Sunrisers Hyderabad will sport a very different look this season. For the first time in years, they will have none of David Warner, Kane Williamson or Rashid Khan. They have a new captain in Aiden Markram and a bouquet of young and exciting players. One may consider them the underdogs, but flying below the radar may actually help them spring a few surprises. Markram is no novice to captaincy — he led South Africa to triumph in U-19 World Cup in 2014 and, more recently, captained Sunrisers Eastern Cape to triumph in SA20. Being in good form with the bat himself, Markram can infuse confidence into the team, which has some fine T20 players like Rahul Tripathi, Washington Sundar and Harry Brook.
Barring Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Adil Rashid, Sunrisers lack bowlers with experience. Bhuvneshwar’s fitness often lets him down and in that case, their fast-bowling will be left to T. Natarajan, Umran Malik, Kartik Tyagi and Marco Jansen. If they hit rhythm early in the tournament, they can make an impact surely, but they also look a little vulnerable to pressure. In the spin department, England spinner Rashid and Sundar will have to do all the work.
Who else than Harry Brook? The 24-year-old Englishman has been in sensational form with the bat in the international arena. Be it on subcontinental flat decks or grass beds in New Zealand, Brook has flexed his muscle in style everywhere, getting bagfuls of runs. With an average of 33-plus in T20s and a terrific strike rate of 148.38, this right-handed batter can take the IPL by storm if he gets a hold of it. He is the sun to the Sunrisers’ batting.
■ Key signings
Harry Brook, Mayank Agarwal, Heinrich Klaasen, Adil Rashid, Mayank Markande, Akeal Hosein
■ Last year: Eighth
■ Best finish: Champions (2016 & 2009 — as Deccan Chargers)
England’s Sam Curran will be key for the Kings. File photo
The Punjab franchise in the IPL has tried every trick in the trade, but they are yet to find the route to success. Will they crack the code this time? If they do, their bowling attack will surely play a big role in that. Punjab Kings have one of the best seam attacks this season. While they have the pace of Kagiso Rabada, they also have the accuracy of Arshdeep Singh to fall back on. And then there is Sam Curran to complement the two with his wicket-taking abilities. Together, the trio can stifle opposition batters, because Curran and Arshdeep are also master death bowlers, while Rabada’s rich experience always counts. In the spin department, they have the enterprising Rahul Chahar and if he can form a potent combination with Zimbabwean Sikandar Raza, the Kings will love it.
With Jonny Bairstow not there, Punjab’s batting has taken a big hit. A lot will depend on captain and opener Shikhar Dhawan’s ability to rise to challenges, while Englishman Liam Livingstone is expected to play the finisher’s role with his big-hitting prowess. But barring these two, there’s little in the Punjab batting line-up that gives assurance. Sri Lankan Bhanuka Rajapaksa is good if he gets going, but consistency is an issue with him.
Sam Curran is a much sought-after cricketer in the T20 format for his all-round abilities. The younger of the Curran brothers from England is a very effective left-arm seamer who can both give important breakthroughs and also check the run rate. He is not new to the IPL and has played that role successfully in the past for Chennai Super Kings. He is also a powerful batter who knows how to hit them big. Punjab will need a fit Sam Curran if they are to overcome their weaknesses.
■ Key signings
Sam Curran, Sikandar Raza, Harpreet Bhatia
■ Last year: Sixth
■ Best finish: Runners-up (2014)