With the World T20 done and dusted, the summer has only come alive for yet another lustrous and vibrant cricket event, the Indian Premier League (IPL). Scheduled to kick off on April 9, IPL will be a perfect set up to keep cricket up and running on the Indian soil.
With the squads reshuffled after the bans on the two-time champion, Chennai Super Kings, and the winner of the inaugural IPL season, Rajasthan Royals, all the major players of the two teams are spread out. Hence, this year’s IPL carries an element of unpredictability and surprise. Two new teams, Rising Pune Supergiants, and Gujrat Lions have replaced the banned franchises.
Testimony to how unrelenting IPL 9 is going to be is that, in this WT20, we witnessed cameos and blasts emanating from the bats of the world’s most destructive batsmen. Consequently, the batting department turned out to be the utmost reason behind most victories.
Carlos Brathwaite’s sublime four ball-four sixes in the last over of the final innings of the last match of WT20 summed up how easy batting can come by if one is willing to take calculated risks.
However, IPL is different in the sense that the patriotism element is dried up among players. Self-pride and individual glory are two major aspects that make the IPL highly competitive.
Similar to last season, the IPL 2016 will feature eight teams in a double round robin contest. Each club will play two matches against every other franchise, and the points table will decide which club goes through to the playoffs.
The two teams with the highest points on the table will play the first qualifying playoff, the winner of which will directly qualify for the final. The loser of the match will play against the winner of the eliminator played between third and fourth ranked teams. The team that wins here will meet the other finalist for the ultimate showdown in Mumbai.
Parallel to the WT20 final, the IPL final will be played at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. Mumbai is a paradise for batsmen, at least from what we have witnessed in WT20. Runs and only more runs have leaked at Mumbai from both ends in all the games. Be it the devastating West Indian chase in the final or the English thrashing of the Proteas in the quest for a 230 score, it all occurred in Mumbai.
On the contrary, Nagpur features spinning tracks. An Indian team with supposedly the best spin-handling batsmen crumbled at a mere score of 79 against the Kiwis. South Africa could not go past 122 against a weak West Indian bowling attack at Nagpur Stadium.
Indian tracks render fast bowling almost ineffective. The pace of Muhammad Aamir and Dale Steyn did not offer much on most tracks. Some of the pitches render fast bowling insignificant after only a couple of overs.
Nonetheless, the spinners and medium-pace bowlers are still in the game. Six spinners and four medium-pacers occupy the top ten wicket-taker charts in WT20, the top five being only spinners.
Besides, Eden Garden pitch in Kolkata offers considerable support to fast bowlers. Other venues including Dehli, Dharamsala, and Mohali embody relatively evenly-matched wickets, providing balanced support in both departments.
Let’s take a look at the weaknesses and strengths for each squad selected for the World T20
CAPTAIN: Zaheer Khan
COACH: Paddy Upton
Despite topping the table twice, Delhi Daredevils has never found a way to put their hands on the trophy. Their consistency is admirable but the Daredevils will have to break the shackles that hinder them from winning the tournament.
This year, unlike before, the Devils do not have the luxury of a full-blown batting lot. Apart from some domestic players, English wicketkeeper Sam Billings and the Proteas opener Quinton de Cock are the only two specialist batsmen at disposal who are supported by the WT20 West Indian hero, Carlos Brathwaite.
Leg-breaker Amit Mishra and the most expensive local boy, Pawan Negi, will provide assistance in the spin department. Negi, in particular, has a massive chance to prove his worth, neutralize all his critics, and justify the money spent on him. Other than that, JP Duminy will be a regular starter as an all rounder while the ever-effective, Muhammad Shami, who missed the World T20 because of an injury, will provide fast bowling support.
SAFEST BET: De Cock managed to score 153 runs in four innings with a 50 and an average of 38 in the World T20. Undoubtedly, placing money on de Cock will not go in vain.
BETTING ODDS: Delhi Daredevils to win, 12.00 @ Bet now at Bet365
CAPTAIN: David Miller
COACH: Sanjay Bangar
Kings’ approach during the auction was crystal clear; Buy specialists. With the acquisition of hard hitters like David Miller, Glenn Maxwell, and Shaun Marsh, the intent is to build an attacking squad and play aggressive cricket. Punjab has been that kind of a team for a while now. The supporting cast consists of Murli Vijay and the classy Farhan Behardien, both of whom can stay at the crease and supply a constant stream of runs.
