Known as Defending Champion, Mumbai Indians will once again hit the turf as one of the favorites to lift the crown in the forthcoming edition of the IPL. Acquiring one of the most balanced squads in the league, Rohit Sharma & Co. seems to be all set for a confident start despite few of their star players getting bought by other teams in the January auction. Now just have a glimpse of what strengths and weaknesses sneaking into the sights of MI team and also how they predict their finish in this year’s IPL.
The reason why this franchise has been on its purple patches so far is their consistent reliance on the core strength. Year after year they have literally overcome all their shortcomings as a team and set a new benchmark for the rest of all. All their strategies yielded out so adamant that they clinched three titles in the last ten years of Indian Premier Leagues. Mumbai Indian’s batting prowess has been their stressbuster. They do ensure to send chills down the spine of bowlers across the teams in the competition. The biggies like Evin Lewis, Rohit Sharma, Saurabh Tiwary, JP Duminy, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya and Kieron Pollard can easily take the game away from the opposition in a blink of an eye. With top-class pace bowlers to choose from, Mumbai has always enjoyed a happy headache as to who all will make it to the playing XI. Names like Jasprit Bumrah who is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, a bowler in the shortest format of the game, while all-rounder Hardik Pandya is as reliable with the ball as with a blade in hand. Also not to forget the essence of Australia’s pace spearhead Pat Cummins along with Mustafizur Rahman, Mitchell McClenaghan and Pradeep Sangwan who are all proven IPL campaigners as well.
With all the high profile pacers in the line-up, Mumbai lacks serious firepower in the department of wrist spin. Bowlers like Anukul Roy, Akila Dananjaya, and Mayank Markande are all untested quantities in the league, while Rahul Chahar certainly pacifies the stress a bit with his earlier IPL stint but he too lacks in multiple departments. It would not be very shocking if Rohit Sharma turns to Krunal Pandya for some quality left-arm spin bowling in place of the aforementioned four. Apart from that, their wicketkeeper-batsman department has always raised questions. Names like Ishan Kishan and Aditya Tare haven’t really set the league alight in previous seasons with the bat either as Tare has scored just 339 runs in 35 matches spread across six seasons, while on the other hand, Ishan has scored 319 in 16 matches that he managed to play in two seasons.
Kings XI Punjab
Merely known as an unsuccessful franchise in the 10 years history of Indian Premier League, Punjab side has failed to pack a punch consistently over the years. Welcoming this IPL venture on a bright note in season one and making it to the semis, Punjab now merely possesses glimpses of brilliance performances to cherish. Colossal names like Virender Sehwag, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Adam Gilchrist in their dugout, this team never came out as triumphant. But all hopes are alive in 2018, considering some of their solid buys.
Considering this year’s buys Punjab has clinched a unique side. Especially with the biggies like Chris Gayle, Aaron Finch, Yuvraj Singh, and David Miller this side certainly looks to be a tougher hurdle for all the rest. Apart from their batting line-up, they have a good pool of bowlers who can at their own discretion maneuver the momentum of any game. The duo of Axar Patel and skipper R Ashwin would definitely be a treat to watch in this edition of IPL. Once you are done with the spinning onslaught, you have Australian pacer Andrew Tye, who could be a good wicket-taking option and the one who doesn’t leak too many runs. Overall their all-round capabilities also look good prior to this forthcoming edition. Majority of the members of the team are able to contribute with the bat as well as the ball.
Having a quality keeper this year could be a troubling factor for them. Keepers like Akshdeep Nath and KL Rahul don’t really seem promising that much. Akshadeep perhaps a keeper-batsman but does not yet have proven his credentials in the format. And on the other end, Rahul who is only remembered for his few misses behind the stumps for RCB. Also their pace attack this year doesn’t seem that strong. They do have Andrew Tye on their team, but the main problem arises when you think about a supporting arm along with him. In that case, the only name flashes in your mind, Mohit Sharma, experienced but doubtful to be troublesome for the world-class batsmen.
Chennai Super Kings:
Serving a ban of 2 consecutive years the most consistent franchisee of IPL, Chennai Super Kings is all set to heat up the competition. Like always this year as well they will preferably be eyeing on their core strength comprising of MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, and Ravindra Jadeja. Without contrary to their management preferences this year as well they have built up their team revolving around the two of the former CSK stars – Dwayne Bravo and Faf du Plessis.
