How the IPL teams stack up with the tournament getting underway
The return of the Indian Premier League in a new avatar, being played in the United Arab Emirates, has posed different challenges to the organisers, the teams, and even to fans. How will the change in venue affect the chances of each team? Just how will playing in these venues push different players?
Here’s a look at how the teams stack up.
The most successful franchise in the history of the IPL, the Mumbai Indians have four wins. What will give them extra confidence is how the team has got stronger and stronger as the years have gone by.
The interesting thing about their four titles (2015, 2015, 2017, and 2019) is that they have never managed to win the tournament twice in a row. They could break the jinx in 2020. Led by Rohit Sharma, the batting line-up has plenty of firepowers. Quinton de Kock and Chris Lynn are consistent performers in this format. The middle-order has the big hitters to make maximum impact in minimum deliveries, Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya. Jasprit Bumrah leads the pace attack, depleted by Lasith Malinga’s decision not to participate in this year’s tournament.
If there is one department in which the Mumbai Indians don’t stand out, it is spin. While Krunal Pandya is a clever bowler and Rahul Chahar is a quick learner, the Mumbai Indians lack an experienced campaigner who can be banked on to deliver day-in and day-out. On the slower pitches of the UAE, this could be a factor.
Chennai Super Kings
If Mumbai is the most successful team, in terms of titles, Chennai is not far behind with 2010, 2011, and 2018 being the years in which they held the trophy aloft. While it has been suggested that CSK’s best days are behind them, as they are an ageing team, it would be a major risk to rule this team out for its sheer consistency.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who recently announced his retirement from international cricket, will be desperately hungry to get back to top-flight action, and it is this desire that will power the CSK team. The loss of Suresh Raina, out of the tournament for personal reasons, is a huge blow, given how the left-hand bat has stamped his authority on the tournament year after year. But, Dhoni has enough experience and depth in the squad to overcome this.
The challenge for CSK will be managing its resources. Expect to see a few surprises as they try out a few different players in different slots. Please don’t rule out the old faithful, the likes of Shane Watson and Ravindra Jadeja, have done it before and are fully capable of coming to the party again.
To suggest that the Delhi Capitals have come to the party late in the IPL would not be unfair. When they finished at the bottom of the pile in 2018, a major shakeup was needed, and management duly delivered this. While the core of the playing staff was retained, some obvious gaps needed to be plugged and having done so they rose to the third position in 2019.
If you look purely at the balance of the squad for 2020, the Delhi Capitals are strong contenders to go all the way. Shreyas Iyer is a bright young Indian batsman on the verge of transitioning to the very top. The most entertaining and powerful strikers back him up in the Indian stables, Rishab Pant and Prithvi Shaw.
If measure and balance are required, the Delhi Capitals have Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan. Add to this the impact of Ishant Sharma and Kagiso Rabada in the quick bowling department and R Ashwin as thinking, genuinely attacking spin option, and you have a squad that is rounded off. If they keep calm and stick to their plans, this team will take some beating.
The start of any Sunrisers Hyderabad innings has to be watched because of how David Warner and Jonny Bairstow set the tone for the innings. The two batsmen at the top of the order have worked well together, and when they get going, it becomes very difficult for the opposition to control the flow of runs.
But, as good as they are at the top of the order, Sunrisers have struggled with their middle order, sometimes depending on their openers too much as a result. Carrying the load this year will be Manish Pandey and Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi. Still, much is also expected of young Virat Singh, whom the Sunrisers believe has the potential to be a gamechanger. There has also been the suggestion that they could Rashid Khan’s batting more efficiently as a floater, without disturbing what he brings to the table with the ball.
Kings XI Punjab
The more things have changed for Kings XI Punjab, the more they have stayed the same for this team, in some ways. This year they will have their 12th captain in KL Rahul, who is also expected to open the batting and keep wickets. That is plenty of responsibility, but it is something that Rahul thrives on, and this is what Kings XI Punjab will be banking on.
Alongside Rahul is Chris Gayle, one of the legends of the IPL and Twenty20 cricket in general. There’s firepower to come, with Nicholas Pooran likely to feature heavily in the early part of the tournament, after which Glenn Maxwell could take over, once the Australian has gone through the mandatory quarantine.
Kings XI find themselves in a bit of bother in the spin department, with R Ashwin having been traded out, but young Ravi Bishnoi, who will be only too keen to work with Anil Kumble, may well prove to be a dark horse.
Kolkata Knight Riders
The Kolkata Knight Riders won the last of their two titles back in 2014. The team has not been significantly diminished in the years since, but somehow they have not taken that extra step and go all the way.
In terms of overseas players, KKR has their hands full, with Sunil Narine, Eoin Morgan, Andrew Russell, and Pat Cummins all being strategic picks guaranteed to have maximum impact. The team is well led by the experienced Dinesh Karthik, who has grown in stature as a leader and white-ball cricketer.
If KKR has a chink in their armour, they are dependent heavily on their first eleven to succeed. In a long tournament in the hot conditions of the United Arab Emirates, an injury to a Russell or a Narine may leave them exposed with no like-for-like replacement in the squad to cover up the deficit.
It’s fair to say that the Rajasthan Royals had a horror run in 2019, winning only five matches. Their fortuned had hit such a low that they were forced to change captains midway through the tournament, letting Ajinkya Rahane down and putting Steve Smith in charge of the team.
Smith will be at the helm in the 2020 campaign, but he will have his work cut out for him. He will rely heavily on his fellow overseas cricketers Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, and Joffra Archer. This may be a who’s who of world cricket, but the problem for the Royals is the gulf in class between their international and Indian players.
Robin Uthappa is the sole Indian player of pedigree in the squad. But the Royals have made a name for themselves in pulling rabbits out of the hat. They have some of the best talent scouts in the business in their ranks, and players who are relative unknowns often end up performing for the Royals. Perhaps that is the plan this season as well.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
What can be said about the Royal Challengers Bangalore? Season after season, they begin with great optimism, only to flatter to deceive.
There is no good reason why a team led by Virat Kohli, one of the best batsmen in the world, and staffed by AB de Villiers, the most complete and explosive limited-overs batsman going, should struggle as much as RCB have.
The arrival of South African allrounder Chris Morris and Australian opening bat Aaron Finch means the team will have a new flavour to it, hoping that they can break the jinx and finish strongly.
While Kohli has said that this team is the most balanced one in recent editions, it remains to be seen how he juggles his players. He has Moeen Ali and Adam Zampa to provide spin support, something that could be crucial in the 2020 IPL.
All in all, this is a side that should do well, but history tells us that something stands in the way of them making that breakthrough.