Rajasthan Royals may not be in full swing at IPL 2018, but James Buttler thinks Delhi will provide them with the perfect opportunity to kickstart their campaign...
"There is a lot of room for improvement in the Royals' ranks, but in contrast to Delhi it's easy to see where the gains can come from. If they materialise, it may be that Rajasthan reach their peak when the tournament comes to the boil, so don't write them off to win IPL 2018 just yet."
Delhi Daredevils v Rajasthan Royals
Wednesday May 2, 15:30
Live on Sky Sports
Semi-finalists in the first two seasons of IPL cricket, the Daredevils have only reached the Playoffs once since, in 2012. It seems highly unlikely they will journey to the Playoffs again in this 11th season of the tournament after winning only two of their first eight games, leaving them propping up the table. Their failure has seen Gautum Gambhir step down as skipper to be replaced by Shreyas Iyer.
Their most recent loss, on Monday, will be a bitter pill to swallow as they played some great cricket, but too late to prevent a 13-run defeat to the Chennai Super Kings. Allowing CSK to post a challenging 211 for four, Delhi slumped to 74 for four in the ninth over and appeared to be heading for a heavy defeat. But Rishabh Pant is a young Indian star who wasn't prepared to roll over and have his tummy tickled. The 20-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman has already played four T20Is for his country and, if his 79 from 45 balls is anything to go by, has an incredibly bright future in Indian colours. He got his team close, but victory was always beyond his reach.
With players like Glenn Maxwell, Pant and Colin Munro in their top-order they should be doing better. Liam Plunkett, Amit Mishra and Trent Boult are also underperforming with the ball and they are missing Chris Morris who has returned to South Africa because of injury. The school report reads "could do better", but sadly there is no sign that the tide is about to turn.
The Royals, back in the IPL after a two-year spot-fixing suspension, sit in fifth position ahead of this game after winning three of their first seven matches. They need their star men to stand up and be counted if they are to make the top four and the Playoffs.
Sanju Samson has always been a good player, but in IPL 2018 he has taken a giant leap towards being regarded as a great one. In seven innings so far he has cracked 279 runs at 46.50 with a strike-rate of 147.61. Ajinkya Rahane (225 at 37.50) is the only other Royals batsman to get past 200 runs in this campaign.
Ben Stokes, the £1.4million all-rounder, is yet to get out of second gear. He's scored 147 runs in seven innings and hasn't passed fifty. His one wicket has come at a cost of 168 runs and he's going at nearly 10 runs per over. Rajasthan need him to up his game if they are to make the Playoffs and fellow Englishman Jos Buttler also needs to find improvement. Buttler has scored only 120 runs in seven digs with a highest score of 29.
A prospective Englishman, Barbados-born Jofra Archer, tops the wicket-taking stakes with eight despite only playing two games.
There is a lot of room for improvement in the Royals' ranks, but in contrast to Delhi it's easy to see where the gains can come from. If they materialise, it may be that Rajasthan reach their peak when the tournament comes to the boil, so don't write them off to win IPL 2018 just yet.
The Betfair boffins have this down as a pick 'em with both sides priced at [1.91] to win. I find this astonishing. On the basis I would price Rajasthan as hot favourites they are a steal to win this match.
In 16 previous encounters the Royals have won 10. The Royals have won the last six games in a row and at the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground in Delhi, the venue for this match, the honours are even at 3-3, but the Royals have taken the points on the last three occasions.
With the Daredevils already looking the weak link in this year's IPL, the [1.91] on Rajasthan to win this match seems to good to be true!
Pant has scored 306 runs so far in IPL 2018 at 38.25 at a meteoric strike rate of 170.94. The next best for Delhi has been Iyer with 257 runs at 51.40. These two guys are the stars of the Delhi batting, yet they are dismissed as mere also-rans, both priced at 4/1. With Maxwell only the third player yet to pass 100 tournament runs, and available at 13/2, he's worth a nibble too.
Why would you back the short prices on Munro (12/5), Gambhir (16/5), Prithvi Shaw (10/3) and Jason Roy (7/2), when the best players so far in this competition are so obviously the value plays?
The same logic applies in the Royals' batting market. With Samson and Rahane the form men the compilers have them as joint favourites in this field, but at 3/1 the price still appeals. A nibble on Stokes at 9/2 is also a sensible play as he will, at some stage, do what Stokes does best and murder a bowling attack.
Archer is the play here. His meteoric rise to stardom shows no signs of abating and, if he plays, he has the star quality to land you a 7/2 bet here.
James Buttler at IPL 2018
At IPL 2017
3 units on Rajasthan Royals to win @ [1.91]
0.5 units on Rishabh Pant to be Top Delhi Daredevils Batsman @ 4/1
0.5 units on Shreyas Iyer to be Top Delhi Daredevils Batsman @ 4/1
0.5 units on Sanju Samson to be Rajasthan Royals Batsman @ 3/1
0.5 units on Shreyas Iyer to be Rajasthan Royals Batsman @ 3/1
1 unit on Jofra Archer to be Top Rajasthan Royals Bowler @ 7/2