How the IPL squads stack up against each other.

How the IPL squads stack up against each other.

20 minutes read

It’s that time of the year again. As the whole nation soaks into the poignant loss of India against the West Indies in the World T20, they line up for one of most extravagant cricketing event of the whole year. Yes, it is the IPL. 8 teams battle for the silverware each year. Interestingly, 4 winners of the past years won’t be even featuring in this year’s IPL. Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings have been banned for 2 years will only lead to disheartening of fans from the respective states.
Cricket moves on, this time with the help of 2 new teams to replace the above 2 teams – Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions.

Before the start of this year’s season, which brings with it a set of new challenges, excitement and a sense of flamboyancy , let’s dissect each of the 8 teams and look at how they stack up on paper and what could be expected of them.

DELHI DAREDEVILS

Without Chennai Super Kings, alphabetically, Delhi Daredevils comes first. As has been the trend with their approach for the last 2 or 3 years, DD went into the auction with the highest available money and 13 retained players in their kitty. Surprisingly enough, they didn’t buy a single marquee player. The only reason for it could be the fact that they have not had enough luck with the marquee players in the past. Hence, their approach this auction has been to go for young superstars of the IPL and also scout for new talent. If you skip to the end of their auction, this approach could be better understood. They roped in Rahul Dravid as their mentor, which would explain why they went for the young players, rather than buying big names for big money. Unlike every auction, they didn’t do any extensive bidding and made smart buys. Ex-Indian Fast Bowler Zaheer Khan was named the captain of the team, which was another surprise. I had my hopes pinned on J P Duminy for another stint. Feroz Shah Kotla has traditionally been a good hunting ground for spinners, and they have 2 class spinners. Last year, the only positive out of DD was the performance of Amit Mishra and Imran Tahir as a pair. Fast Bowling looks good with the likes of Zaheer Khan himself, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mohammad Shami. Batting is a tad bit inexperienced but, I expect the batting unit to fare well given the class of Shreyas Iyer, the experience of J P Duminy and the form of Quinton de Kock. Their costliest buy this season is Pawan Negi. Though he has been given the cold shoulder in the Indian team so far, he looks far more money-fetcher in the IPL. He, along with Christopher Morris will form a good All-Round unit for the DD. DD let go of 3 players – Saurabh Tiwary, Albie Morkel and Kedar Jadhav. For me, DD’s best buy for the season has to be Christopher Morris. For 7 crore, you cannot ask for a better Fast Bowling All-Rounder.

STRENGTHS – Spin duo of Amit Mishra and Imran Tahir are wicket takers in this format and a lot will depend on their performance. Good support staff with the legendary Rahul Dravid there to guide the troops.

WEAKNESS – Inexperienced Batting unit with not much of a bench strength.

OPPORTUNITIES – With a good All-Round team, an experienced captain and Rahul Dravid to mentor the team, DD has a great opportunity to make some inroads early on and put up a challenge to other teams.

THREATS – Their only threat could be pacers Mohammad Shami and Zaheer Khan. Should either of them or both of them gets injured, they’d have to change their captain midway and get in an inexperienced pacer as a replacement. Lack of hard hitting batsmen in the middle order.

TRUMP CARD – Christopher Morris, the South African All-Rounder will be a huge asset to them. His power-hitting, Fast Bowling, Death Bowling and athletic fielding could very well be the difference between them winning and not winning.

If there was 1 player that they could have done good with, it is Grant Elliott, the Kiwi All-Rounder. He would have provided the much need power in the middle order and also given support to inexperienced middle order.
Their chances this season look weak, but they could come up with surprises.

MY PLAYING XI
Quinton de Kock (wk)
Shreyas Iyer
Sanju Samson
Jean Paul Duminy
Karun Nair
Christopher Morris
Pawan Negi
Amit Mishra
Zaheer Khan (c)
Mohammad Shami
Imran Tahir

