The holder is still formidable

Shane Warne (right) and Graeme Smith are two shrewd brains in the team.-S.PATRONOBISH Shane Warne (right) and Graeme Smith are two shrewd brains in the team.

Warne transformed the side into a vibrant force. And situations threw up new heroes.

None shone brighter than Yusuf Pathan whose big strides and bigger hits at the crunch catapulted him to stardom. The lanky cricketer had a sense of occasion as well; Yusuf delivered under intense pressure in a gripping final.

Royals will, however, be without Sohail Tanvir. The left-arm paceman was a key member of the side last year with his quick-arm action, full length and late swing apart from changes in pace.

The side has attempted to make up for the loss by signing up the fiery Shaun Tait. The Aussie — if fit — could strike with his speed and movement in the air.

The Royals will have the formidable Greame Smith — no stranger to the conditions — upfront. Apart from his powerful stroke-play, the side will look up to the left-hander to provide stability to the innings.

Yusuf Pathan.. an allrounder of repute.-PTI

Morne Morkel, the lanky South African paceman, could be a handful in the conditions with his ability to extract bounce and strike with the new ball. Warne would be a pleased man if Morkel hits the straps.

Of course, the fitness of the injury-prone Shane Watson could hold the key to Royals’ prospects. He takes the ball away from the right-hander and has a useful short-pitched delivery. The Australian is the kind of bowler who hustles the batsmen. And Watson’s stroke-play and runs under duress scripted escape routes for Royals last season. Warne would want this big all-rounder in his line-up.

The side is not short of men who can dump the ball in the stands. England’s Dmitri Mascarenhas, for instance, is a destructive batsman.

The Royals also has a buzzing bunch of Indian cricketers. Little opener Swapnil Asnodkar is an entertaining stroke-maker unafraid of reputations.

Mohammed Kaif can rotate the strike and run hard. Ravindra Jadeja is an exciting all-round talent; whether sending the ball past the ropes, delivering left-arm spin or fielding acrobatically.

Pacemen Munaf Patel and Siddarth Trivedi could have a significant role to play in the South African conditions. Of course, Warne will be around with his mesmerising left-arm spin.