Rajasthan Royals are set to lock horns with Kings XI Punjab at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Monday. Both sides will be looking to start their campaign with a win under their belt. The Royals had an impressive outing last season after coming back from a two-year ban. They reached the playoffs but were knocked out by Kolkata Knight Riders in the Eliminator. Punjab, on the other hand, had started on a promising note last year and they were the table toppers in the first half. However, five straight defeats meant that they ended up on the seventh position and thereby failed to make the playoffs.
Here are the five things to look out for as both teams look to get the better of each other in this 'Northern Derby'.
1. Steve Smith Returns: Smith will be back in Rajasthan colours. He could not feature in the last season of IPL as he had been banned from International Cricket for 12 months due to his involvement in the infamous ball-tampering scandal in South Africa. Nonetheless, Smith had an impressive 2017 season both as a batsman and as a captain. He had amassed 472 runs at a strike rate of 121.96 which included three half-centuries. Apart from this, he had also led the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant to the final.
2. Can Jos Buttler emulate his 2018 performance?: Buttler was Rajasthan's premier batsman last season. He had scored 548 runs from 13 matches with a strike rate of 155.24 which included five half-centuries. Buttler has also succeeded in becoming England's star batsman in limited overs and Rajasthan will be hoping for Buttler to add firepower to their batting.
3. Head-to-head records: Rajasthan Royals have an edge over King XI Punjab in their overall meetings. In the 17 matches played between them, Rajasthan have won 10 of those with Punjab winning on seven occasions. At the same time, the Royals have also enjoyed a home advantage against Punjab. Rajasthan have a 5-1 victory margin over Punjab while playing at home.
The 'Gayle factor': This clash cannot be completed without mentioning about the 'Gayle' factor. The star West-Indian opening batsman has been grabbing the spotlight in IPL since the past few years and never fails to make an impact wherever he goes as he keeps the spectators on their feet with his entertaining performances. The 'Universe Boss' was roped in by Kings XI Punjab last season and he did not fail to impress as he had amassed 368 runs in 11 games at a strike rate of 146.03.
Mujeeb-ur-Rahman: The 17-year-old off-spinner from Afghanistan was Kings XI's go to bowler last season. He was very impressive with the ball for Punjab with 14 scalps in the 11 games that he played. He had also picked big wickets last season which included the likes of Virat Kohli. Rahman had also dismissed Jos Buttler in both the games between RR and KXIP last season.