GUJARAT LIONS

Next up is one of the 2 new teams, i.e. Gujarat Lions. With the Rajkot ground – a high-scoring ground, being their home venue, I’d rate their team very high on paper. At the player draft for Pune and Gujarat, Gujarat went for Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum, James Faulkner and Dwayne Bravo. Needless to say, in their team, they have 3 of the best All-Rounders in the world, one of the most inspirational leaders of the recent time, and the most consistent and leading run scorer in the history of IPL. Quite a lineup, isn’t it! Suresh Raina was fittingly named the captain of the new side, which is expected to bring a lot of joy to Gujarat fans. Although technically not a buy, for me, Dwayne Bravo has to be their best buy. He gives more than you ask from him. Name it and he can do it, and he has proved that time and again. Gujarat Lions have a good batch of T20 All-Rounders and a good Fast Bowling unit. Call me a Dale Steyn fan or whatever, I’ll always have him my team. So, if my probable 11 for this team looks a bit surprising, it’s only because I want Dale Steyn in the team. In Brad Hodge as a coach, they have one of the most experienced T20 players of all time. He should gel well with the squad.

STRENGTHS – Explosive opening partnership and exciting All-Rounders, all of them who have been proven match winners.

WEAKNESS – Lack of depth in the spin department. With only Ravindra Jadeja and Pravin Tambe being the spinners, they lack the much required depth in the spin department.

OPPORTUNITIES – They have a good batting bench strength. Openers will provide quick starts which will ease the pressure off the middle order. Overall, it’s one of the best fielding units this season with the likes of Suresh Raina, Jadeja, McCullum, Dwayne Bravo.

THREATS – Presence of too many All-Rounders in their complete squad could mean harm to their balance. In fact, there are as many as 8 All-Rounders out of the total 24 players.

TRUMP CARD – Ravindra Jadeja. The home boy can be expected to wreak some havoc with the bat, the ball and his fielding. Much will be expected of him and he’ll be GL’s trump card.

They could have hired the services of another Indian batsman, probably Manoj Tiwary to strengthen the team.
Gujarat’s chances to qualify for the playoffs look high and I expect them to make it to the last 4.

MY PLAYING XI
Brendon McCullum
Ishan Kishan
Suresh Raina (c)
Dinesh Karthik (wk)
Dwayne Bravo
Ravindra Jadeja
James Faulkner
Dhawal Kulkarni
Dale Steyn
Shivil Kaushik
Pravin Tambe

KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS

2 time winners of the IPL and one of the most consistent teams, Kolkata Knight Riders find themselves at the same position yet again. Yes, they lack the big names. Yes, the lack the firepower. But, hasn’t the same team won 2 IPLs! This year though, they seem to have good All-Rounders which will enable them to bat deep. There is still a question mark over Sunil Narine. If the inevitable happens, do they have a contingency plan? Probably not. They miss a couple of players who could have completed the squad in a better way but, still look strong on paper. Jacques Kallis is now the coach and Wasim Akram is still around. The core of the team remains pretty much the same which contrastingly gives me a feeling that it won’t work in their favour. I have never been much of a fan of Sunil Narine’s bowling, hence I’ve not included him in my playing XI. KKR wasn’t much active at the auction this time around but if I had to choose, the Best Buy for them has to be Colin Munro. Although, he won’t find a place in the team very easily, he can hit the ball a big way, which for me is a bonus, especially when you know that Yusuf Pathan cannot be counted on much.

STRENGTHS – Experienced T20 players and a good All-Round balance.

WEAKNESS – Lack of dependent players who have a tendency to fail to deliver according to reputation.

OPPORTUNITIES – With a team suited to play at Eden Gardens, don’t be surprised if they bring up some good performances and make it through to the last 4.

THREATS – Their only threat is Sunil Narine. Should he be banned or reported yet again, it’ll be a major blow to their campaign as a lot depends on him.

TRUMP CARD – Andre Russell. He was the MVP of last year’s IPL season. He is a fast bowler with the ability to bowl at any stage of the innings. He is a very athletic fielder, as is everyone these days. He can hit the ball a long way. Most importantly and most dangerously, his career T20 strike rate across 200 matches is 166 at an average of 24.

A Samuel Badree would have done wonders to the team. His ability to bowl very economically in the Powerplay gives a luxury to the captain who can then hold back his other premier bowlers for the death.
This year though, KKR’s chances look bleak. I expect them to finish 5th or 6th.

