With the Indian Premier League set to start on Wednesday, I take a look at each team at their chances over the next month.
Chennai Super Kings:
This year’s CSK squad is lined with star-studded names and under MS Dhoni, they will always be in the running for the IPL trophy. The likes of Dwayne Bravo, Faf Du Plessis, Dwayne Smith, Brendan McCullum, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja make for a very strong batting line up, but as has been the pattern for the past few years, the bowling doesn’t look up to scratch.
Dhoni’s spinning options are plentiful (Ashwin, Badree, Jadeja) however, the pace attack is where the plan begins to fall apart. Bravo is a fantastic death bowler as well all know, but with seamers such as Mohit Sharma, Ben Hilfenhaus and John Hastings, there aren’t any ‘big name bowlers’ and nobody with searing pace that will trouble the batsmen.
Are CSK capable of winning? Yes. Do I think they will? No. Their seam attack is just not strong enough, and with the best finishers in the world playing in the IPL, they could get punished severely.
The same can be said for the Delhi Daredevils as CSK. The batting line up looks very strong, both with overseas talent, and young Indian talent. Kevin Pietersen, Quinton De Kock, JP Duminy, Ross Taylor teamed with Dinesh Karthik, Murali Vijay, Mayank Agarwal and the Tiwary’s make for a very entertaining campaign at the Ferozeshah Kotla.
The bowling side of things might worry the new captain Kevin Pietersen, there are lots of good bowlers but no world-class bowlers. Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jimmy Neesham are two seamers that have impressed on the international circuit over the last year, as well as Wayne Parnell and Mohammed Shami who are both fringe players for their respective countries. These are what I would call ‘average international bowlers’ but not bowlers that strike fear into the heart of the man 22-yards away. Rahul Sharma has turned a few heads in previous IPL’s with his leg spin, and Jaidev Unadkat caused problems in this competition before with his left-arm seam.
Kings XI Punjab:
KXIP have got a good mixture of Indian and overseas players this year, but without the experience of Adam Gilchrist and David Hussey, it will be interesting to see how the team is led.
The overseas players will definitely pack a punch with the bat in hand. Shaun Marsh is one of the IPL’s most consistent performers and with the supreme power-hitting of David Miller and Glenn Maxwell added with the Australian one-day captain George Bailey, there should be plenty of runs to be scored for Priety Zinta’s team.
Given that Mitchell Johnson missed out on the World T20, it is unlikely that he is going to be at his destructive best in the IPL (if he is fit to play at all) and without the Freddie Mercury lookalike, KXIP don’t have much firepower in the bowling department at all. Murali Karthik is a very good spinner, but is he a world class spinner that will take 20+ wickets in the tournament? Not for me. The same can be said for Thisara Perera, Parvinder Awana, Beuran Hendricks and Lakshmipathy Balaji. They are all very useful bowlers, but none of them are going to set a game alight in the space of 4 overs.
Kolkata Knight Riders:
KKR have got a very good squad set up, and unlike most IPL teams their strong point seems to be with ball in hand. Captain Gautam Gambhir will be able to call on 3 fantastic spinners, Sunil Narine (one of the top 3 in the world for me), Piyush Chawla (best googly in world cricket in my opinion) and Shakib Al Hasan (the best all-rounder in T20 cricket). As well as these spin kings, Morne Morkel, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav and even Jacques Kallis provide the amble pace options.
The batting line up looks a little sparse in my opinion. Gambhir, Kallis, Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan (extremely unreliable), Shakib, Manish Pandey and Bisla are likely to be the top 7 and it just doesn’t have enough firepower in my opinion. Given that only 4 overseas players are allowed in each game, some fine players will spend a lot of time carrying drinks. Chris Lynn, Ryan Ten Doeschate, Andre Russel and Pat Cummings will all have a tough time breaking into the team ahead of Narine, Shakib, Morkel and Kallis.
Last year’s champions look like they will be serious contenders again this year. The iconic Sachin Tendulkar won’t be the inspiration in the team this year due to his retirement, but will still be involved in and around the squad. Rohit Sharma takes over the captaincy and with two of the best T20 players in Lasith Malinga and Kieron Pollard in his ranks, Sharma will not be short of men to turn to for advice. Mr. Cricket himself (Michael Hussey) makes the move from CSK to Mumbai, and he is joined by fellow overseas players Corey Anderson, Josh Hazelwood, Marchant De Lange, the impressive West Indies left-armer Krishmar Santokie and the batsman of the Big Bash League Ben Dunk.
The Mumbai Indians are not short of Indian expertise either. Captain Sharma will lead the batting attack with Ambati Rayadu backing him up. But the Indian bowling contingent is strong within the team, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha and Zaheer Khan provide the experience that is needed to win a competition like this.
In terms of young indian players, Rajasthan possibly have the best squad. All of Stuart Binny, Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson, Rajat Bhatia, Dhawal Kulkarni, Abhishek Nayar, Unmukt Chand, Iqbal Abdulla and Dishant Yagnik have made an impression on the previous IPL’s, and with another year under their belt these youngsters should be even more influential.
Once again, the Royals have opted for a very Australian squad. Shane Watson takes over the captaincy, the ever-young Brad Hodge makes a return again, and the youthful exuberance of Steve Smith and James Faulkner. Faulkner was brilliant in last edition of the IPL, he took 28 wickets at an average of just 15 and if anything his overall game has improved.
Royal Challengers Bangalore:
RCB will be one of the favourites as always this year. The team will be led by, in my opinion, the best player in the world at the minute – Virat Kohli. Kohli scored over 600 runs in last year’s IPL and was also the stand-out performer at the World T20 a few weeks ago. He is backed up by possibly the most feared batsman in world cricket, Chris Gayle. RCB will be hoping that he will be blowing a Gayle Force and smiting many sixes over the next month. RCB also have a man who I like to call ‘the greatest sportsman in the world’, AB De Villiers. AD DV will have the gloves for the tournament, and his inventiveness at the death will be crucial to RCB posting competitive totals.
The bowling attack packs a punch too. Mitchell Starc and Varun Aaron supply the extreme pace that terrifies batsmen in this format. While Albie Morkel, Ashok Dinda and Ravi Rampaul provide the steady seam bowling that can prove effective. The evergreen Muttiah Muralitharan will deliver the spinning options with Yuvraj Singh offering his help with his slow left arm bowling.
This year, the Sunrisers have lots of ‘big name players’. Dale Steyn, the best bowler in the world in my opinion, will lead the bowlers. He will be ably supported by Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan and with the powerhouse that is Darren Sammy chipping in with a few overs, the Sunrisers have a very strong bowling line up.
Darren Sammy has always been a competent all-rounder, but in 2014 he has almost turned into a world-class batsman. In T20 internationals in 2014, Sammy is averaging above 50 and striking at 212! Not only are the stats impressive, but the way in which he has won matches is incredible, especially when he hit James Faulkner for two massive sixes in the last over to beat Australia.
1. Mumbai Indians
2. Royal Challengers Bangalore
3. Chennai Super Kings
4. Sunrisers Hyderabad
5. Kolkata Knight Riders
6. Delhi Daredevils
7. Rajasthan Royals
8. Kings XI Punjab