Rajasthan Royals seems stronger in the first game with the return of Steven Smith and home advantage in their first game at Jaipur. Jaipur is said to be the favorable stage for the batsman and the team which wins the toss might choose to bat first.
The hosts won their first IPL title in the first ever IPL season in 2008 and finished in the fourth position in the previous season. KXIP finished as runners-up in 2014 and reached semifinals in 2008. However, with the return of Steven Smith after serving a ban period of one year, Rajasthan Royals seem confident about their winning the first game and make a solid start in the 12th IPL season.
In the previous season, Rajasthan Royals made their comeback after serving ban period of two years due to spot-fixing scandals along with Chennai Super Kings. Their position seemed weaker with the banishment of Steven Smith. But they made a consistent performance to finish the season in the fourth place. Rajasthan Royals rely highly on Steve Smith who amassed 1703 runs at an average of 37.02 and strike rate above 131.
In 2018, Shreyas Gopal and Krishnappa Gautam played a crucial part as bowlers and Rahul Tripathi, Ajinkya Rahane, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, and Sanju Samson made remarkable contributions as a batsman. Ben Stokes also made important performances for the team. Jos Buttler made many solid performances in the second half of the tournament to cruise the team towards the win and holds the highest number of the fifties for the team in the season. They were defeated by Kolkata Knight Riders in the playoff game to reach the semi-final. Jayadev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni, and Oshane Thomas are fiery pacers for the team which makes it a stronger one when compared to other franchises.
Coming to the Punjab team, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Andrew Tye, and Ankit Rajpoot are crucial bowlers and KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, and Karun Nair contributed pivotal scores for the team’s win in many occasions. They won five of seven games in the first half of previous season and lost seven of eight games in the second half of the tournament. However, they made crucial changes in the core team this year to add balance to the squad by releasing players like Akshar Patel and Yuvraj Singh and retaining new talents like Prabhsimran Singh.
Andrew Tye and Mohammed Shami are reliable pacers for the Punjab team. Murugan Ashwin and Varun Chakravarti are pivotal spinners who can change the match with variations in their deliveries. Varun Chakravarthy is known for delivering 5 to 6 variant deliveries in a single over and he got the call up from the franchise by his performances in the domestic cricket.
From Rajasthan Royals, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler might leave to England after May 1 to join the national squad for World cup and Ashton Turner and Steven Smith will play for Rajasthan Royals after April 1 after the UAE series against Pakistan.
Kings XI Punjab
Ravichandran Ashwin(captain), Chris Gayle, Mohammed Shami, Ankit Rajpoot, Varun Chakravarthy, Murugan Ashwin, Andrew Tye, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, and Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Ajinkya Rahane (captain), Krishnappa Gautam, Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Shreyas Gopal, Rahul Tripathi, Steven Smith, Oshane Thomas, Jayadev Unadkat, and Jofra Archer
Coming to the head to head fights, there were 17 encounters between both the teams and Kings XI Punjab had a better record of winning 10 games in the history of IPL. But home advantage makes the Rajasthan Royals seem stronger.