With the IPL set to begin from March 23, Patriot takes a look at the strengths, weaknesses and key players of each of the eight teams that are set to battle it out for the trophy
It is that time of the year again. Cricket’s biggest extravaganza, the Indian Premier League will begin its 12th edition from April 23. Defending Champions Chennai Super Kings will kick off the campaign with a match against Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bengaluru in the inaugural match of the season. This tournament has been preponed this year owing to the World Cup in May. As a result many of the performances can give us a premonition for the Cup.
The BCCI has announced the fixtures for only the first 14 days of the tournament, as the teams await the unveiling of the rest of the schedule now that the Lok Sabha dates have been finalised. This time around the teams have strengthened themselves in the auctions, and all of the eight teams look especially formidable, as they have apparently got all their bases covered. Here is a look at all the eight teams — their strengths and weaknesses — as the nation gears up for the biggest cricket carnival.
Chennai Super Kings
So, let’s begin the proceedings with the defending champions, the side led by former India skipper MS Dhoni. The men in yellow, after returning to the IPL after two long years, returned to the top of the pecking order by clinching the trophy for the third time — all trophies coming under the captaincy of Dhoni.
Strength: The squad this year is the same as last year’s champions, and hence they have retained their core. Their side is perhaps the most well balanced. Their batting with the likes of Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Shane Watson, Faf Du Plessis. Kedar Jadhav and Dhoni himself not only add firepower but also experience. They have an experienced allrounder in the form of Dwayne Bravo on their side. They have a well-built core to their side led by CSK veteran Dhoni and coached by Fleming who has been with the team since its inception.
Weakness: The bowling seems a bit on the weaker side. Apart from Shardul Thakur, Mitchell Santner and Lungi Ngidi, they do not have any genuine fast bowlers and the ones present do not have the quality to spearhead the attack like maybe a Jaspreet Bumrah and Lockie Ferguson may have. Even in the spin department, Imran Tahir is the only world class bowler in their ranks. Even though they added Mohit Sharma to their ranks, their bowling still looks weak. CSK also lacks the dash of youth in their team, since most of the main players in the squad are all in their 30’s.
Key Players: Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo, Kedar Jadhav
The performance graph of the Mumbai Indians down the years of the IPL has been somewhat erratic. While in one season they became champions, the very next season they failed to even qualify for the playoffs. Nevertheless, they, along with CSK hold the record of holding the IPL title the most times — thrice. Vice-captain of the Indian team Rohit Sharma, under whom MI have won all their three titles, returns as the skipper of the franchise as they look to clinch their record fourth title — after finishing 5th last year.
Strength: Mumbai have the perfectly balanced line-up. While they have the strike force upfront of Evan Lewis who can hit the ball at the get-go, they have someone like Rohit Sharma who can guide the innings and score big. Their lower middle order is perhaps the best in the IPL with the likes of Pollard and Hardik Pandya who can tonk the ball a fair distance. They have two solid allrounders in the form of the Pandya brothers, and have a fiery pace attack led by Jasprit Bumrah, with the likes of Adam Milne, Jason Behrendorff and Barinder Sran to back him up.
Weakness: While the pace bowling trio seems set, Mumbai seriously lacks firepower in the spin department. They have someone like Mayank Markande, but he still is an unknown quantity despite having played for India. There is no big name there in that department. While the top and lower middle orders look solid, it is the middle order which may provide a headache. Rohit can lead the middle order, but there is no batsman that can really provide that stability. Suryakumar Yadav may be an option, but he lacks the stability, and Yuvraj Singh is way past his prime. The only option left then is youngster Ishan Kishan, who likes playing in the top order.
Key Players: Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Kieron Pollard
Kolkata Knight Riders
The Shah Rukh Khan owned franchise has always been considered the perennial underdog of the IPL, and have won two titles, which makes them the third most successful team in the tournament. In fact, KKR have shown amazing consistency over the past years, having managed to qualify for the top four, six times out of eleven. Led by Dinesh Karthik, KKR will look to clinch their third title this time.
Strength: The team has retained their batting core from last year, with Lynn and Narine handling opening responsibilities with the likes of Uthappa, Karthik and young sensation Shubhman Gill to follow. This line up looks quite solid. Add to that the firepower of Andre Russel in the lower order. The spin bowling department led by Narine and Kuldeep Yadav and boasting the likes of Piyush Chawla is certainly the best in the IPL.
Weakness: The pace bowling department seems to lack experience. Apart from Lockie Ferguson, none of the bowlers are regulars in their international team. The team also lacks back-ups, because as and when Chris Lynn leaves – they have no replacements. Someone like Harry Gurney is there, but he too lacks international experience.
Key Players: Dinesh Karthik, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson
Last year’s finalists, Sunrisers Hyderbad are certainly one of the most consistent teams in the IPL. Their lone win in the tournament came in the 2016 edition when they defeated the Royal Challengers Bengaluru. Having been the most consistent team throughout the tournament last year, SRH faltered in the final step vs CSK. This year, led by New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, the orange army will look to go one step further.
Strength: SRH have the best bowling line up in the entire tournament, hands down. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Siddharth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed, Rashid Khan, Billy Stanlake — the names speak for themselves. The good news for the team is that David Warner comes back to the side after his year-long suspension, and thus brings his strengths to this side. The batting consists of stars like Kane Williamson, Johnny Bairstow and Martin Guptill.
Weakness: The batting department lacks the presence of a truly dependable Indian player. While the lower order consists of Deepak Hooda, there is no truly special player in the lineup. The departure of Shikhar Dhawan too has added to the woes. There is also the lack of a genuine world class allrounder with Shakib Al Hasan nursing an injury. Afghan player Mohammad Nabi has to step up, but he too lacks the experience of Hasan.
Key Players: Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Rashid Khan, Kane Williamson, Johnny Bairstow
The inaugural champions of the IPL, returned to the tournament last year after they suffered a two-year ban. But their fate was quite different than the other returning team, CSK. The Royals somehow managed to scrape through to the playoffs, but were decimated by an upbeat KKR. Under the leadership of Ajinkya Rahane and the mentorship of Shane Warne, the Royals will look for a turnaround in fortunes.
Strength: The batting line-up looks quite formidable with the likes of Rahane, Buttler, Sanju Samson and a returning Steve Smith. They have the most formidable allrounder in the form of Ben Stokes, who can not only give you four overs but also prove a solid hand in the middle order.
Weakness: The Royals have perhaps the weakest bowling line-up in the IPL. Their pace attack is led by Jaydev Unadkat, who after he was left out of the squad was surprisingly picked in the auctions for a whopping 8.4 crores. Other than him and perhaps Jofra Archer, there is no real sheen in the attack. The spin attack boasts of Ish Sodhi, but it too looks weak. In addition to this, Smith, Stokes and Buttler will all leave in the middle of the tournament for World Cup preparations causing a dent in the side.
Key Players: Ajinkya Rahane, Jaydev Unadkat, Jos Buttler, Steve Smith
Royal Challengers Bengaluru
The men in red have forever been tagged the perennial chokers of the tournament. Despite having some of the world’s finest in their ranks, they have always managed to underperform. With Indian cricket’s poster boy Virat Kohli leading the squad, can RCB manage to clinch their maiden IPL title? Or will they again falter like every other season? Only time will tell.
Strength: RCB have Virat Kohli and AB De Villiers in their batting line-up. The greatest batsmen of the current generation – these two alone can win you matches single handedly. The pace department too looks good with the likes of Mohammad Siraj, Tim Southee and Coulter-Nile. The real star in their bowling department however is the leggie Yuzvendra Chahal.
Weakness: Apart from Chahal, they do not really have any star spinners in their lineup. They have Pawan Negi and Washington Sundar but they lack the abilities of a top class spinner. The batting line up is packed with foreigners but apart from Kohli – there is no Indian in the lineup who the squad can depend on.
Key Players: Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers, Yuzvendra Chahal, Tim Southee
Kings XI Punjab
Another side that have not had that much of success, are the men from Punjab. They have reached the finals just once, and had a disappointing 2018 where they finished 7th. Under the leadership of Ravichandran Ashwin, they will look to land on the other end of the table this season.
Strength: Kings XI boasts of a solid batting line up. KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, David Miller, Karun Nair, Mayank Aggarwal, Nicholas Pooran – this may be one of the most explosive top orders in the entire tournament. Sam Curran comes as number 7 — and he was the man of the tournament in the test series vs India. Ravichandran Ashwin and mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy — who went for more than eight crores at this years auction — might be a great spin duo.
Weakness: The team lacks the firepower in the pace department. Mohammed Shami will lead the attack, but he has a very poor economy rate as he leaks a lot of runs. Also, Andrew Tye is there, but he too is an inconsistent feature in the Aussie squad. There also seems to be a lack in the allrounder department as well.
Key Players: Chris Gayle, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Varun Chakravarthy
Formerly known as the Delhi Daredevils, the side has been the poorest team in the history of the IPL. They are the only team that have never reached the finals in the tournaments 11-year history. Under the leadership of Shreyas Iyer and a new identity, can the Capitals change their fortunes?
Strength: With the arrival of Shikhar Dhawan in their squad, the Capitals look like a formidable batting unit with the likes of Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, and Colin Ingram. The all round capabilities of Chris Morris and Axar Patel will also come in handy for the Capitals. The pace bowling department – with the likes of Trent Boult, Ishant Sharma and Kagiso Rabada also look quite formidable. In the coaching staff, the capitals boast of Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly — two of the greatest tactical minds the game has seen.
Weakness: The form of their captain Shreyas Iyer and his ability to lead a team can be questioned. Iyer has fallen out of favour from the national squad, and so making him captain ahead of the likes of Dhawan and Morris raises doubts. The spin department seems a bit weak, with only Amit Sharma, who has fallen out of favour in the national setup, as the recognized one. Nepalese Sandeep Lamicchane can be handy, provided he features in the starting lineup – which he should.
Key Players: Shikhar Dhawan, Rishab Pant, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada