While every IPL auction is a spectacle, this year was the biggest of them all! And yup, the Indian Premier League is back with a twist and a bang!!
The 11th edition of the 7th April to 27th May mega showpiece will see revamped teams, player movements, first-time captains and two hugely popular franchises returning after serving suspension terms.
With the franchises allowed to retain just three players, there were 578 others under the hammer – the owners could completely revamp their squads if they wanted to.
So which squads look the strongest?
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS
Back after two long years in the wilderness, will two-time champs CSK dominate the IPL as they once did? They’ve gone with a few old hands that brought them success in the first eight editions but the biggest concern for fans will be the lack of youth and dynamism. They lack power hitters down the order.
However, over the years, under MS Dhoni, the Super Kings have proved time and again they are canny operators and with their battery of spin options will be extremely tough to beat at home.
It’s going to be interesting seeing a Mumbai veteran return to his old stomping grounds in rival colours. After 10 trophy-laden seasons with Mumbai Indians, Harbhajan Singh will be eager to show the defending champions what they are missing when they opted to let him go. Bhajji has been one of the most successful bowlers in the history of the league and in terms of wickets, sits pretty at the number three spot in the all-time list.
And yes, some real good news for Dhoni fans – he is expected to bat relatively higher up the order this season according to coach Stephen Fleming.
Our Super 8 – MS Dhoni, Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo, Mark Wood, Shardul Thakur, Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, Imran Tahir
Possible XI: Vijay, Watson, Raina, Dhoni, Jadhav, Bravo, Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Thakur, Wood, Tahir
With Gautam Gambhir as captain and Ricky Ponting as coach, the perennially under-achieving Delhi Daredevils will be a lot more hopeful of winning the IPL this year.
DD have retained two of the most exciting Indian talents in Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer, and bringing Gautam Gambhir back home is a game changer in 2018. Having proved themselves as a young team capable of thrilling wins in the past, Gambhir brings that much-needed experience which the young guns can bat around. With a few explosive batsmen and some real pace, DD could be one of the best teams to watch.
Our Super 8 – Gautam Gambhir, Jason Roy, Colin Munro, Glenn Maxwell, Rishabh Pant, Kagiso Rabada, Shreyas Iyer, Mohammed Shami
Possible XI: Gambhir, Roy, Iyer, Maxwell, Pant, Shankar, Morris, Rabada, Mishra, Shami, Nadeem
KINGS XI PUNJAB
If KXIP were consistent in anything the past few disappointing seasons, it was their players and line-ups. In order to turn things around from the mundane, they went after successful capped Indian players KL Rahul, Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuvraj Singh and Karun Nair this year.
In the entire IPL history, this team has just managed to play the finals once (2014), and finished in the bottom half of the points table on eight occasions.
With AJ Tye leading the fast bowling department and Chris Gayle, who was let go by RCB looking to prove a point, KXIP could be a really dangerous outfit to keep an eye on. Ravichandran Ashwin sees captaincy thrust on him though there was the option of Aaron Finch. A completely unknown commodity, this move shouldn’t come back to bite one of the most talented but unluckiest teams in IPL history.
The biggest question though is, will Ravichandran Ashwin’s methodical and intelligent brand of cricket gel well with Sehwag’s carefree and unapologetic approach in the Kings XI Punjab camp?
Our Super 8 – AJ Tye, Aaron Finch, KL Rahul, Ravichandran Ashwin, Karun Nair, Marcus Stoinis, Barinder Sran, David Miller
Possible XI: Finch, Rahul, Nair, Yuvraj Singh, Miller, Stoinis, Axar Patel, Ashwin, Tye, M Sharma, Sran
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS
KKR have ultra-aggressive batting options and plenty of pace. Though they were the least active team in the auction, going with just 19 players – they could have had 25, KKR have the quality to go the distance. That’s if injuries don’t strike.
Ironically, this already happened before the tournament began – their strike bowler Mitchell Starc bowing out with a stress fracture. His replacement, Tom Curran is a yorker specialist who also bowls a deceptive, back-of-the-hand slower ball. His skills were on full display in a thrilling ODI against Australia in January. An utility batsman with a strike-rate of 128.36, Curan has played over 51 T20s with a highest score of 51 not out. He could be the X-factor in his debut season.
The good news for KKR is that Chris Lynn has headed to training less than 24 hours after joining the team along with veteran speedster Mitchell Johnson, who opted to rest. Having recovered sufficiently from a dislocated shoulder suffered during the recent T20I tri-series in Australia, Lynn, the lynchpin of the batting lineup was seen batting in full flow along with Sunil Narine as the two-time former champions gear up at the Eden Gardens.
Our Super 8 – Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn, Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Tom Curran, Nitish Rana, Piyush Chawla
Possible XI: Lynn, Narine, Uthappa, Karthik, Rana, Russell, Gill, Curran, Chawla, Mavi, Yadav
The most successful team in IPL history, Mumbai Indians face a tough seven weeks in order to defend their crown. The mega auction, coupled with the return of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals has levelled the playing field this season. However, it would be unwise not backing them to reach the playoffs, given the squad they possess. The reigning champs seem to have blundered their way through the auction though, dismantling a very strong team that got them over the line last year.
Jos Buttler was let go and so was a key component of their spin department – Harbhajan Singh. This leaves them with very few specialist spin options. Left-arm slow orthodox Krunal Pandya is one of the most experienced spinners in the squad while fellow left-arm Anukul Roy – one of the stars of the U-19 World Cup winning squad – is expected to play a key role along with young leg-spinner Rahul Chahar.
