In Sanju Samson, IPL 2021 will unveil a brand new skipper.
Known for his stylish stroke play over the years in the IPL, Samson has now been handed the added responsibility of leading the Rajasthan Royals, a move that marks a new phase of the batsman's career.
On the other side of the battlefield is KL Rahul, a far more seasoned campaigner.
With prior experience of leading Punjab in the IPL, Rahul now oozes maturity.
Both teams boast of stroke-makers, pacers and spinners.
And with battle plans drawn up and the players all set to make their first impressions, we call out five player battles that could well unfold as Rajasthan Royals take on Punjab Kings on match #4 of IPL 2021 at the Wankhede on April 12.
RR vs PBKS: Top-five player battles
#5 Jos Buttler – R Bishnoi
Like they did in the UAE last year, Rajasthan would look to get Buttler to open the batting.
In IPL 2020, from 12 innings, the Englishman scored 328 runs at an average of 32.80 while scoring at a rate of 127.69.
Punjab will be wary of the dangers that Buttler might pose with his range-hitting and a penchant for that big knock.
Their ploy, would, therefore, be to mix the pace up a bit and get spin early on in the form of Ravi Bishnoi.
The Punjab leg-spinner made his debut in IPL 2020 and the guile that he possesses was there for all to see.
In 14 matches, the spinner pocketed 12 wickets at a strike rate of 25.50. What was impressive though was his economy rate of 7.37. With a best 3/29, he has shown that on his day, he can be quite a handful.
#4 S Samson – KL Rahul
The IPL and Sanju Samson are no strangers. For several years now, the stylish batsman has turned up and sent many a ball soaring into the stands.
This year though, he has the added responsibility of leading Rajasthan.
In IPL 2020, he shouldered the batting responsibility for the side. In 14 innings, he scored 375 runs at an average of 28.84 while striking at 158.89. While there were some huge knocks at the beginning of the season, inconsistency, his nemesis, soon caught up with him.
Battling Samson for supremacy in this fixture will be KL Rahul.
KL Rahul is an IPL legend already. In IPL 2020, from 14 innings, he amassed a staggering 670 runs at an impressive average of 55.83 and a robust strike rate 129.34.
With five-50s and one hundred coming in that campaign in the UAE last year, Rahul showed that captaincy does not burden him.
#3 Ben Stokes – Md Shami
The value that Ben Stokes brings to the Rajasthan campaign is immense.
In IPL 2020, from 8 innings, the English all-rounder scored 285 runs at an average of 40.71. Striking at 142.50 per hundred balls, the southpaw spanked one-ton and one fifty in that campaign.
The very sight of Stokes in the line-up hands Rajasthan a feel-good factor and lends a cause for concern in the opposition ranks.
KL Rahul will, therefore, rely on the precision of Md Shami.
The pacer was at the peak of his powers last year. In IPL 2020, he was Punjab's go-to-bowler right through their campaign.
From 14 matches, he had 20 scalps, striking at 16.10. With a reasonably good economy rate of 8.57, his best was a 3/15 effort.
#2 Chris Gayle – Chris Morris
Chris Gayle was introduced rather late into Punajb's IPL 2020 campaign.
But the impact was immediate. From 7 innings, the veteran scored 288 runs at an average of 41.14. Striking at 137.14, the big-hitting West Indian scored three 50s.
KL Rahul will be banking on the decades worth of experience that Gayle brings and a high scoring season will do wonders for Punjab's campaign.
One bowler that can upset Gayle's apple cart is speedster Chris Morris.
Playing for Bangalore in IPL 2020, Chris Morris had a rather subdued tournament. While he did have a best of best bowling 4/26, from 9 matches that year, he picked up just 11 wickets.
That said, his economy rate of 6.63 is something that Rajasthan will be banking on. If he can push Gayle to a corner and then draw and error, Rajasthan will fancy their chances.
#1 Rahul Tewatia – Murugan Ashwin
For the leg-spinning all-rounder, Rahul Tewatia, IPL 2020 was a true fairy-tale.
It was against this very Punjab outfit that Tewatia scripted a come-back for the ages. Such was the impact that he had last year that an India call-up ensued as well.
In IPL 2020, with the bat, from 11 innings, he scored an astounding 255 runs at a stunning average of 42.50 while striking at a remarkable rate of 139.34.
His bowling was splendid as well. In the 14 games where he bowled, he picked up 10 wickets at a strike rate 27.60. His economy rate of 7.10 makes him a must-have in the squad as well.
Competing against Tewatia will be Murugan Ashwin, the Punjab finger-spinner.
From 9 matches in IPL 2020, Ashwin bagged 10 wickets at a strong economy rate of 7.46. Ashwin can spin it both ways and will be employed by KL Rahul in the middle-over when Tewatia is likely to come in and up the ante for Rajasthan.
Each of these head-to-head battles turn the RR vs PBKS encounter into a fascinating one. And Samson's first outing as skipper will ensure that the arc lights will well and truly be on him.
KL Rahul on the other hand oozes calm and confidence. And the spinners on both side will have to combat the big hitters that wait to clobber them.
The face-offs will be mouth-watering.