With 4 overseas players allowed in every XI, most IPL teams are built around these quartets. Mumbai Indians are an exception. Tagging along an astute captain in Rohit Sharma, world’s best death bowler in Jasprit Bumrah, and a hefty middle-order core in the Pandya brothers, MI has a formidable Indian foundation with foreign embellishments.
They will take the ground this year as defending champions - a task they have never been successful in, even after 4 IPL trophies. The men in blue don’t start well usually and that will be their prime focus this year.
The Indian batting allows them a top-notch fast-bowling attack of Trent Boult, Nathan Coulter-Nile / James Pattison, and Bumrah. Between the fiery top and lower orders, a lot will still depend on the consistency and acumen of the young guns in Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan. The management will also be jumping on the blitzkrieg form of Kerion Pollard in the CPL - something which drew a lot of attention in 2019.
One area of concern will be the back-up spinners. Indifferent to UAE’s expected sluggish wickets, MI doesn’t have a proper off-spinner except the all rounder Krunal Pandya. They also traded their leg-spinning backup in Mayank Markande before the pandemic so expect Rahul Chahar to feel the heat a bit more.
With trophies in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 - MI will be raring to set many patterns and records straight in 2020.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (C), Quinton de Kock (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Keiron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Trent Boult, James Pattison, Rahul Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah.
Chennai Super Kings
The Dad’s Army as they call them, the Super Kings will touchdown as grizzled, wounded lions in the UAE. Like the last couple of years, the CSK will be the most experienced side of the tournament with some sprinkles of fresh faces.
For long their captain M.S. Dhoni and coach Stephen Flemming have kept this cadre together enough to squeeze out some inspired performances. This year, with an eleventh hour exit of their best batsman Suresh Raina - also IPL’s second highest run-scorer - repeating similar heroics will be a lot more difficult.
Both Dhoni and Raina are now retired from the International circuit. More significantly, they, and most of the CSK players, have hardly received any game time since the last season. Furthermore, CSK was the last team to start training in the UAE due to some of their members testing positive for the infection.
There are a few good additions to the Chennai squad in Sam Curran, Josh Hazelwood and Piyush Chawla. But with the likes of Lungi Ngidi, DJ Bravo, and Imran Tahir having cemented their spots already, it has to be seen if they will get a place in starting XIs.
With some brilliant spinning all-rounders, and a calculated style of cricket, conditions in the UAE are tailor-made for the three-time champions. While every team will be mulling adapting, CSK will be thinking of cashing in. Also imperative will be the role of Deepak Chahar with the new ball and someone like Bravo in the death.
Dhoni’s consistency at number 4 will be the master key, again. If he performs, CSK will flourish. Unless,with the competition that they will have this year, for the first time in their IPL journey, top 4 might be a road too far.
Probable XI: Shane Watson, Murali Vijay, Ambati Raydu, MS Dhoni (C,WK), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Sam Curran, DJ Bravo, Lungi Ngidi, Piyush Chawla, Deepak Chahar.
Kolkata Knight Riders
In the same way as MI is known for their scouting experience, and CSK for their coaches, KKR fans will relate to their team’s shrewd auction buys. From Gautam Gambhir, to Shubhman Gill, and now Eoin Morgan, Tom Banton and Pat Cummins, the KKR management never disappoints.
Morgan and Banton have been in fine form in the recent home series for England against Australia and Pakistan. Cummins has been rusty though, and it will be interesting to see how he manages the burden of being the biggest buy of the year.
Nevertheless, Dinesh Karthik’s team is going to the UAE with the strongest middle order in the tournament. With the underrated Nitish Rana, Morgan, Russell and Karthik, the least one could expect is consistent fireworks. Going by the indications from David Hussey, it won’t be a surprise if “Dre Russ” bats and number 3. This isn’t good news for anybody except KKR and their fans.
Their bowling attack is a mighty force as well. Excellent spinners in Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, and equally good back-ups will be a handful on their day. One chink in armour, as it has always been with the 2 time champions, will be their death bowling. Even with Cummins and the likes of Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Prasidh Krishna - KKR will have to be at their A-game in the final overs.
