looking to make a statement with a strong comeback. The dashing Australian batsman did not play in the last edition as he was handed a 12-month ban for his involvement in the infamous ball-tampering scandal in South Africa. Smith had an outstanding 2017 season both as a batsman and as a skipper where he had amassed 472 runs in 15 matches at a strike rate of 121.96 which included three half-centuries. He had also led the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant to the final.
Smith at the same time is yet to fully recover from the elbow injury that he had sustained during the Bangladesh Premier League earlier this year for which he had to undergo a surgery. Smith's Australian team-mate David Warner who was also banned for a year along with him made a strong comeback for Sunrisers Hyderabad by scoring a remarkable 53-ball 85 against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens.