The troubled child of Indian cricket is back once again. This time though it comes with two new teams – the Rising Pune Super Giants, captained by Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the Gujarat Lions, which will be led by Suresh Raina.
What the IPL generally provides to the crowd is a chance to see some of their old favourites in action. Be it Zaheer Khan who is captaining the Delhi Daredevils, or Harbhajan Singh, who is still making a difference for the Mumbai Indians, these are players who pull crowds to the stadium.
Then again, we have Sachin Tendulkar as an ambassador for Mumbai while Rahul Dravid has been entrusted with the task of changing the fortunes of the Delhi Daredevils.
As we look at the teams from the perspective of who stands out, three teams automatically come to mind – the Kolkata Knight Riders, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians. Here’s a look at how the teams stack up.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Having retained the core of their playing squad from last year, KKR look completely balanced. With the likes of Andre Russell and Shakib Al Hasan in good form in the World T20, and with Sunil Narine’s action cleared, KKR will look to carry on their good run of form. What they will need though is runs from Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey on a consistent basis.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
With a top order consisting of Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli, RCB have had three match-winners over the past few seasons. What they lacked though is back up batsmen when these three failed. That is where the addition of Shane Watson and Stuart Binny might prove to be crucial.
While Mitchell Starc’s absence will be a big blow, RCB will be hoping that Adam Milne can do the needful. They will also be hoping for Samuel Badree’s quick recovery as he did wonders during the World T20.
Even though they have got off to another disastrous start, Mumbai have a well settled squad. There’s no doubt that replacing Lasith Malinga is a big task, but they have plenty of depth in their reserves. Keiron Pollard’s return to fitness is a big boost while Jos Buttler adds depth to the batting. Rohit Sharma will look to continue his impressive stint as captain while Jasprit Bumrah will look to continue his upward rise.
There is plenty to worry about for Sunrisers Hyderabad when it comes to their batting. They lack depth and have already been dealt a major blow in the form of Yuvraj Singh’s unavailability for the first two weeks of the tournament. Add to that the poor form of David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan and Eoin Morgan, and it puts enormous pressure on Kane Williamson.
The bowling looks in good hands however, with a plethora of left-arm seamers in the team. Ashish Nehra, Mustafizur Rehman, Trent Boult and Brainder Sran will be competing for spots in the playing XI, while Moises Henriques and Deepak hooda provide allround options.
While most other teams have gone in with big names, Delhi have followed a different route altogether. In a desperate attempt to turn things around, they have focused more on acquiring young Indian talent and will hope Shreyas Iyer, Karun Nair and Sanju Samson can replicate their heroics in previous editions of the IPL.
Zaheer Khan will be looking to show to the world that he can still be a force to reckon with while Mohammad Shami will be trying to make up for lost time. Can Carlos Brathwaite repeat his World T20 heroics? Expect Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy to be the mainstays of the batting order.
Rising Pune Supergiants
A team which has MS Dhoni as captain and the likes of Steven Smith, Kevin Pietersen and Faf du Plessis will always be a force to reckoned with. Add to that the calm demeanor of Ajinkya Rahane and the balance provided by Mitchell Marsh, Ravi Ashwin and Rajat Bhatia and Pune look formidable.
The only worry for them though will be the lack of Indian batting talent. However, a comprehensive win in their first game holds them in good stead.
The second of the new entrants, the Gujarat Lions have great all-round strength in the form of Ravindra Jadeja, James Faulkner and Dwayne Bravo. With Brendon McCullum, Raina and Aaron Finch among the ranks, the batting looks settled too.
However, the lack of a quality frontline spinner might make a difference in an attack which consists of Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar and Dale Steyn. The latter’s lack of form will also be a headache for the management.
Kings XI Punjab
Making David Miller captain was a brave move and the Kings XI will be hoping that it pays off. They will need more runs from the likes of Murali Vijay and Manan Vohra given the fact that Glenn Maxwell can often be unpredictable. It remains to be seen whether the in-form Kyle Abbott gets the nod ahead of Mitchell Johnson. Shardul Thakur will be looking forward to getting more opportunities this season.
© Cricket World 2016