Naveenan Thanendra brings you his in depth preview of the IPL as the Kolkata Knight Riders look to retain their title.
So the tournament was officially opened last night and with it the fanfare began for the world’s most exciting t20 competition. Kolkata Knight Riders return as the defending champions but below I take a look at each team before the season ahead.
Chennai Super Kings
In: Dananjaya, Nannes
Out: Bollinger, Randiv, Styris
The IPL’s equivalent of Manchester United continues to evolve and restock with such brilliance year-after-year and this year is no different. This team holds the record for being the only ones to make the playoffs of every IPL and given the strength of the squad, this team looks set to make a run deep into the playoffs once again. The addition of Dananjaya adds another exciting spinner into the mix but what makes this team a scarier proposition than usual is that their domestic based players (Vijay, Dhoni, Jadeja & Ashwin in particular) are on top form and under the ever brilliant stewardship of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, it will take something special from the others in the league to hold this team back.
In: Nehra, Botha, J Mendis
Out: Taylor, Bracewell, Finch, Maxwell, Rao
This team was lacking of a genuine spin threat last season and that was probably the only reason they were unable to win the lot. The addition of Jeevan Mendis and Botha addresses this issue but unfortunately the withdrawals of Kevin Pieterson and Varun Aaron will considerably impact their chances given how critical they were last season. While Ashish Nehra can replace Aaron, Kevin Pieterson’s absence will be one that is definitely felt.
In: N McCullum, McKay, T Perera, Sammy
Out: Christian, Bravo
The winners of IPL 2, the Deccan Chargers, went belly up after the affordability of an IPL franchise became all too much for them, resulting in their inevitable bankruptcy. The people of Hyderabad didn’t need to wait long for a replacement though as Sun TV stepped in to create the Hyderabad Sunrisers. Although they do not have a squad yet worthy of competing for the title, the addition of McKay and Perera strengthen them significantly and is certainly a step in the right direction.
Kings XI Punjab
In: Gony, Pomersbach
On paper this team doesn’t appear to be so bad, especially with the addition of t20 specialist Luke Pomersbach but there seems to be an over reliance on their aged stars Gilchrist and Azhar Mahmood, as well as a lack of strength in depth in their bowling department. Both of these issues are not ideal when competing in batting paradises across the country. The strength of their batting could cause the league some problems but I think it is unlikely that it will be sufficient for Kings XI to get anywhere near the playoffs.
Kolkata Knight Riders
In: McLaren, Senanayake
The defending champions this season looking to build on the success of last year. They have chosen not to release anyone, instead opting to bolster their squad with even more overseas players. However, the addition of Senanayake in particular could be an inspired one. By signing him, KKR add another mystery spinner who could form a deadly partnership with Narine. Look for them to reach the playoffs and with home field advantage this team could be looking to go back-to-back as champions.
Prediction: Runners Up
In: Oram, Maxwell, Ponting
Out: Levi, Jacobs, McKay, T Perera
It could be argued that the Mumbai Indians are the greatest underachievers in the league. They have had enough talent in their ranks to contend for the title for several years but have not done so. Perhaps one criticism that could be said about them is they lacked a top quality captain and in Ponting they have finally addressed this issue. While Ponting’s cricketing ability isn’t what it once was, his tactical nous will not have diminished and he should have enough pieces around him to take this team into the playoffs at the very least. Look for Malinga to be the jewel in their crown once again.
Pune Warriors India
In: Taylor, A Mendis, Richardson
Out: Nehra, Ganguly, McCullum, Ryder, Smith
I love every move this team has made in the offseason. Each personnel move in my opinion strengthens the team considerably. The recent test series between New Zealand and England has shown just how good Kane Richardson and Ross Taylor can be and if we then throw into the mix Ajantha Mendis’ spin bowling then Angelo Matthew’s side could be ready to challenge for a playoff spot. The loss of Michael Clarke to injury is an unfortunate blow but this is certainly a team that would be underestimated at a team’s peril. They are probably a premier fast bowler away from going the distance.
In: Edwards, Faulkner, K Perera
Out: Botha, Chandimal, Collingwood, Shah
The league’s most prudent team has invested wisely once again. The addition of Kusal Perera adds another undervalued talent at the top of the order who can accumulate runs for fun. Their best moves however are probably the additions of Fidel Edwards and James Faulkner who finally give Rajasthan some fire in the bowling department. Will it be sufficient for them to win the tournament? Unfortunately, I think there are teams that still have a little too much for them to deal with.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
In: Christian, Henriques, Rampaul, Unadkat, RP Singh
Out: Kaif, Langeveldt. Nannes, Pomersbach
The moves Bangalore have made are much ado about nothing as their best XI almost picks itself. Dan Christian is perhaps the strangest pick up as he has had a largely disappointing stint in the IPL. That being said Ravi Rampaul adds genuine strength in depth in the bowling department. The good news for them is that while Gayle remains their main weapon, his opening partner, Tillekeratne Dilshan, is in top form. If they can sustain their form then they could outscore almost anyone. However, it’s their ability to deal with losing Gayle early that has been their undoing in recent years and if they can finally handle that then this team will be a genuine contender.
What are your predictions for this years IPL campaign?
image: © sankarshan