They are the reigning champions and the most successful side in the tournament with four titles. Mumbai Indians will be aiming to become the first side since Chennai Super Kings in 2011 to retain the crown. The Men in Blue, led by “Hitman” Rohit Sharma, undoubtedly have one of the strongest sides in the tournament.
New signings: They made two star signings this season — Chris Lynn and Nathan Coulter-Nile. Though they haven’t been in the thick of things recently, both of them can become match-winners on their day. Coulter-Nile will give Rohit an alternate option in the pace attack that comprises Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult and Mitchell McClenaghan. However, the absence of Lasith Malinga is a major concern for Mumbai.
Strength: The all-rounder trio — Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya — has made MI a pretty balanced side. Pollard’s devastating form in CPL, where he led Trinbago Knight Riders to their fourth title, will be a big boost for Mumbai. Hardik has had his fair share of injury troubles since the conclusion of the World Cup 2019 and he would be keen to get back his old self. The best thing about the franchise is they have kept the core of their team intact. Rohit, Bumrah and Hardik will remain the foundation of their charge along with overseas stars such as Pollard and Quinton de Kock. If Lynn and de Kock get going, MI won’t have to bother about flying starts.
Weakness: The only area of concern for Rohit Sharma can be the spin department. Rahul Chahar is a quality leg-spinner but if he has an off day, Mumbai will have to depend on off-spinner Jayant Yadav and part-time spinner Krunal Pandya who are yet to establish themselves as match-winners.
Key player: Rohit Sharma. The India opener has matured as a captain since he first took over as Mumbai Indians skipper from Ricky Ponting in 2013. He has four IPL titles (2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019) under his belt and though he has played many valuable knocks up the order, it’s his captaincy that has become more crucial for Mumbai. He understands his own game very well and his calmness will play an instrumental role for MI.
Sunrisers have established themselves as one of the most consistent teams in the league since their maiden title triumph in 2016. They reached the play-offs in all three years after that and became runner-up in 2018. The Hyderabad franchise has reinstated David Warner as their captain and replaced Tom Moody with Trevor Bayliss as head coach. Bayliss won the title in 2012 and 2014 with KKR.
New signings: They didn’t go for big names this time except Aussie all-rounder Mitchell Marsh. Instead they have bought a host of young talents such as India under-19 captain Priyam Garg, batsmen Virat Singh and B Sandeep, West Indies spinner Fabian Allen, and all-rounders Sanjay Yadav and Abdul Samad. Priyam has already proved his potential and might find a place in the squad to boost the middle order. Marsh can be a perfect replacement for Shakib Al Hasan, who was released by the franchise.
Strength: Their biggest strength is the opening pair — Warner and Jonny Bairstow. Together they amassed 1,137 runs last season, with four century partnerships and two 50-plus stands. Sunrisers also have a strong middle order comprising Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey and Mitchell Marsh. However, skipper Warner might have to choose between Bairstow and Williamson if he wants to take advantage of the all-round ability of Marsh. The franchise also has great variety in the bowling department led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. They have quality Indian seamers in Sandeep Sharma, Basil Thampi and Khaleel Ahmed besides a reliable spin attack with Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Shahbaz Nadeem in the squad.
Weakness: Losing nerve in crunch ties is something Sunrisers have to overcome. In the last three years, they lost twice in the Eliminator and once in the final. Inconsistency of their pacers is also an area of concern. Sandeep Sharma and Khaleel Ahmed often proved expensive last year.
Key player: David Warner. Warner is undoubtedly one of the most explosive batsmen in the shorter format of the game. On his day, Warner can destroy any bowling attack. He is the go-to man for Sunrisers. He has hit over 500 runs in each season he’s played since his IPL debut in 2015 and he’s the only player in IPL to have won the Orange Cap thrice.
MS Dhoni File picture
Chennai Super Kings
Super Kings have already suffered a few setbacks after landing in Dubai. But with ‘Thala’ Dhoni at the helm, they will always remain a serious contender for the title. They are the most consistent performers in the history of IPL. The franchise has claimed three titles and made eight appearances in the finals with a 100 per cent qualification record to the play-offs. They are the only side to have successfully defended a title.
