The Indian Premier League returns to Sky Sports in just over a week!
We caught up with England all-rounder Ben Stokes ahead of his first training session to get the lowdown on how things are shaping up at Rajasthan Royals…
Mumbai vs Bangalore
April 9, 2021, 2:45pm
First things first, Ben – how good does it feel to have the IPL back in India even if fans won’t be back straight away?
Stokes: “It’s great for the competition that it’s come back to its roots after taking place in Dubai last year, which was an achievement in itself. Fingers crossed that fans will be allowed back in at some point during this IPL because they are a huge part of this game and why we play.
“It was an amazing feeling to have fans back in the grounds on our [England’s] recent tour of India – even though 100 per cent of the crowd were against us! Being back in the thick of that atmosphere was amazing!”
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Once again there is strong English representation in the IPL, with 14 players involved…
Stokes: “Yes – the percentage of English players in the IPL has probably grown in the last five or so years. Not only is that great for the individual but it is also great for the players involved in the England set-up; it gives them experience in the most high-profile competition in the world but not only that – you are under constant pressure to perform.
“You’ve got billions of people watching you and you’ve got the pressure of the franchise on you. Being constantly exposed to that is a huge benefit to us as a team, especially with the T20 World Cup coming up at the end of the year in India; it’s a great chance for the English guys to get more experience in these conditions.”
Rajasthan Royals’ squad
English players: Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Liam Livingstone. Other overseas players: Chris Morris (South Africa), David Miller (South Africa), Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh), Andrew Tye (Australia). Indian players: Sanju Samson (captain), Akash Singh, Anuj Rawat, Chetan Sakariya, Jaydev Unadkat, Kartik Tyagi, KC Cariappa, Kuldeep Yadav, Mahipal Lomror, Manan Vohra, Mayank Markande, Rahul Tewatia, Riyan Parag, Shivam Dube, Shreyas Gopal, Yashasvi Jaiswal
Royals finished bottom of the table last year but added eight players to the squad at the draft, including Liam Livingstone and a record buy in Chris Morris. What’s the mood in the camp?
Stokes: “Last year was obviously disappointing. Yes, we finished bottom of the table but I think it’s not as simple as that. There were a lot of teams still vying for a play-off place towards the back-end of that competition.
“We ebbed and flowed with our performances throughout the season: we had some great ones followed by some pretty poor performances. But every year is a clean slate and we are really excited about the prospects of what we are able to do on the field this year. We’ve made some great signings in the off-season so the depth and strength we have in the squad is really good and I’m really excited about getting started.”
Are Mumbai the team to beat?
Stokes: “Yes, always! They are one of the most prolific teams in this competition, along with Chennai, but personally our record is very good against Mumbai. It’s great that we always have the wood over Mumbai but it would be great to have it over every other team as well!”
Where are you going to bat?
Stokes: “I haven’t had too many discussions about where that is but I’d like to think that I’d play a similar role this year as I did last at the top of the order.”
Watch the Indian Premier League live on Sky Sports Cricket, starting with the first match between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday April 9 from 2.45pm.
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