It’s that time of the year again. When Cricket goes into overdrive for two extravagant months. It is time for IPL 2018, the eleventh season of the Indian Premier League. Thrills, Spills will galore as ever with the world’s best players all competing to win the coveted trophy. New faces will emerge from nowhere, old workhorses will prove why they are the best at what they do. Here’s a preview the teams before the season starts on 7th April in Mumbai.
Chennai Super Kings
The Yellow Army and IPL’s most consistent franchise are back after a two-year suspension and the thought process behind the side is clear. A short-term solution to deliver one title in these three years. There was no surprise that Chennai retained MS Dhoni and named him captain and also Suresh Raina. They retained Ravindra Jadeja as their third pick. This meant the franchise had to let Ravichandran Ashwin, Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum go. They used the Right To Match Cards on Faf du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo and also bought the ever-present Murali Vijay. The other picks are interesting. The common denominator being that most of their reputed players are over 30 years of age, which has invited speculation about the team’s chances to be consistent over the whole season.
Chennai have bought a whole roster of spinners, which only means that the Chepauk pitch is going to be a spinners’ paradise. They bought Kedar Jadhav, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh, Karn Sharma and Imran Tahir. Their overseas pacers are Mark Wood and Lungisani Ngidi. The only Indian seamer of quality is Shardul Thakur, who is still very new to the international scene. The first XI though settled, poses questions as to who opens the batting, where does Dhoni bat and what will be the squad composition on fast pitches. They lack replacements in the pace department, both Indian and Overseas. The openers don’t seem as aggressive as other sides. Chennai will bank on the older and wiser heads otherwise it could be an IPL 2018 to forget for the comeback boys.
Key Players: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Dwayne Bravo.
Probable Playing XI: Murali Vijay, Shane Watson, Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mark Wood, Harbhajan Singh/Karn Sharma.
Delhi’s plan to invest in youngsters in previous seasons comes to take centre stage. By retaining Chris Morris, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer, they have put their trust in youngsters. The return of Gautam Gambhir as captain might just be the push they need to win IPL 2018. Their buys are pretty solid. Glenn Maxwell, Kagiso Rabada, Colin Munro, Jason Roy, Mohammed Shami, Amit Mishra, Trent Boult and Vijay Shankar are some of their big buys. U-19 stars Prithvi Shaw and Manjot Kalra are good backups. Gurkeerat Mann, Jayant Yadav, Shahbaz Nadeem, Daniel Christian and Naman Ojha are decent backups.
If they had to choose their biggest asset, it would be Gambhir, because he brings the one thing Delhi have lacked in previous seasons: Quality Leadership. The First XI has a great look and the backups are not bad. If the first XI can play to their potential, Delhi are in with a serious shout to win the trophy.
Key Players: Glenn Maxwell, Chris Morris and Rishabh Pant.
Probable Playing XI: Jason Roy/Colin Munro, Gautam Gambhir, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Glenn Maxwell, Vijay Shankar, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Shahbaz Nadeem.
Kings XI Punjab
The Kings XI have had a hard time of late in the IPL. Failing to make the playoffs in the last two seasons, the franchise seemed to have turned to superstars and big money to make a strong team. Ravichandran Ashwin(appointed captain), KL Rahul, Andrew Tye, Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis and Karun Nair all fetched high bids. Chris Gayle and Yuvraj Singh provide loads of experience and are out to prove that they have still got their skills intact. Afghan spinner Mujeeb Zadran and Mayank Agarwal give good options as backups. Mohit Sharma, Barinder Sran and Ankit Rajpoot are the Indian seamers.
The only overseas seamer is Ben Dwarshius, Axar Patel was retained and David Miller was brought in via the Right To Match Card. Manoj Tiwary provides them with a potential finishing option. The cover in the bowling is thin unlike the batting. Scoring big and winning seems to be Kings XI’s strategy in IPL 2018. The backups though look thin.
Key Players: Ravichandran Ashwin, KL Rahul and Andrew Tye.
Probable Playing XI: Aaron Finch, KL Rahul, Karun Nair, Yuvraj Singh, David Miller, Marcus Stoinis, Manoj Tiwary/Mayank Agarwal, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Andrew Tye, Mohit Sharma/Barinder Sran.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Two-time IPL champions, the Kolkata Knight Riders seemed to have lost the plot. Letting Gautam Gambhir and Manish Pandey slip away, the captaincy has ended up with Dinesh Karthik, who doesn’t have much experience as a captain. Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav were recalled from the previous seasons. the over dependency on the U-19 stars is clear. Shubman Gill, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi got decent bids. Money was also splurged on last season’s breakout star Nitish Rana. Mitchell Starc, their second most expensive buy, has pulled out of the tournament with injury and inexperienced Tom Curran is his replacement. With the Kolkata pitch now a fast bowlers’ paradise, one of Chawla or Kuldeep will have to sit out.
Mitchell Johnson is the only other overseas seamer. Vinay Kumar is the only other Indian seamer. The backups are worrying. Cameron Delport and Javon Searles are the other overseas players. The Indian backups are massively inexperienced. Kolkata’s IPL 2018 hinges on their first XI and their over-dependence on U-19 players. Whether Chris Lynn will stay fit the whole season is another question mark.
Key Players: Chris Lynn, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine.
Probable Playing XI: Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla, Kamlesh Nagarkoti/Shivam Mavi, Kuldeep Yadav, Tom Curran/Mitchell Johnson.
Defending and Three-time IPL Champions, the Mumbai Indians go into this season with a well-balanced squad. While they retained their crux from previous seasons, they added some quality too especially in their pace bowling department. They retained captain Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya and used their Right To Match cards on Kieron Pollard and Krunal Pandya which forms their core. While they let players like Jos Buttler, Harbhajan Singh, Ambati Rayudu and Karn Sharma go, their replacements look solid. They invested heavily on seamers and recruited Pat Cummins, Mustafizur Rahman and Jason Behrendorff. They also bought explosive opener Evin Lewis, finisher Suryakumar Yadav and former India U-19 Captain Ishan Kishan which gives their first XI a very solid look.
The issue though lies with backups. If any of the middle order batsmen get injured, the only quality replacement is JP Duminy. The Indian backups have been inconsistent in Saurabh Tiwary, Aditya Tare, Siddhesh Lad and Mayank Markande. They also lack a quality replacement for their overseas seamers. There also seems to be a lack of quality spinners in the squad and that could be a concern on slow tracks. Mumbai will hope their first XI is adequate to mount a title defence, else it could go wrong for the franchise in IPL 2018.
Key Players: Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya.
Probable Playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Evin Lewis, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Suryakumar Yadav, Pat Cummins, Mustafizur Rahman/Akila Dananjaya, Rahul Chahar/Anukul Roy, Pradeep Sangwan.
Another team making a comeback after a two-year suspension are the Rajasthan Royals. Their start has been devastating. Captain Steven Smith, like David Warner has been suspended for a year for his involvement in the infamous Sandpaper Gate. Ajinkya Rahane has been appointed as the new captain. South African wicketkeeper Heinrich Klaassen has been brought in as Smith’s replacement. The Royals, traditionally very shrewd in their business, went all guns blazing. The two most expensive buys at the IPL 2018 auction, Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat were snapped up by Rajasthan. They did not hold back on other occasions too. Jos Buttler, D’Arcy Short, Jofra Archer, K Gowtham, Rahul Tripathi and Sanju Samson attracted big bids.
The problems though are visible. The backups seem weak. There does not seem to be any quality backup in the batting department, barring Ben Laughlin, the bowlers look thin too. Stuart Binny is the only experienced all-rounder. Ben Stokes has not bowled much in the recently concluded Test series against New Zealand. The uncapped players will be asked to perform well if Rajasthan are to go deep into the tournament.
Key Players: Ajinkya Rahane, Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat.
Probable Playing XI: Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul Tripathi, D’Arcy Short, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jaydev Unadkat, Jofra Archer, Dhawal Kulkarni, K Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal/Mahipal Lomror/Stuart Binny.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
The one thing that has eluded this flamboyant franchise is an IPL title. Boasting perhaps the best team on paper in previous seasons, they have failed to deliver the trophy. That seems to be the reason behind Bangalore’s low-key approach. They seem to have covered the majority of their bases. The strategy to buy smart rather than big seems to have given the franchise the best chance to win an IPL crown. Retaining Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and young superstar Sarfaraz Khan, they used their Right to Match Cards on Yuzvendra Chahal and Pawan Negi. The buys they made covered many bases.
Quinton de Kock, Brendon McCullum, Mandeep Singh, Parthiv Patel and Manan Vohra provide the batting depth. Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali, Umesh Yadav, Washington Sundar, Tim Southee, Colin de Grandhomme, Mohammed Siraj and Murugan Ashwin form the all-round, spin and seam options. Corey Anderson has been brought in as a replacement for the injured Nathan Coulter-Nile. The one area of concern though is the lack of quality Indian seamers in backup. That could be crucial when the tournament gets into the business end of IPL 2018.
Key Players: Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Yuzvendra Chahal.
Probable Playing XI: Quinton de Kock, Brendon McCullum/Parthiv Patel, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Mandeep Singh/Sarfaraz Khan, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Umesh Yadav, Chris Woakes, Mohammed Siraj, Pawan Negi/Colin de Grandhomme.
If you had to pick up a winner after the auction, you would have chosen Sunrisers Hyderabad. They picked up players and quality backups for every role. Since the auction, a lot has changed. Influential Captain David Warner has been suspended for a year and will miss this tournament, he has scored the most runs for the franchise in the last three seasons. Alex Hales has been roped as his replacement. The team though still looks formidable. New Captain Kane Williamson, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rashid Khan, Deepak Hooda, Shikhar Dhawan and Siddarth Kaul have rejoined the squad. Yusuf Pathan, Wriddhiman Saha, Manish Pandey, Carlos Brathwaite, Shakib Al Hasan were some of the notable buys.
The biggest issue for Sunrisers will be to replicate the influence of Warner. Another issue would be where to fit in Williamson and Hales. The Sunrisers probably have 16-17 players that walk into any IPL side and that makes them perhaps the strongest side on paper going into IPL 2018.
Key Players: Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Probable Playing XI: Shikhar Dhawan, Alex Hales/Shakib Al Hasan, Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Wriddhiman Saha, Deepak Hooda, Mohammad Nabi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rashid Khan, Siddarth Kaul, Basil Thampi/Sandeep Sharma.
The IPL is back for its eleventh season and it promises to be bigger than ever. The time for talk is over and now it is time for action. Few notable surprises include Joe Root and Martin Guptill being unsold but that is just how the IPL juggernaut rolls. There has been a lot of pre-season controversy and few high profile injuries, it only adds to the intrigue of IPL 2018.