New signings: CSK picked up Josh Hazlewood, Sam Curran and Piyush Chawla in the last auction to bring more balance in the squad. Hazlewood can form a lethal pace attack with Lungi Ngidi, Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur, while the all-round ability of Curran and Chawla can come handy for Chennai.
Strength: The biggest strength of the Chennai side is their ability to bounce back and win games from almost impossible situations. Dhoni has always relied on his veteran players and it has paid him rich dividends. The 2018 edition, when CSK returned to the IPL after a two-year ban, showed how experience matters in winning big matches. Mahi’s boys might feel at home in the UAE as the pitches in the Arab country can turn out to be slow just like the one they have at Chepauk. They have a strong spin department that boasts of Imran Tahir, Ravindra Jadeja and Mitchell Santner. The addition of Piyush Chawla will only add variety to their attack. However, they will surely miss Harbhajan Singh, who has ruled himself out of the tournament.
Weakness: Batting might be a point of worry for MSD as his batsmen were less consistent than usual last season. Most of CSK’s batting mainstays are past their prime and haven’t been in good form recently. The franchise got the biggest jolt when Suresh Raina opted out of the tournament. The Men in Yellow would like to see the power and flair of Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis again for a steady start to the innings. A lot will also depend on how the out-of-form Ambati Rayudu and Kedar Jadhav fare this time.
Key player: M.S. Dhoni. All eyes will be on ‘Captain Cool’ as always. He has not played any competitive cricket since India’s semi-final exit against New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup. Of late, a lot of questions were raised regarding his batting and he would surely love to answer all those with his bat as he did time and again. The fact that he has retired from international cricket might help him play freely and bring back the “greatest finisher of all time”.
Kolkata Knight Riders
The Knights have always been one of the biggest entertainers at the IPL. On one hand they scripted many dramatic wins, while on the other hand they failed terribly on occasions when it mattered the most. Consistency always appears to be a problem for them. They won the title twice but it has been six years since their last triumph in 2014. The job will be more difficult this time as they won’t get to hear the ‘KKR… KKR…’ roar and Korbo, lorbo, jeetbo re chants from a packed Eden Gardens in home matches. Can they match the feat of their Caribbean counterparts, Trinbago Knight Riders, who clinched the CPL last Thursday? Fingers crossed!
New signings: Knight Riders made the best use of last year’s auction to bolster their squad. They picked up Pat Cummins for a record Rs 15.5 crore that made him the most expensive overseas buy in IPL history. They also roped in England’s World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan and in-form youngster Tom Banton. Banton can provide a good start to KKR’s innings, which was an area of concern last season because of Chris Lynn’s poor form.
Strength: The Shah Rukh Khan co-owned franchise probably has the best ensemble of overseas players. They have two brilliant all-rounders in Andre Russell and Sunil Narine, two explosive batsmen in Morgan and Banton and two fearsome pacers in Pat Cummins and Lockie Ferguson. There will be a healthy competition among them for the four slots in the first XI. Besides the overseas stars, the Calcutta franchise has some exciting young talents such as Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Prasidh Krishna, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi. Except Nagarkoti, all of them were impressive in the last IPL. Gill has the potential to become the middle-order mainstay, while Krishna can take more responsibility with the new ball this season. Now all that skipper Dinesh Karthik and new coach Brendon McCullum have to do is find the best combination for the team.
Weakness: Too much dependence on Russell and Narine and the lack of experienced India players have been plaguing KKR for long. Narine has suffered an injury during CPL recently and it might trouble the Knights. Middle order remains a concern as Morgan might not always find a place in the XI if Banton opens the innings. Kuldeep Yadav also has to get back his form if Knights want to take advantage of the slow pitches in the UAE.
