It’s that time of the year again! The world’s biggest domestic T20 league is around the corner – or at least, the parade is well underway. 2018 is a busy year for the Indian Test team in overseas conditions, but there’s also the small matter of this cash-rich tournament in the months of April and May. The Player Auction last weekend set the tone.
The eight original franchises have returned – there will be no Rising Pune Supergiant and Gujarat Lions anymore – with squads that have virtually had to be built from scratch.
Here is the lowdown on each of the 8 teams, along with the picks that stood out and rather hasty predictions for an action-packed 2018 season:
Mumbai Indians (3-time Champions)
Rohit Sharma’s team management, the most successful franchise in the tournament’s 10-year history, seemed to have a tense two days as they tried to retain the core of their successful squad. In the end, they might have missed out on a marauding batsman or two – thanks to their faith in Rohit’s advanced status as a hitter in the limited-overs format. But he must also serve as a stable middle-order drafter for them, given that he is the most experienced T20 player in the side. But they will be happy with the new-look bowling attack – one that excludes Lasith Malinga, Harbhajan Singh and Mitchell Johnson.
Best Buy: Pat Cummins (5.4 cr)
Bargain Buy: Evin Lewis (3.8 cr), Mustafizur Rahman (2.2 cr), JP Duminy (1 cr)
Dark Horse: Ben Cutting
Risk Buy: Ishan Kishan (6.2 cr)
Prediction: Group Stages
Kolkata Knight Riders (2-time Champions)
Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla’s team remains the most exciting squad – at least on paper – this year. They had only retained a couple of West Indians (Sunil Narine, Andre Russell), and had done away with their captain, Gautam Gambhir. Yet, they managed to get back Robin Uthappa, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav and the most important and explosive opener of the tournament, Chris Lynn. Robin could well be the captain this year. They have the smallest team (19 players) as compared to an average of 25 for other teams but have gone all-out for the impact players this season. It could be all or nothing.
Best Buy: Mitchell Starc (9.4 cr), Nitish Rana (3.4 cr)
Bargain Buy: Vinay Kumar (1 cr), Mitchell Johnson (2 cr)
Dark Horse: Dinesh Karthik (7.4 cr)
Risk Buy: U-19 star Shubman Gill (1.8 cr)
Kings XI Punjab
The joke was that Preity Zinta pretty much wanted to buy everyone as soon as a new name was called out. Her excitement was contagious, and Coach Virender Sehwag had to restrain it more than once. Yet, one would say they came away with some useful names, given that they were one of the few teams that did away with their entire old squad (except Axar Patel) to build a brand new one. They do need this huge change, given that they are yet to win the title. The potential captain this year: CSK reject, Ravichandran Ashwin. The big news for them is that KL Rahul and Chris Gayle, ex RCB players, will reunite as openers for the team.
Best Buy: Marcus Stoinis, KL Rahul
Bargain Buy: Aaron Finch
Dark Horse: Karun Nair, Yuvraj Singh
Risk Buy: Chris Gayle
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Again, another under-performing team yet to win the coveted title. Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Sarfaraz Khan and Yuzvendra Chahal were retained, while the management went about trying to bolster the all-rounder and bowling attack to give themselves a balance and a better chance. Much of the load falls on the star batsmen, and when they failed last year, RCB were a shadow of the team that once captured imaginations. This time they have no Gayle but have taken a chance with South African keeper Quinton de Kock, who fancies Indian conditions.
Best Buy: Washington Sundar, Chris Woakes
Bargain Buy: Brendon McCullum, Umesh Yadav
Risk Buy: Moeen Ali
Prediction: Group Stages
Sunrisers Hyderabad (2-time Champions)
David Warner’s men have always been contenders every edition because of their strong bowling attack led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar – who has topped the wicket-taking charts for the last two years. But their batting has worn thin in the middle, and they have been more of a clinical side than a bombastic one. Hence, they bought they best all-rounder in the world to plug the gap. One wonders, though, what may happen if Warner isn’t in good touch. His runs have carried them, while Shikhar Dhawan has remained inconsistent at the top. Hence, they bought Manish Pandey, one of the best selections of the auction.
Best Buy: Shakib Al Hasan, Manish Pandey
Bargain Buy: Carlos Brathwaite, Sandeep Sharma
Risk Buy: Chris Jordan
Rajasthan Royals (1-time Champions)
Back to the pavilion! Steve Smith is set to lead a team that has retained a bulk of the Pune side that reached the Final last year. In doing so, again, they are probably one of the youngest and most unpredictable on paper, following in the footsteps of the philosophy that Shane Warne and Rahul Dravid had once made famous. But they did, however, manage to select the MVP in world cricket, just like they once did with Shane Watson. Ben Stokes, the most expensive signing of this year too, is a Royal. And he will be integral to their success, after all the controversies he has gone through. They also bought the most expensive Indian player of the auction – a surprise on many counts. The otherwise-inexperienced bowling will be padded up by these two.
Best Buy: Ben Stokes, Jaydev Unadkat
Bargain Buy: Jos Buttler, Rahul Tripathi
Risk Buy: Sanju Samson
Chennai Super Kings (2-time Champions)
The most popular team is back and have unwittingly become the butt of all jokes at the auction. The “senior citizen” team has gone for old horses and experience, once again placing their fate in the fading and favorite son, MS Dhoni. The team might have the numbers – what with Bravo, Raina, Watson, Harbhajan, and Rayadu in the mix – but do they have the legs in a young format? It will be fun to see the Royals face off with them.
Best Buy: Mitchell Santner, Lungi Ngidi
Bargain Buy: Imran Tahir
Risk Buy: Shane Watson
Prediction: Group Stages
Arguably the worst team in the ten years so far, the Daredevils needed an almighty sweep to start all over again. Yet, one sees some familiar and young names, and one only hopes for a new spirit. India’s future hopefuls – Rishabh Pant, Iyer, Kalra, Shaw – will be desperate to use this as a platform to be seen. And Delhi might just profit from their hunger. Gambhir is back to where he started, and his unorthodox leadership means that this could just be the season they needed. They have always lacked a good captain, and in Gambhir, they now have it. Not to mention some power-packed overseas batsmen on the roster – Roy, Munro, Maxwell, and Morris.
Best Buy: Prithvi Shaw, Jason Roy
Bargain Buy: Colin Munro
Risk Buy: Glenn Maxwell
Watch this space for updates on IPL 2018. Tickets will be available on site.