Outside the field as well, KKR have roped in their one time alumni and audacious ex-New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum as head coach. How the DK-Morgan-McCullum troika pans out will be a treat to watch. More so after some differences that emerged during the last year’s campaign which completely derailed a strong start.
Probable XI: Shubhman Gill, Sunil Narine, Nitish Rana, Andre Russell, Eoin Morgan, Dinesh Karthik (C,WK), Rinku Singh / Rahul Tripathi , Pat Cummins, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kuldeep Yadav, Shivam Mavi.
It was finally in 2019 that the real Delhi turned up in the IPL. Under coach Ricky Ponting and a novice captain Shreyas Iyer, they finally closed the ordeal of wooden spooning. With an exciting brew of youth and experience, the Capitals will surely be the dark horse of the tournament.
Two things stand out when you look at the Delhi squad. Firstly, this is a team of openers, 7, all of whom will play at some point or the other and at different places in the batting order. Second, every player has a point to prove in T20 cricket. Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane both will vie for an India berth while trying to provide a solid start. So will Rishabh Pant, Iyer and R Ashwin in that middle order.
The gossip around the Ponting-Ashwin coalition and a certain pre-delivery run-out can be found here. The spinning combination of Ashwin, Axar Patel, and Amit Mishra, on the other hand, will definitely prove vicious for their opponents on the UAE pitches. Back this with the scintillating Kagiso Rabada, and old-guard Ishant Sharma, and you have got a dependable bowling line up.
They have some gaps as well, though. For the first thing they don’t have a seasoned finisher. If they decide to play Marcus Stoinis in top order as Ponting might tend to, then there might be a Russell dilemma with playing the likes of Pant and Shimron Hetmyer. Also with teeming experience from all sides and myriads of opinions, Iyer will have an inevitable job to do.
DC has the team and the mettle to go all the way to what would be their first Final, though, it needs to be seen if they have the fight to do so.
Probable XI: Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Marcus Stoinis, Shreyas Iyer (C), Rishabh Pant (WK), Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul, Axar Patel, R Ashwin, A Mishra / Ishant Sharma, K Rabada.
Kings XI Punjab
KXIP and company will be beaming on thinking about the UAE. It was here that they played their best cricket in 2014 and managed to reach the finals - only the second occasion that they did so in 12 years. It came on the back of Glenn Maxwell’s unprecedented strokeplay, who has returned back to them for the next two years.
Punjab too, like Delhi, has a new Coach-Captain combination. With the ever mindful Anil Kumble, KL Rahul will have his captaincy debut shouldered.
Rahul, a furnished product of the IPL, has cemented his place as India's best T20 batsman. He will also be the soul of the batting line up here which also includes the likes of Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran. Keep an eye on Rahul the wicket keeper as well. After the retirement of MS Dhoni, this IPL must be the ultimate trial for the international wicket keeping spot.
On the bowling front, Indian fast bowling looks quite papery. Chris Jordan, though, might just be the silver bullet for Punjab’s death bowling woes which sucked the fuel out of their first-half winning spree last year. Burden will also be more with Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Krishnappa Gowtham after releasing Ashwin.
With Sarfaraz and Gowtham to be probables in the lower order, finishing on a high might just be another iffy point for Punjab, more so in high scoring games.
All in all, the side looks formidable on paper. The Karnataka boys - Kumble, Rahul, Agarwal - will have to work in tandem to keep the cracks intact, and carry this Punjab side forward.
Probable XI: KL Rahul (C,WK), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Glenn Maxwell, Nicholas Pooran, Sarfaraz Khan, Krishnappa Gowtham, Chris Jordan, Mohammad Shami, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Ishan Porel.
Since winning the inaugural IPL, the Royals have never really been the ‘side to beat’. Albeit they do qualify for the playoffs every now and then, but have lacked the charisma to go all the way. It is the same story every year, brilliant coaches, an inconsistent Indian core, injury-prone and irreplaceable foreign stars, and a lack of synergy.
Can they change that this year?
They have released Ajinkya Rahane, so the clutter around captaincy is clear for now. Steve Smith will be on the saddle, with the ever dynamic Jos Buttler to support him. Buttler especially, single handedly carried the side to its few victories and close calls in the tournament.
Ben Stokes’ participation remains on the fence which could be a meaty blow to their pace bowling balance. If times come to it, David Miller might be the like to like replacement for his batting prowess.
