Despite a long break from active cricket, legendary Australian spinner Shane Warne is fit and keen to lead defending champions Rajasthan Royals again to the victory podium in the second edition of IPL in South Africa, says Rajasthan Royals vice-chairman Ranjit Barthakur.
Barthakur told media persons in Jaipur on Friday that the reigning champions plan to cap their fairytale victory in the first edition with another title in the second edition of the Twenty20 tournament, which has been shifted to South Africa.
"We were underdogs last year but scripted a fairytale victory under the mercurial captainship of Shane Warne. He has been out of active cricket like he was in the first edition, but is in good shape and has been declared medically fit for this edition of IPL," said Barthakur.
Ranjit was hopeful that the second edition would be as popular as the inaugural one in India.
"We have to wait till May 24 when this edition comes to an end. But my gut feeling is that it would rate same as that of IPL one. I don't think that recession would have much bearing on IPL. It is like a future project. Contracts are long-term which leads to lesser challenges," said Ranjit.
Regarding plans for the South Africa tournament, Ranjit said the Royals will fly in two batches and team will be there on April 7.
"There is a threat for IPL commissioner Lalit Modi but in South Africa we would be among best security people in the world. The South African government must have also assured a foolproof security," Ranjit said.
"Rajasthan Royals has entered in a strategic alliance with Nashua Cape Cobras and Western Province cricket Association. We would camp at Sahara Park New Lands. As part of the preparations for IPL, Rajasthan Royals will clash with reigning South African Standard Bank Pro20 champions on April 11. This match would be shown live on television," he added.
"With a tag of reigning champions and with the presence of South African Captain Graeme Smith, Tyron Henderson and Jermy Smith (South African performance coach) Rajasthan Royals is already seen as the most popular team in South Africa," said Ranjit.
The marketing head of Rajasthan Royals, Utkarsh Singh, said, as of now, no Pakistani is supposed to be in action for Rajasthan Royals.
"Yes there will be no Pakistan players this time but their contracts are still valid. We have not terminated contracts with any of the players. They all will be retained because they have long-term contracts," said Utkarsha.
"We will have about 25 players and a support staff of around seven but we cannot have more because of logistic reasons," Utkarsha said.