The world’s biggest T20 circus is back again. Five days after the West Indies proved themselves to be the best T20 international team on this planet, they will scatter across India to join their respective franchises. So will the other teams – and just like that, the 9th edition of the Indian T20 league will get underway. This time, however, there will be two new teams in place of two ex-champion teams – which were banned for two seasons last year. Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions will replace Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals.
Here’s a quick look at all the 8 squads, their strengths and weaknesses:
Captain: Zaheer Khan
History: Perpetual wooden spooners, this team has perhaps enjoyed the least success out of all. No titles, no finals.
Strengths: Young Shreyas Iyer is back as a domestic star this time. South Africans JP Duminy, Imran Tahir and Chris Morris will be keen to do well, as will the hard-hitting spinner Pawan Negi. World Cup star Carlos Brathwaite and U-19 star keeper Rishabh Pant are the newcomers. Spinning duo of Amit Mishra and Tahir will be quite a handful on this pitch. Rahul Dravid is a consultant too.
Weaknesses: Sanju Samson hasn’t been in form, both as keeper and batsman. He must not fade away. Zaheer Khan may be too old to lead in every game. Pace attack looks a bit soft with only Nathan Coulter-Nile and Joel Paris hoping to combine with Mohammad Shami. The team hasn’t learned how to win consistently.
Captain: Suresh Raina
Strengths: Dwayne Smith, Raina, Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Bravo arrive from the disbanded CSK squad – all match winners on their day. James Faulkner and Aaron Finch will look to heal World Cup wounds in this new team.
Weaknesses: Ravindra Jadeja didn’t have a great World Cup, while the pace bowling attack is clearly lacking – with Dale Steyn, who isn’t the best in this format. Andrew Tye, Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni and Pradeep Sangwan aren’t intimidating, but they could be smart. Moreover, Raina has been untested as a leader, and he has been in horrid batting form for a year now.
Kings XI Punjab
Captain: David Miller
History: No titles, One Final (2014)
Strengths: The core is the same. Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Marsh, Axar Patel, Sandeep Sharma, Manan Vohra, Rishi Dhawan, Anureet Singh will return to lend a familiar bits-and-pieces look. Wriddhiman Saha is the league’s best keeper.
Weaknesses: Didn’t have a good 2015 season. Murali Vijay has been out of the game for a while, KC Cariappa needs more opportunities as a spinner, and the selection of Farhaan Behardien makes no sense.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Captain: Gautam Gambhir
History: Two-time Champions
Strengths: Its balance and all-round ability – with Andre Russell, Shakib Al Hasan, Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey still going strong. Sunil Narine is the best T20 spinner around. The team knows how to win.
Weaknesses: Light on its top order. Gambhir isn’t always reliable, and the likes of Colin Munro, Uthappa, Suryakumar Yadav and Shakib will have to flex all their muscles in the middle order. Umesh Yadav hasn’t bowled well lately either.
Captain: Rohit Sharma
History: Two-time and defending Champions
Strengths: Support staff (Tendulkar, Ponting, Kumble, Wright, Rhodes, Robin Singh), Lendl Simmons and the new selection of England sensation Jos Buttler – in addition to Rohit, Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Parthiv Patel and of course, Jasprit Bumrah.
Weaknesses: Corey Anderson looked lost in the World Cup, and Tim Southee didn’t play a game. Vinay Kumar leaks runs even though he takes wickets. Harbhajan hasn’t played a match since the last edition.
Rising Pune Supergiants
Captain: MS Dhoni
Strengths: MS Dhoni as almighty leader, reunited with R. Ashwin and Francois du Plessis. Adam Zampa is a good pick. The squad has 3 international captains in Dhoni, du Plessis and Steven Smith. Not to mention the explosive Kevin Pietersen, who wants to capitalize on a terrific Big Bash season. Thisasa Perera in the middle could prove handy.
Weaknesses: The fast bowling likes of RP Singh, Irfan Pathan, Ashok Dinda, Ishwar Pandey and Ishant Sharma could struggle a bit.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Captain: Virat Kohli
History: 1 final
Strengths: An all-star batting lineup, with the addition of newly retired Shane Watson. Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers – and still, they’re yet to win a title. Shocking. Yuzvendra Chahal and Varun Aaron have bowled well over the years, while Adam Milne and Kane Richardson will add pace.
Weaknesses: Mitchell Starc being ruled out of the tournament is a big blow. They were stuttering till he came in and cleaned up last season. They will need Samuel Badree to recover from his injury fast, too. Stuart Binny may look like he adds balance, but he doesn’t. Except on the weighing scales.
Captain: Shikhar Dhawan
History: 1 title as Deccan Chargers
Strengths: The left-armers Trent Boult and Ashish Nehra will be a good foil to the out-of-form Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Barinder Sran is an exciting prospect, as is the arrival of the ice-cold Kane Williamson. He is one of two international captains with Eoin Morgan (who must be hurting) here, and will play under Dhawan. David Warner remains the star pick and only hope. Naman Ojha is a good batting-keeping option. Their best bowling option though will be the Bangladeshi superstar Mustafizur Rahman.
Weaknesses: Yuvraj Singh could finally expose himself for good if he is picked and made to bat too low, while Morgan and Dhawan are in terrible form. Dhawan, in fact, was dropped in India’s semifinal.