The RR management has played the typical Rahul Dravid move by roping in some exciting youngsters including the debutantant Yashasvi Jaiswal. They’ll have to make sure that these teenagers are not left to fend for the blow hot and cold seniors. Sanju Samson has been in good form in the practice matches but he’s probably the most underperforming talent in the country at the moment. His consistency will be crucial.
The speedsters department looks sharp with Jofra Archer, an in-form Jaydev Unadkat, and abundant backups. They have some quality leggies in the ranks as well, but the lack of diversity might be a problem later in the competition. Their death-bowling performance was poor last year and the management might consider roping in a specialist like Andrew Tye in the XI as a replacement for Stokes.
From a distance they look like a side torn between overdependence on overseas superstars and neophytes. The middle grounders in Samson, Robin Uthappa, Shreyas Gopal, and Ankit Rajput will have their task cut out if RR wants their share in the Qualifiers.
Probable XI: Yashasvi Jaiswal, Jos Buttler(wk), Sanju Samson, Steve Smith(c), Robin Uthappa, Riyan Parag, Jofra Archer, Mayank Markande, Shreyas Gopal, Andrew Tye, Jaydev Unadkat.
SRH have shattered all the conjectures by transforming from the “orange coloured replacement of Deccan Chargers” to one of the most consistent sides of the tournament. This they have done with major buttressing from David Warner, who returns as captain this year after playing under Kane Williamson in the last edition.
Warner along with Bairstow will return as the most explosive opening combination in the tournament. So far so good? Here comes the ticklish part. Williamson would walk straightaway into any international XI, but with a tenuous middle-order and Rashid Khan a must in the bowling department, his place won’t be served on a plate.
Rather, the Sunrisers will be looking at someone like Mitchell Marsh - who has been very reliable lately - to anchor that number 5 position. If selected, he will be supported by Manish Pandey, Vijay Shankar, and fresh talents like Abhishek Sharma and Priyam Garg.
If the middle order is able to keep care of itself then their experienced bowling line up will win them games in a canter. They already have Khan, Shahbaz Nadeem, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Khaleel Ahmed in the dugout. If need comes for an extra spinner, then they can play the venerable and accurate Mohammad Nabi.
The conditions will suit more to a Williamson style of captaincy and adaptation will be the key for Warner and the new coach Trevor Bayliss.
Probable XI: Jonny Bairstow(wk), David Warner(c), Wriddhiman Saha, Manish Pandey, Vijay Shankar, Mitchell Marsh/Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shahbaz Nadeem, Khaleel Ahmed.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
There’s a reason why I have kept the RCB at last. No nothing poetic, just that they ended IPL 2019 at this position. They have the most loyal fans but are just meme material for everyone else since 2016 when they last reached the finals. There are some confusing messages around them. One says building a stable “team culture” and other says “horses for courses” both in the XIs and the management.
Mike Hesson, and Simon Katich have taken over as the Director of Cricket and head coach respectively.
Captain and top-gun Virat Kohli’s statement of this side being their “most balanced” after 2016 does have some weight to it, though.
They have added Aron Finch, who brings with him some captaincy experience, some power and some flare. They have also roped in Chris Morris and Isuru Udana to manage the death overs (which they couldn’t do very well last year) while providing some fighting cushion in the lower-middle-order. They also have Dale Steyn and Adam Zampa to play the role of specialist bowlers.
Middle order might be a worry yet again, but reliable players on both sides might finally help Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar and Pawan Negi to come to their own. A tricky choice would be to burden their Ace, Ab de Villiers with wicket keeping duties. If they do so, it will open up an opportunity for Devdut Padikkal who has been mighty impressive in the Indian domestic competitions.
The Indian troika of Yuzvendra Chahal, Umesh Yadav, and Navdeep Saini are a brilliant combination but will have to be consistent throughout to end a decade-old frustration.
If RCB doesn’t qualify for top 4 this season, mark my words, we will definitely see a team changing its name for the next season.
Probable XI: Aaron Finch, Devdut Padikkal, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers (wk), Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Washington Sundar, Navdeep Saini, Umesh Yadav, Dale Steyn, Yuzvendra Chahal.