The bowling department adheres to a similar intent, with Mohit Sharma, the speedster Mitchell Johnson, and pacy Kyle Abbott in the roster. Abbott, in particular, is the in-form bowler, with seven wickets in three WT20 games.
Only time will tell if an offensive strategy would work on Indian pitches, but, certainly, the Kings’ have mustered up a very hostile and competitive squad.
SAFEST BET: David Miller may not have performed well in the WT20, but his average of 42 runs-an-innings is still alive. Expect some power hitting and wondrous sixes from the South African.
BETTING ODDS: Kings XI Punjab to win, 11.00 @ Bet now at Bet365
CAPTAIN: Gautam Gambhir
COACH: Trevor Bayliss
Kolkata looks like a well-structured team regarding quality. Apparently, the club has experience, guile, talent and youthfulness in the squad. Brad Hogg’s presence in the squad will provide the much-valued advice while Gautam Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan will bring the much needed experience.
With Andre Russell, who hit five sixes and nine wickets in WT20, and the Bengali Tiger, Shakib ul Hassan, on the roster, the Knight Riders have enough firepower to go far and beyond in this tournament. In the bowling category, Riders are equipped with Colin Munro, Morne Morkel and the magician, Sunil Narine.
SAFEST BET: Amassing ten wickets, five sixes, and a fifty, Shakib ul Hassan is one of the most demanding and consistent players Bangladesh has ever produced and putting money on such a star-player could never disappoint anyone.
BETTING ODDS: Kolkata Knight Riders to win, 8.00 @ Bet now at Bet365
CAPTAIN: Rohit Sharma
COACH: Ricky Ponting
One of the most balanced teams with intense squad depth, Mumbai Indians has every card on the table to be considered as favorites. Jos Butler, the backbone of English team, and Lasith Malinga, the most lethal T20 pacer, form the basis of Mumbai franchise.
Coupled with the class of Rohit Sharma and Corey Anderson, Paired with the experience of Tim Southee, and laced with the exuberance of Lendl Simmons and Kieron Pollard, Mumbai Indians have made it vivid that they are aiming for the big trophy.
Nathu Singh and Jasprit Bumrah will have a go at this big platform of IPL and will be looking to showcase their crafts to grab a permanent spot. However, it will be a huge challenge since the squad is already star-studded and supersaturated with international players.
SAFEST BET: Averaging almost 48 with 12 sixes in the bag, Jos Butler played a vital role in carving England’s WT20 journey to the final.
BETTING ODDS: Mumbai Indians to win, 5.50 @ Bet now at Bet365
CAPTAIN: Virat Kohli
COACH: Daniel Vettori
Is there news more heartwarming than the brick wall AB de Villiers, the mighty Chris Gayle, and sublime Virat Kohli playing alongside? Well, we are in for some treat. The Royals, unlike the previous season, have finally adapted a strategy of acquiring the best talents which is obvious from this year’s auction. Such firepower in the squad which is full of match winners is going to hurt every opposition.
On the other hand, the leggy, Samuel Badree has mesmerized with his performances in the Worl T20 and seems ready to play a decent hand in IPL. The most expensive player in the IPL this year, Shane Watson will face fierce competition in the all-around category while looking for redemption and solace after a somewhat frustrating World T20 campaign.
Adam Milne hits the deck hard and can bowl with a pace of 150+. Milne and his attack partner, the slingy Mitchell Starc, can form an aggressive opening bowling partnership and threaten and outwit any batting side in the world with their aggressiveness.
SAFEST BET: Man of the tournament in WT20, Virat Kohli is a class apart. His consistency and ability to read games are unmatchable. Finishing with three fifties and as the second highest run-getter in the WT20, Kohli is the most consistent player the world has witnessed in recent times.
BETTING ODDS: Royal Challengers Bangalore to win, 4.30 @ Bet now at Dafabet
CAPTAIN: David Warner
COACH: Tom Moody
With VVS Laxman as a mentor and Muttiah Muralitharan as bowling coach, the Sunrisers Hyderabad has something a lot to cheer for before the commencement of the tournament.