Key player: Andre Russell. When Russell fires, KKR wins — this almost became an adage last season. The fact that the Caribbean star got the Most Valuable Player award even when the Knights failed to make it to the play-offs says it all. Knights would love to see the Jamaican all-rounder start from where he left last season. His whirlwind knocks and crucial breakthroughs with medium pace bowling are key to KKR’s success.
KL Rahul File picture
Kings XI Punjab
Some of the best T20 players have played for the Kings, but they are yet to lift the title. They finished as runner-up to KKR in 2014 and since then, they haven’t even reached the play-offs. Last year they ended up at the sixth position despite starting off the campaign well. The Punjab franchise would look to turn the tide this time with new captain K.L. Rahul and new coach Anil Kumble. They have also appointed Jonty Rhodes as fielding coach and Wasim Jaffer as batting coach.
New signings: Kings have done a great job in the auction as they roped in limited-overs specialists Glenn Maxwell, Chris Jordan and James Neesham. They also picked up in-form fast bowler Sheldon Cottrell and a few exciting young talents such as Ishan Porel and Ravi Bishnoi.
Strength: They have a strong top order and a balanced middle order in the batting line-up. The opening combination of KL Rahul and Chris Gayle was a big hit last season. If Gayle struggles, they have rising star Mayank Agarwal as another good option for the opening slot. Nicholas Pooran, Maxwell, Neesham, Sarfaraz Khan, Karun Nair, Mandeep Singh and Deepak Hooda — they have plenty of choices for the middle order too. Big hitters such as Maxwell and Neesham can play the role of finishers perfectly. In the bowling department, Kings now have some quality options in terms of pace attack as they have Cottrell and Jordan to partner with Mohammed Shami.
Weakness: Since they have released Ravichandran Ashwin, the lack of experienced spinners might worry the Kings. Mujeeb Ur Rahman has to lead the spin attack now with young talents Ravi Bishnoi, K. Gowtham, and J. Suchith for company. None of them have proven themselves as match-winners yet. Death bowling is another area that has been troubling KXIP for a long time. Though they have Jordan this time, but there is no other death-over specialist in the side. Mohammed Shami was not much successful in the death overs last season.
Key player: KL Rahul. Rahul is in the form of his life. The opening batsman was the top scorer for the franchise in the last two seasons. He scored 593 runs in 2019 and 659 in 2018, averaging over 50 in both editions. He has the ability to play full 20 overs and finish the match. He would keep finding the gaps and hitting the boundaries as long as he stays in the middle.
However, this time he has an added responsibility of leading the side. It can just bring out the best in him.
They are the perennial underachievers, reaching the play-offs only four times in 12 seasons and never making it to the finals. However, thanks to a bunch of talented youngsters such as skipper Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant, Delhi Capitals revived themselves last season and were considered a dark horse. But Chennai Super Kings halted their dream run in the play-off. The franchise would like to continue their impressive show this time too.
New signings: They have made some smart buys in the last auction. They picked up in-form all-rounder Marcus Stoinis, explosive batsman Shimron Hetmyer, wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey and experienced India players Ravichandran Ashwin and Ajinkya Rahane. Their strategy was to make a nice blend of young and experienced players because relying only on youngsters cost them dearly against Super Kings in the play-offs last year.
Strength: The Capitals’ strength is their batting. Senior India campaigner Shikhar Dhawan and young turk Prithvi Shaw can make a formidable opening combination. They have a steady middle order comprising Iyer, Pant, Hetmyer and Rahane. Stoinis will give depth to their batting order and make the side pretty balanced. Their spin department also has veterans such as Ashwin and Amit Mishra, who can take advantage of the slow pitches in the UAE.
Weakness: The only point of concern for the Capitals is the lack of in-form India pacers to assist speedster Kagiso Rabada. Ishant Sharma is injury-prone and Mohit Sharma is past his prime. If Rabada has an off day, their bowling might look vulnerable.