The key to success for CSK has always been their stability and balance in their playing XI. This year also they do have a stable side but the onus of coming out victorious still lies in the hands of coach and captain. Dhoni magic is all they need to make a sensational comeback in the IPL season. Players like Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis, and MS Dhoni for the middle-order slots and with Bravo at 7 and Jadeja at 8, the team ensure solid arsenals to finish off the matches. The sixth position could be a call for grab this year especially in between Ambati Rayudu and Kedar Jadhav.
Their spinning attack seems pretty good this year. They have got Harbhajan Singh along with Karan Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, and Kedar Jadhav. Along with them they also have a spinner like Imran Tahir. Having that depth of spin attack may cause this side to jumble around with the spinners. Also thinking of their pace bowling onslaught it doesn’t seem to me that promising this year. The franchise got Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar. Thakur has been good for India recently and Chahar was very handy for Rajasthan in the domestic circuit. But, the overseas fast-bowler unit is something they need to think about. Chennai only has Lungi Ngidi and Mark Wood. Both these bowlers are quick but raw at the same time. So, a lot will depend on the performance of their two other overseas fast-bowling options – Dwayne Bravo and Shane Watson.
If there is any team who has tasted continuous defeat in the ten seasons of IPL, it would be none other than Delhi Daredevils. Starting the campaign with players like AB de Villiers and then David Warner they fell apart in every season. But this year scenario seems to be in Delhi’s favor. Under the mentorship of Ricky Pointing, they have got their local boy Gautam Gambhir back to home. They also got hitter like Glenn Maxwell in their side.
Under the shadow of Gambhir’s captaincy this year Delhi would be unleashing their real game. Delhi has a lot of expectation from their skipper Gambhir. Just like the way Gambhir showed KKR the path of glory, maybe he could lead his home team to that sort of pedestrian as well. He possesses the know-how of working with the younger players and also could market the team as an asset to get the crowds to the stadium. The only tension is the probable scopes of the clash of personalities with coach Ricky Ponting – as both are aggressive in nature – which could hamper the team.
Thier bowling department would play a pivotal role this year. With players like Kagiso Rabada, Trent Boult, Mohammed Shami and Chris Morris they have all the reasons to put their adversaries into thinking. And coming to the opening pair they have the best options in their dugout to try for. Along with Gambhir, there can be Colin Munro, Jason Roy, and also local talents such as Manjot Kalra and Prithvi Shaw. All Gambhir need to do is to provide stability so the person from the other can get on fire.
Their middle order somewhere seems to be the weakest area in their team strength. They do have players like Pant, Maxwell, and Iyer but they are all big hitters and expecting them to play reliable cricket in the middle order would be a gambling for sure. Hence the Gambhir & Co. need to think it through.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Kolkata Knight Riders, one of the best teams in the Indian Premier League that too owned by globally renowned actor Shah Rukh Khan has some big names in the line-up. But at the same time, they did lack in incorporating big Indian players in the side this year. After their inspirational captain Gautam Gambhir returning back to his home franchise, KKR have raised their hands to Dinesh Karthik who led the nation go berserk with his last ball six against Bangladesh for taking over the reins.
Even in the absence of Gautam Gambhir KKR has managed to solidify his opening strength this year as well. With Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, and Sunil Narine in their side they have a bright option to choose for. A player like Lynn can easily turn the game into KKR’s favor and Uthappa along with that could be the icing on the cake. But the real strength of KKR lies in their spinning unit. And when it comes to their spinning department, the name like Sunil Narine can never be overlooked. To add fuel to this fire we have Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav. So, all in all, they have the best spinning attack in the tournament. Also, the form of Dinesh Karthik as a captain could be turning factor for KKR.
But KKR doesn’t really seem strong with their middle order. They have invested heavily in youth players like U-19 star Shubhman Gill, Ishank Jaggi, Andre Russell, and Nitish Rana but none inspire confidence. If openers fail it could be the falling of KKR as well. Even considering their bowling attack it doesn’t show confidence. Yaa they do have Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson but to support them they only have some youth stars Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi. Vinay Kumar has also lost his force he used to be a couple of years back. With Johnson only playing in the IPL, his form will surely be a worry. That means over-reliance on Starc and if he gets injured or fails to deliver, then it might well look like a rookie attack.