Leading the pack, David Warner will be looking forward to adding to his tally after a fantastic previous IPL season. The skipper will be wearing an orange cap, worn in IPL by the top runs getter of the past season.
The opener, Shikhar Dhawan, will once again be partnering up with Warner to form one of the deadliest Down the order, Kane Williamson and English captain, Eoin Morgan, will provide stability in the middle. Yuvraj Singh did not have a much to offer to an already illustrious Indian batting lineup, so we will have to wait to comment anything on Yuvi’s performance.
On the defensive side, the Bengalis wonderkid, Mustafizur Rahman, alongside Trent Boult, Nehra, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will offer variety as the tournament progresses.
SAFEST BET: While playing in only three WT20 matches, Mustafizur Rahman took nine wickets with the best bowling figures of 5/22 in the tournament. With his record-breaking beginning since last year to the consistency he has delineated during the WT20, Rahman, undoubtedly, would be the most consistent player for Sunrisers.
BETTING ODDS: Sunrisers Hyderabad to win, 10.00 @ Bet now at Bet365
CAPTAIN: MS Dhoni
COACH: Stephen Fleming
The supergiants may be a new club but regarding the squad, there is nothing new to make adjustments for. Especially with MS Dhoni as captain and conditions so Indian, the Supergiants is not going to feel too alien in IPL.
Ravi Ashwin has performed time and again for India and previously for CSK. His presence beside MS Dhoni is vital to the success of this new franchise. There is experience in the side with Kevin Pieterson in the squad while enough valor with the presence of Steven Smith and Faf du Plessis. The veterans Irfan Pathan and RP Singh can play a vital role in the team’s success.
Adam Zampa is the surprise element, attracting the attention of IPL owners after a successful first big bash season. His leg break will be very handy in Indian condition. Supplementing the attack, Ishant Sharma may not be as useful, but bouncy tracks in Nagpur and Bengaluru will help his cause.
SAFEST BET: Faf du Plessis, with a couple of good knocks recently, is certainly not hanging back after a disappointing World T20 campaign. Faf’s previous proven record is under no shadows to predict that the Proteas will, once again, bounce back in the IPL to make a name for himself.
BETTING ODDS: Rising Pune Supergiants to win, 5.50 @ Bet now at Bet365
CAPTAIN: Suresh Raina
COACH: Brad Hodge
Suresh Raina has played under Dhoni for a long time in Chennai Super Kings as well as Indian National Team. It will be compelling to see what features of Dhoni’s captaincy reflect in Raina’s leadership. Raina is a stubborn cookie, and once he gets going, nothing is stopping the UP boy who has scored 400+ runs in seven consecutive seasons, a record still unbroken.
The West Indian Dwaynes, Smith and Bravo, add an extra level of competency to the team. With Finch and Faulkner in the squad, and Ravi Jadeja down the order, Gujarat has a very powerful batting lineup and all-around capabilities.
The ever-green Brendon McCullum may have retired from international cricket, but his aggression and lofty sixes are not going anywhere. Not to mention that the world’s best fast bowler, Dale Steyn, is part of this luscious and mouthwatering squad.
SAFEST BET: DJ Bravo, like he says in the song, is a champion player. Bravo topped the charts with 26 wickets in previous IPL season and a WT20 in the bag this year will only boost his confidence to give his fans yet another treat.
BETTING ODDS: Gujarat Lions to win, 8.00 @ Bet now at Bet365
It is too early to predict anything at the moment since all the eight teams have rehauled squads. With such strong teams, unpredictability is written all over this year’s IPL. Nonetheless, with the kind of depth and talent Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) is inundated with, it will be difficult or any other franchise to keep RCB quiet for too long and too often. We think that RCB has a very good chance of taking home this year’s IPL trophy.
Outright Winner: Royal Challengers Bangalore, 4.30 @ Bet now at Dafabet
We also fancy a bet on Kolkata Knight Riders to go to the finals this season. The franchise has made some changes to the coaching staff, but the roster remains stable. Since KKR focuses on up and coming talent, we believe this strategy will prove to be fruitful and will give them a good chance to get to the finals once again.
To Reach the Final: Kolkata Knight Riders, 4.33 @ Bet now at Bet365