MY PLAYING XI
Gautam Gambhir (c)
Robin Uthappa (wk)
Manish Pandey
Colin Munro
Suryakumar Yadav
Shakib-Al Hasan
Andre Russell
John Hastings
Kuldeep Yadav
Piyush Chawla
Umesh Yadav

KINGS XI PUNJAB

Kings XI Punjab is a team which is expected to do a lot more than they actually do. Barring the first season in 2008, and season 7 in 2014, they have failed to live up to their expectations. As always, they depend a lot on their foreign batsmen. This time around, they lack the firepower in the bowling department. There are no frontline spinners and the fast bowlers are just shadows of their former selves. Preity Zinta was very quiet in the auction not buying much as if their team wasn’t at the bottom of the table last year. For me, their Best buy as Kyle Abbott and I’d prefer him over Mitchell Johnson in my team. They have good and calm coach in Sanjay Bangar who did well for them in the 2014 season. David Miller was appointed their captain for the first time. Since no one has seen him captain before, it’ll be interesting to see how he fares.

STRENGTHS – A good batting lineup in the form of Shaun Marsh, Maxwell, Miller. Plenty of firepower.

WEAKNESS – Lack of depth in the bowling department and a poor bench strength. Too much dependence on the above 3 players.

OPPORTUNITIES – An opportunity to spoil the campaign of other teams

THREATS – With the presence of only a single wicket-keeper, they are gambling a lot with his fitness and batting form.

TRUMP CARD – Yet again, there trump card is David Miller. Only, this time he is the captain of the team, which brings upon him that added responsibility.

MY PLAYING XI
Shaun Marsh
Manan Vohra
Wriddhiman Saha (wk)
Glenn Maxwell
David Miller (c)
Gurkeerat Singh
Axar Patel
Rishi Dhawan
Sandeep Sharma
Mohit Sharma
Kyle Abbott

KXIP could have bought Manvinder Singh Bisla as a 2nd keeper for the team. They bank too much on Saha.
I feel, KXIP would yet again finish in the last 2. A lot depends on how their top order performs.

MUMBAI INDIANS

Next comes the Mumbai Indians, who claim to ‘shake the world’ and they did shake it 2 times. Mumbai Indians always tends to put together a team that no matter what, tends to perform well in the IPL. In Rohit Sharma, they have an excellent captain and an equally exceptional batsman. Rohit Sharma is one of the cleanest hitters of the cricket ball and one of the few players who hits a 6 to get out of pressure. Going into the auction, Mumbai Indians had retained 19 of their players. Thus, their tacticswere pretty obvious – to make a couple of smart buys to fill some voids; and so they did. They made some excellent buys in Jos Butler and Tim Southee. The surprise package was Nathu Singh who went for 3.2 crore on a base price of 10 lakhs. For me, Jos Butler was a great buy for them. Given that they play 7 of their matches at Wankhede, they won’t find much use of Tim Southee per se. But, he will be handy in seaming conditions such as Hyderabad and Punjab. They have a long coaching staff – Ricky Ponting, Robin Singh, Shane Bond, Jhonty Rhodes and Sachin Tendulkar. They pretty much have all the bases covered and look a strong team on paper.

STRENGTHS – Retained core of the team. Amazing All-Round balance and tremendous bench strength.

WEAKNESS – No definite weakness but lack foreign bench strength.

OPPORTUNITIES – With the likes of Jos Butler in the ranks, run-scoring will be boosted.

THREATS – Injury concerns to Lasith Malinga, Mitchell McCleneghan, Kieron Pollard and Lendl Simmons.

TRUMP CARD – Hardik Pandya. An All-Rounder with the ability to bowl between 130 and 135 kmph and the ability to win matches with the bat single-handedly is always an asset for the team. His form and performance will determine the chances of Mumbai Indians. I say so because Kieron Pollard hasn’t been in the best of forms and has only been the shadow of his 2010 self.

MY PLAYING XI
Lendl Simmons
Parthiv Patel (wk)
Rohit Sharma (c)
Ambati Rayudu
Jos Butler
Hardik Pandya
Kieron Pollard
J Suchith
Harbhajan Singh
Jasprit Bumrah
Lasith Malinga

Mumbai Indians could’ve bought Sanju Samson as an opening partner for Lendl Simmons. Samson is better suited to play at Wankhede than Parthiv and could also serve as the wicket-keeper as the side. Frankly, Sanju Samson would’ve fitted better at that spot than Parthiv Patel.
Unlike always, this year, Mumbai Indians start as one of the favourites. With players being in top form and high on confidence, the team is expected to do well and make it to the last 4. Despite that, I don’t expect them to make it to the playoffs.