Key player: Marcus Stoinis. Stoinis will be the man to watch out for in this IPL. The Aussie all-rounder has been impressive in the recent series against England. He also had a fantastic season in Big Bash League early this year. Stoinis amassed 705 runs in 17 matches for Melbourne Stars in the BBL, at an average of 54.23 and a strike rate of 136.62 with one century and six half-centuries, the most by any batsman in a BBL season. If he continues his form, Delhi Capitals can be a team to beat.
Virat Kohli Sourced by the Telegraph
Royal Challengers Bangalore
They always boast of one of the strongest squads in the league but could never live up to the expectation of their passionate fans. The Bangalore franchise has two of the greatest white-ball batsmen in skipper Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers alongside a host of extraordinary talents, but they are yet to claim their first title. They have, in fact, made it to the play-offs only five times in 12 seasons. The last three seasons have been miserable for them to say the least.
New signings: RCB’s bowling department, especially the pacers, put up a pathetic performance last season. So the franchise left no stone unturned to boost up the seam attack during the last auction. They signed Dale Steyn, Chris Morris and Isuru Udana to put an end to the bowling woes. RCB also roped in Aaron Finch who can give them a solid start to the innings.
Strength: RCB will surely be a threat with the presence of Kohli, Finch and de Villiers in their batting line-up. All of them can singlehandedly take the team to victory. South African all-rounder Morris might be the X factor for them this season. He can play the role of a strike bowler and a death-over specialist. He can also bat responsibly in middle order. In-form Moeen Ali will only add to their strength. The spin department comprising Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar and Pawan Negi can work wonders on the slow pitches in the UAE.
Weakness: Sudden batting collapse and inconsistent bowling performance have been the major drawbacks for Bangalore. They need to find reliable finishers and strike bowlers. It’s not possible for Kohli or AB to win all the matches for them.
Key player: Virat Kohli. As always, RCB will rely heavily on their skipper. Despite achieving so many feats in international cricket, Kohli hasn’t yet tasted much success both as a batsman and a captain in the IPL. The India skipper has struggled with bat of late and his biggest challenge now is to get back his form. Kohli has to lead his team from the front if he wants to lay hands on the trophy that has been eluding him for the last 12 years.
The Royals, led by legendary Shane Warne, were the first champions of the IPL in 2008. But since then they qualified for the play-offs just thrice in nine editions they played. Last year they had a forgettable campaign as they finished seventh. They made a lot of changes to the side during the auction in December, hoping to see a turnaround.
New signings: They added as many as 11 players in the auction last year. They picked up England pacer Tom Curran, South African limited overs specialist David Miller and bought back Jaydev Unadkat and Oshane Thomas to strengthen their pace attack that also features Andrew Tye and Jofra Archer. They made a smart move by taking former Knight Robin Uthappa and India’s under-19 star Yashasvi Jaiswal.
Strength: The Royals have a strong batting line-up with some big match-winners in skipper Steve Smith, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler. However, the uncertainty over Stokes’ participation in IPL remains a point of bother for the franchise. Though Smith is now not at his best in limited-overs cricket, he can hit a match-winning knock any day. Moreover, his leadership skills would surely be a big boost for the Royals. Buttler can open the innings with Uthappa or Sanju Samson. Smith might bat at number 3, which seems to be his preferred position. Teen talent Yashasvi might get a place in the XI. David Miller will also provide a depth in the batting order. However, it will be tough to fit him in the playing XI.
Weakness: The bowling department doesn’t seem to have enough firepower despite having a decent pace attack with the likes of Archer, Tye and Unadkat. The lack of quality spinners might haunt them on the slow tracks in the UAE. They have to rely mainly on Shreyas Gopal in the spin department. The main problem for Rajasthan Royals is they have too many overseas stars and very few experienced India players. Thus finding the right combination might be a difficult task for them.
Key player: Jos Buttler. Buttler has been in fine form for England in the Australia series and he has to take the responsibility of laying the foundation of a big total for the Royals. He can give the side a flying start with his ability to find the gap and hit any good length ball to the fence. He is undoubtedly one of the best openers in limited-overs cricket at present.