It’s not even a week since the T20 World Cup was over and the 9th season of IPL is ready to get kicked off today. Here is a look at each team’s composition, strength and weakness before the start of the much awaited tournament.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
With CSK not featuring, RCB probably has the most versatile squad in this IPL. Their batting is filled with superstars. They don’t care who is world’s best batsman at present among Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, they have got both of them. They don’t need to think about whether to have Gayle’s power or AB’s 360 degree game, they have got both of them. Plus, they have the number 1 all rounder of T20 cricket – Shane Watson (with David Weise and Stuart Binny as back ups). They also have a great bunch of young Indian batsmen as well in Mandeep Singh, Kedar Jadhav and Sarfaraz Khan.
Their only trouble lies in their inexperienced bowling unit. With Mitchell Starc out of the league and Samuel Badree injured, the inconsistent Varun Aaron is the spearhead of the bowling attack. In the end, RCB sums up to be a great side and if the players gel up together (which has been their problem in past few seasons), a spot in the playoffs is almost certain.
Delhi Daredevils is a team whose strength doesn’t lie in their players, but lies within their coaching staff. Rahul Dravid is known for bringing out performances from the youngsters and has built up a second Rajasthan Royals in Delhi. Knowing Rajasthan’s IPL history, righting off Delhi can be a huge mistake. Karun Nair, Shreyas Iyer, Pawan Negi and Sanju Samson are tried and tested IPL products. Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy are their star overseas batsmen. The form of Zaheer Khan and their two leggies – Amit Mishra and Imran Tahir, will be a crucial factor to decide the fate of Delhi’s campaign this year. Carlos Braithwate and Chris Morris are rising stars.
Overall, Delhi’s batting relies heavily on India’s raw batting talent and needs to step up to support the experienced bowling line up. The team might consist mostly of youngsters but you cannot underestimate a team coached by the combination of Paddy Upton and Rahul Dravid.
The main strength of this team lies in all rounders. Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo and James Faulkner are the USP of this side. They have undoubtedly the best IPL batsman in Suresh Raina as captain and the power of Aaron Finch and Brendon Mccullum at the top. Players like Dale Steyn and Dwayne Smith may warm the bench in the first few games of Lions but it only shows for the strong bench strength of the team. The team might look light on other Indian players but with Raina as captain, the franchise has a lot of players from Uttar Pradesh, the state which won the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy earlier this year. Brad Hodge is a T20 veteran and him as a coach can also come in handy for Gujarat Lions.
Rising Pune Supergiants
Pune consists of some solid T20 batsmen but like RCB, there bowling can come back to haunt them. No one can question the class of Ajinkya Rahane, Steve Smith, Faf du Plessis and Kevin Petersen. The only problem with their batting is their similar batting style in T20 cricket and the 4-overseas-players rule means only 2 among KP, Faf and Devereux will feature at once in the playing XI. MS Dhoni is always there to add charm to the side as a batsman, wicket-keeper and a captain. The all rounders slot is filled by some utility players like Mitchell Marsh, Thisara Perera and Albie Morkel.
By their bowling unit, the tracks in Pune are expected to be sluggish. They have a fresh offie-leggie combo of Ravi Ashwin and Adam Zampa with the master of slow tracks, Rajat Bhatia in their squad. Irfan Pathan has shown good form in domestic cricket but they still lack an out and out leader in terms of fast bowling. Non among Ashok Dinda, RP Singh and Ishant Sharma have enjoyed a very good IPL season in past few years.
Overall, bowlers will need to support a classy batting line up but with Dhoni’s skills and experiece as a captain, Rising Pune Supergiants are expected to have a good IPL debut.
Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR has had roller coaster rides in last 4 years. The one good thing they have done is that they have maintained the core of the side. Their star players from their 2012 and 2014 title victory – Gautam Gambhir, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Yusuf Pathan and Shakib Al Hasan, are still there. In addition to that, the bench strength is also strong with Brad Hogg, Chris Lynn, Colin Munro, Morne Morkel and Jason Holder as experienced T20 cricketers with a good bunch of Indian batsmen.
However, it remains to be seen how effective Sunil Narine will be with his re-modeled action. Another worry for KKR is their record in away matches. With a bowling attack bolstering with cunning spinners, they have played like invincibles in Eden Gardens but struggled in away games. Top order mainly consists of Indian batters who will need to step up.
To sum it up, KKR has the resources to become the first IPL side with 3 crowns but needs to be careful of not bottling up as they did in the last season
Sunrisers is a team which ticks most of the boxes of a good team composition for any T20 tournament. Overseas players – check, Indian talent – check, solid batsmen – check, good T20 fast bowlers – check, wicket-keeper – check.
A big concern for Sunrisers last season was the absence of a hard-hitting Indian batsman in the middle order. Now they have Yuvraj Singh in the middle order who can also be useful as a left arm spinner. Moises Henriques is the only proper all-rounder in the squad and might be seen playing most of the matches this season. They are only light in the spin department with Karn Sharma as the lead spinner. Deepak Hooda and Barinder Sran makes up for fresh blood in the side.
The management has done its job by picking a well balanced squad, now it is totally up to the players.
Kings XI Punjab
Finalists in 2014 and the wooden spoon in 2015, KXIP is in the rebuilding phase which relies heavily on its overseas players and it is not a good thing for any IPL franchise. Maxwell, Miller, Marsh and Mitch Johnson will have to motivate the the side with very little back up for overseas players. The Indian core consists mainly of Manan Vohra, Murali Vijay, Axar Patel, Saha, Mohit Sharma and Sandeep Sharma, none of them a part of India’s current T20 squad. Their captain, David Miller also has very little experience of leading a professional side.
Virender Sehwag as mentor possess a fresh breeze of air in the side though.
Mumbai Indians, the defending champions in last 4 years already had a settled squad and they strengthened it further by adding Jos Buttler and Tim Southee in the side who are proven match winners. The team is actually filled with match winners like Rohit sharma (captain), Kieron Pollard, Corey Anderson and Lendl Simmons. The fast bowling department might seem to be hurt with the uncertainty over Lasith Malinga but its still looks like a strong bowling unit with Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan as overseas options and Jasprit Bumrah, Nathu Singh as rising fast bowlers in Indian cricket. Harbhajan Singh’s experience will also come in handy on the flat tracks of Wankhede.
Mumbai will began as tournament favourites but would like to have a smooth start this time to avoid the predicament situation they have been in last 2 years to make it to the playoffs.