RISING PUNE SUPERGIANTS

Rising Pune Supergiants is one of the two teams in this IPL whose playing XI forms itself. If you ask me, 9 out of 10 fans would form 90% of the same team. Is that an advantage? Yes. If Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the captain of that team, it is definitely an advantage. No one is a stranger to the fact that Dhoni doesn’t make much changes to his XI. RPS is filled with superstars, performers and match-winners. It is a team consisting 3 national T20 captains – M S Dhoni, Steven Smith and Francois du Plessis. I am a Pune fan. At the player draft meant for Pune and Gujarat franchisee, Pune grabbed M S Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane, Steve Smith and Francois du Plessis; that’s half your team there and then. In this 5 players, there are 3 world-class fielders and batsmen, 1 world-class spinner and one of the best captains ever to grace the game. Don’t be surprised if this paragraph is lengthy or interesting than the others; I’m a fan. One might argue that RPS doesn’t have a team that suits the Pune pitch. I disagree – Ajju, Steve Smith and Faf are batsmen who are known to score ‘difficult’ runs. And when I say ‘difficult’, I mean on pitches where other batsmen find difficult to. If you look at the complete roster, there is a good All-Round balance with almost every base covered. With the successful and winning combo of Dhoni and Stephen Fleming restored, this team is bound to do well in the upcoming season. At the auction RPS made very smart buys and invested in stars as well as lesser known players. The price tag of a certain Murugan Ashwin did raise some eyebrows, but, if you are a follower of the Tamil Nadu cricket circuit, you’ll not be surprised by his tag. The best buy for Pune is Mitchell Marsh. He is an excellent All-Rounder with the ability to bowl quick and slow, bat sensibly and slog and field acrobatically. Everything you look for in a player these days. And at 4.8 crore, you couldn’t ask for a better All-Rounder at this moment. RPS has a squad for all pitches and for all oppositions. Saurabh Tiwary, the Jharkhand Batsman and Albie Morkel, the South African All-Rounder and a veteran of 285 T20 matches were acquired from DD in the transfer window.

STRENGTHS – One of the modern greats Mahendra Singh Dhoni to lead a side full of superstars. However, the biggest strength is that for every slot in the lineup, RPS has at least 2 equally capable players. Core of the team is known to show versatility for the teams they have played for.

WEAKNESS – No weakness as such, but, lack an express pacer which could’ve come in handy on the Pune pitch. Ishant Sharma’s ability in T20s as a lead pacer is still a question.

OPPORTUNITIES – With a team of match-winners and good All-Round balance, it is the perfect opportunity for the team to go all the way.

THREATS – Uncertainty lies over their home matches, owing to the pending decision from the Bombay HC based on the drought condition in Maharashtra.

TRUMP CARD – Not 1, but, 2. The opening pair, most likely to be Ajinkya Rahane and Kevin Pietersen, will prove to be beneficiary. One is flamboyant and the other is Dravid-esque. This opening partnership will be the key to Pune’s chances.

MY PLAYING XI
Ajinkya Rahane
Kevin Pietersen
Steven Smith
Francois du Plessis
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c) (wk)
Mitchell Marsh
Irfan Pathan
Ravichandran Ashwin
Murugan Ashwin
Ishwar Chandra Pandey
Rudra Pratap Singh

A fast bowler like Ashish Nehra could have done the trick for RPS but, then again, Nehra couldn’t have been bought easily given his current form.
If we talk about Pune’s chances this season, they should easily make the playoffs given the team they have on paper, as well as on the field. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out, though!

ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE

OMG! Here comes the star-studded lineup. However, the lineup ends at 4, as has always been the case with Royal Challengers from Bangalore. The team has always depended on not more than 3 players for their fortunes and performance. Sometimes, it has worked. Most of the times, it hasn’t. With the addition of Shane Watson for 2 years, the top order is strengthened as hard as concrete. RCB has always boasted an array of players each year but, they have no trophy to go with that array of players. The likes of Anil Kumble, Mark Boucher, Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Kevin Pietersen, Dale Steyn have played for this team and the likes of Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, A B de Villiers, Mitchell Starc play for the team. This year, at the auction, they have acquired a couple of good players from the suspended Rajasthan Royals team – Shane Watson and Stuart Binny. Virat is in scintillating form and he will hope he continues it from there. For RCB, it’s not much of a fight with the opposition as much as it is a fight with their inner demons of past losses. Results have never justified the quality of their team, NEVER. The top order is certainly going to give Goosebumps to any bowling lineup. No target will be too high for this team. But, they lack the same punch in their bowling, and the absence of Mitchell Starc is only going to add to the bowling woes. Support staff is good, with Daniel Vettori, Bharat Arun, Allan Donald and Trent Woodhill doing their bit. It’s up to the players then. No doubt that Shane Watson is their Best Buy for this season. Yes, he was bought for 9.5 crore but, it would have been foolish to expect Watson to go for anything less.

STRENGTHS – Dream top 4. Captain Kohli in the form of his life. Plenty of experience in the batting.

WEAKNESS – No surprises here. It’s the Bowling. Bowling lacks the firepower that the Batting has.

OPPORTUNITIES – To put aside the demons from their past losses and go all the way this season. They have the squad capable of doing that.

THREATS – With the absence of Mitchell Starc, who burdened the bowling on his shoulders last year, bowling looks bleak.

TRUMP CARD – Samuel Badree. The spinner has shown time and again that he is made for this format. His ability to bowl in the first 6 overs at an economy of around 7.5-8 is a luxury any captain would love to have. This is the reason I choose him in my playing XI over David Wiese or Kane Richardson.

MY PLAYING XI
Chris Gayle
Shane Watson
Virat Kohli (c)
A B de Villiers
Sarfaraz Khan
Kedar Jadhav (wk)
Stuart Binny
Samuel Badree
Harshal Patel
Yuzvendra Chahal
Varun Aaron

Someone like Mohit Sharma or Dhawal Kulkarni would have completed the XI. It would only have strengthened the fast bowling department.

SUNRISERS HYDERABAD

The last team to analyse is the Sunrisers Hyderabad. A strong team on paper with a good balance between bat and ball. Yuvraj Singh was added to the squad at the auction but injury concerns remain following the World T20. Undoubtedly, SRH has the best bowling lineup this season. Yes, they lack a spinner to complement Karn Sharma but, they play to their strengths. VVS Laxman, Muttiah Muralitharan, Tom Moody and Simon Helmot make up the support staff. The captain David Warner is not in the best of form but, it takes just 1 match to turn things around. Yet again, they boast of world-class batsmen, all out of form. Kane Williamson and Eoin Morgan are expected to do well, especially after a good T20 World Cup in India. SRH let go of KL Rahul and Parvez Rasool, both to RCB to reduce their roster to 23 players. Ashish Nehra is their best buy, given the form he is in. He takes wickets up front to put the opposition on the backfoot.

STRENGTHS – Depth in the bowling lineup with majority bowlers being in prime form.

WEAKNESS – Lack of impact All-Rounder.

OPPORTUNITIES – With a good All-Round balance, the ‘making-it-to-the-top-4’ opportunity presents itself to the SRH yet again.

THREATS – Batsmen not in good form (except Kane Williamson). According to me, captaincy should be handed over to Kane Williamson before the start of the season rather than in between.

TRUMP CARD – Ashish Nehra. His ability to take wickets up front has been one of the reasons of India’s success in the recent times. He will be the key to SRH’s performance.

MY PLAYING XI
Shikhar Dhawan
David Warner (c)
Kane Williamson
Eoin Morgan
Yuvraj Singh
Naman Ojha (wk)
Deepak Hooda
Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Karn Sharma
Trent Boult
Ashish Nehra

I know they let go of Darren Sammy before the auction. But, he could have fitted well in this team. Seeing his captaincy form in the World T20, where he led his side to glory, he could have captained this side. Yes, IPL teams are not known to persist with non-performing captains, but, might as well.
Rest aside, I expect SRH to make it to the last 4.

Teams I expect to make to the playoffs – Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rising Pune Supergiants, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Gujarat Lions.

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