Our Super 8 – Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Kieron Pollard, Rohit Sharma, Evin Lewis, Ishan Kishan, Pat Cummins, Krunal Pandya/Rahul Chahar
If the younger Pandya can make big contributions with bat and ball it will take a lot of pressure off the other marquee players like Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard. Perhaps he sould be pushed up the order.
Possible XI: Lewis, Kishan, Rohit Sharma, Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Cummins, Mustafizur, Chahar, Bumrah
Was it a statement RR was trying to make at the auction after their two year hiatus?
Signing the two most expensive players – Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat, the first season champs though tagged as ‘underdogs’, ended up becoming a ‘cheating’ side in 2015.
Led by two legends of the game — Shane Warne and Rahul Dravid — the champion side sadly saw their latest captain, Steve Smith caught cheating while playing for his national side just before the start of IPL 11. Smith has become history for The Royals for now and an ideal replacement as captain has been found in Ajinkya Rahane. While his absence as captain might not be felt in Royals’ dugout, his batting prowess will be dearly missed by the team.
A well rounded team in 2018, mentored by legendary spinner Shane Warne, ironically have a glaring omission – there is not one specialist spinner of note.
RR might be able to cope without top-quality spin at the beginning of the season but as the tournament picks up pace and the pitches change this could be a major problem. There’s no doubt they have some box office players, though.
Our Super 8 – Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Ajinkya Rahane, Jofra Archer, Ben Laughlin, Rahul Tripathi, Krishnappa Gowtham, D’Arcy Short
Possible XI: Rahane, Tripathi, Smith, Stokes, Buttler, Samson, Gowtham, Archer, A Sharma, Unadkat, Kulkarni
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE
An IPL trophy is what is missing from RCB’s otherwise entertaining script, and Virat Kohli would look to set the record straight this season. After years of being accused of having squads that lack balance, RCB have spread their resources more evenly this season. The batting is not as stacked as usual but if Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers are anywhere near top form does it need to be? The pitch at the Chinnaswamy last year was certainly conducive to pace off the ball and they have recognised that by purchasing a number of varied spin options. Could this finally be the Royal Challengers’ year?
The problem with this team, though stacked with superstars and talent, is inconsistency. Picture this: a second-from-last finish in the inaugural season followed by second-place finish the very next, second and third-place in next two editions before slumping to fifth in next two, another seventh-place finish in 2014 followed by a spot in the top three the next two years before ending 2017 at the bottom of the table to mark their worst IPL.
With Gayle gone and Mitchell Starc snapped up by KKR, the onus would be on Kohli and de Villiers to fire.
Our Super 8 – Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers, Chris Woakes, Yuzvendra Chahal, Brendon McCullum, Colin de Grandhomme, Corey Anderson, Umesh Yadav
Possible XI: De Kock, Vohra, Kohli, De Villiers, Sarfaraz Khan, Woakes, Negi, Tim Southee, U Yadav, Chahal
The 2016 champions decided to keep most of their marquee players while throwing in some interesting additions. Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan and Shakib Al Hasan were all poached from KKR – they are all experienced and should hit the ground running.
Sadly, though SRH had quite expectedly retained David Warner and Bhuvneshwar Kumar for 2018, this is the magnitude of what the team is going to miss out on this season following the infamous ball-tampering incident on Australia’s South Africa tour – not only had Warner led SRH to their only IPL title, back in 2016, he had also won the Orange Cap in 2015 and 2017. Had Virat Kohli not decided to make 2016 his personal season, Warner could have done a hat-trick. Warner also has the most runs by an overseas cricketer and 5th-most overall in IPL history – 4,014.
Warner’s absence creates a massive hole at the top. Alex Hales has been roped in as replacement, but Kane Williamson’s appointment as captain would probably make Hales an irregular in the side.
The one area that looks a bit thin is the power hitting. Pathan and Deepak Hooda could provide it but may be competing for one spot. Overall they still look strong.
The one man we must highlight before we give you our Super 8 is Rashid Khan. Is this guy the best T20 spinner in the world? His stats are incredible, he’s had success in different conditions and the scary thing is he is still 19 years old!
The team is not outstanding, but the spin attack can be formidable. Rashid will be supported by Shakib and perhaps Nabi as well; and even if one ignores Yusuf, there is Bipul Sharma. He has played only 18 matches in three seasons, but a strike rate of 163 and that two-overs-a-match bowling role is what SRH need for their balance. Similarly, Hooda has a strike rate of 139 and sends down the occasional over of off-breaks.
Having Williamson, a complete contrast to temperamental Warner at the helm will surely be a boon for SRH. Also, his achievements as a leader has been proven time and again for the Black Caps. His new assignment for SRH as a skipper will definitely be a challenge, but experience in captaining his team in national colours will help him lead Hyderabad’s charge in the IPL.
Our Super 8 – Kane Williamson, Shakib Al Hasan, Shikhar Dhawan, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Mohammad Nabi
Possible XI: Kane Williamson, Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Mohammad Nabi, Shakib Al Hasan, Wriddhiman Saha, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Siddarth Kaul.
Since its inception, the IPL has grown exponentially in world cricket, so expect no less when reigning Champs Mumbai faceoff against two-time Champions Chennai in the opening match of 2018 on Saturday 7th April at the Wankhede in Mumbai to kickoff the 11th edition of the League.
The tournament is spread over 51 days and across 8 venues. The schedule has been designed with each team playing 14 matches – seven at home and seven away.
Get Ready For Some Mind Blowing T20 Action Folks! ARE YOU READY?
Here is the complete schedule for IPL 2018 – Courtesy of iplt20.com
Leagues up in the Lobby!