With three weeks to go for the landmark 10th edition of the world’s Premier T20 cricket league to begin, it’s time to look at what’s on offer for us this year. And by that, I don’t mean the noise – but the nitty-gritties and technicalities behind the noise. The teams. The players. The probabilities. In the recently-concluded auction, the eight teams picked up 66 players for INR 91 crore.
We begin with two traditional rivals – the closest to an India-Pakistan rivalry within franchise cricket. Two-time champions Mumbai Indians, and perpetual bottom-spooners and zero-time finalists, Delhi Daredevils. While it may look lopsided, it’s often Mumbai that starts an edition trying to find its feet, with Delhi zooming out of the doors until it reverses towards the end.
Captain: Rohit Sharma
Coach: Mahela Jayawardene + every other Indian legend
They’ve won the title twice – as well as the (defunct) Champions League, which makes them the most successful current team, now that the Chennai Super Kings are disbanded. After finishing fifth last year, they will be hurting, and aching to start strong for a change – especially after their new set of purchases.
Players bought: Mitchell Johnson, Karn Sharma, K. Gowtham, Saurabh Tiwary, Asela Gunaratne, Nicholas Pooran
MI didn’t go all out with their spending this year, losing their bids of Ben Stokes and Trent Boult. They instead bolstered their squad, for a change, according to the resources they needed. No brain-fade choices.
Most expensive buy: Karn Sharma (INR 3 crore)
X-factor: Nicholas Pooran (backup opener)
Bench strength: Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan, Lendl Simmons
By including “ex T20 stars” like Karn and Saurabh Tiwary (who became a household name with MI with Ambati Rayadu, until RCB bought him a couple of years ago), MI have decided to go with scrappy team loyalty. Johnson will serve more as a bowling mentor, as well as a strike bowler to join the ‘retired’ Lasith Malinga – both ageing forces, whose form will dictate much of MI’s season. They will stick with their core of last year’s team – with the two Pandya brothers, Jasprit Bumrah and Rohit leading the charge. Traditionally slow starters, MI always leave themselves too much to make up and become underdogs – like in their miraculous winning run in 2015, where they won nine out of their last 10 league stage games to storm through into the knockouts and eventually win it all.
Likely XI: Rohit Sharma, Parthiv Patel, Ambati Rayadu, Jos Buttler, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Harbhajan Singh/Karn Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell Johnson/McClenaghan, Lasith Malinga
Prediction: Top 4
Captain: Zaheer Khan (often, non-playing)
Coach: Paddy Upton
The Daredevils finished sixth last season – thanks to their wunderkind Shreyas Iyer’s sputtering form and an overall lack of leadership by JP Duminy, until Zaheer Khan took over. They have never reached a final, and finished seventh in 2015, last in 2014, last in 2013, FIRST in 2012 (failed to win a knockout game), last in 2011, fifth in 2010, first in 2009 (failed to win a knockout game), and fourth in 2008. With two firsts and three lasts, they are perhaps the most inconsistent franchise in Indian T20 cricket – a team that forever fails to make use of its resources. With a win rate of just 41 percent (52 out of 125 games), this is no fleeting fading of form anymore. Rahul Dravid as a mentor, though, may have done some work in the off-season on his bunch of Indian youngsters: Karun Nair, Rishabh Pant, Iyer, Jayant Yadav, Sanju Samson as well as the incoming M. Ashwin (released by Pune). We see the formula of Rajasthan Royals shining bright in this young team.
This time, though, they seem to have become the “all-round” team – with their preference for overseas all-rounders marking out a strategy that helps them replace their South Africans in early May (international duty) without a hitch.
Players bought: Angelo Mathews, Kagiso Rabada, Corey Anderson, Pat Cummins, Murugan Ashwin, Navdeep Saini, Aditya Tare, Ankit Bawne, Shashank Singh
Most expensive: Kagiso Rabada (INR 5 crore)
X-factor: Rishabh Pant
Bench strength: Pat Cummins, Corey Anderson, Carlos Brathwaite, Zaheer Khan
Likely XI: Shreyas Iyer, Quinton de Kock, Sanju Samson/Aditya Tare, Karun Nair, Rishabh Pant, JP Duminy, Chris Morris/Corey Anderson/Brathwaite, M Ashwin/Jayant Yadav, Kagiso Rabada, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami
Prediction: Top 4