Like CSK coming after serving a two-year ban due to a spot-fixing scandal, inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) champions Rajasthan Royals will stand strong even after missing their star power former Australian captain Steve Smith. They are determined to look to Ajinkya Rahane for inspiration and hope their good-looking squad can deliver well in the coming tournament.
Along with having Rahane as captain, the Rajasthan side doesn’t seem to be in a weaker zone at all. With batsman like Rahane who prevailed his credential in the game of T20 time and again this side is certainly on a stronger pedestrian. Besides the captain Rahane this team has got a good support. Players like England all-rounder Ben Stokes and effective white-ball bowler Jaydev Unadkat, they have glittered all their departments.They have some exciting new faces in the side such as D’Arcy Short and Jofra Archer who will be joining a talented bunch of Indian players. As Smith’s replacement, they have South African wicketkeeper-batsman Heinrich Klaasen, who already showed his class against the Indian spinners in South Africa.
The only weakness of Rajasthan is the absence of one of the best batsmen around, Steve Smith. It came as no surprise when they chose to retain only the 28-year-old Australian from their previous squad. But due to the unfortunate turn of events, the 2008 winners will now have to plan without him and by the look of things they have the firepower to pack a punch.
Royal Challengers Bangalore:
The Bangalore side has always been the side which seems very promising on paper but couldn’t capitalize the same on the field. Virat Kohli led side is a star-studded side which includes names like Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, young Sarfaraz Khan, Colin de Grandhomme, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Corey Anderson. This year as well this side looks unbeaten but the time will only tell how this year will pan out for the RCB.
Their major strength lies in their batting order. They have some solid names in their batting order. Starting Indian sensation Kohli then comes South African Pride AB de Villiers and then comes the Indian youth sensation Sarfaraz Khan. These three names are not all they have this year, they will also unleash the big hitters like Corey Anderson, Grandhomme, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali. A single partnership can easily destroy any side in this tournament. Also, they have got a great spinning combination with the presence of Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar. This duo has already shown their credentials to the world.
The only concern for the RCB side will be their uncapped Indian players. Players like Sarfaraz Khan, Aniket Choudhary, Navdeep Saini haven’t had the best of home T20 season. Services of these players would be much required, especially Sarfaraz, who had shown a lot of promise, in last two seasons of the tournament. Inconsistency has been another factor for RCB side. They have never been able to cross the finishing line yet. Even after having the greatest side of all they failed to impress their crowds.
Prior to this year IPL, there is a major blow for SRH, the skipper David Warner has been banned from this year’s IPL in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal. Under the captaincy of Warner, only this side has managed to clinch the IPL title once but now with the absence of their lead player let’s see what exactly this side has to offer.
In the place of David Warner, they have Alex Hales who is expected to open the innings for SRH in IPL 2018 along with Shikhar Dhawan. Considering the form of Dhawan, it can easily be expected to have a wonderful opening for SRH. However, it is too soon to comment about Alex Hales. But if SRH wants to revive their 2016 heroics, Hales will have to play some exceptional innings. SRH have a very depth batting line-up in their squad. Players like Manish Pandey and Kane Williamson at number 3 and 4 could be a reliable call for SRH. And if any of them strikes that could be the day for SRH. Kane Williamson with an added responsibility on his shoulder to lead the SRH squad in IPL 2018 could be a turning factor considering his experience as New Zealand skipper in all formats of the game. As a finisher, they have Wriddhiman Saha who can also change the scenario of the game at any time.
SunRisers have the best bowling attacks in the Indian Premier League this year, in the form of star Indian pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who on any day can destroy the strongest batting line up of any team. And then there is teenage Afghanistan sensation Rashid Khan who is among one of the feared bowlers in the shortest format of the game. And if the recent form of Rashid Khan is anything to go by, SRH is in for a treat.
The only problem of this team would be the absence of David Warner in the side. He is the primary source of SRH’s batting line up. Last year he had scored 641 runs in 14 matches with an average of 45 which is something from which you can easily determine how massive that blow is for SRH to play without David Warner.