Just like cherry blossom in Japan every spring, the Indian Premier League is eagerly awaited by many. With players participating from all over the world, global fan following and cricket at its beast mode, the anticipation could be no less. The IPL kicks off in just under a month's time on 5th April at Hyderabad with last year's finalists, that is, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore, taking on each other. The eight-team tournament which will last for over a month and a half will have the same format as of 2016th edition. The top two teams, after the 56-game long league stage, will lock horns in the first qualifier where the winner will qualify for the finals. The teams placed at 3rd and 4th spot will play an eliminator and the winner of the eliminator will play the second qualifier against the losing team of the first qualifier. The winner will play against the already qualified side in the title clash. All the teams did their best to bolster their squad in the recently concluded auction. Let's see how the teams stack up on paper going into the tenth edition of Indian Premier League.
Led by swashbuckling Aussie opener, David Warner, this IPL team created history in the last edition by winning the prized title. They were termed as the underdogs in the beginning, but were continuously punching above their weight throughout the tournament.
Much of their success was brought about by superb performance of their bowling which is more or less the same this year. With Bhuvneshwar, Nehra and Mustafizur as the core of their bowling, they've added young Rashid Khan and Chris Jordan to bolster their lineup.
As far as their batting is concerned, it looks more solid than the last time with the addition of Yuvraj Singh in the middle order. Mohammad Nabi's and Rashid Khan's recent performance against Ireland would certainly have impressed the management.
With players like Warner, Yuvraj, Nabi, and Nehra, this team clearly has got the right mix of youth and experience. Given the team on paper, especially their bowling lineup, it won't be surprising if they end up winning the title once again.
Players to watch out for: David Warner, Mohammad Nabi, Yuvraj Singh, Mustafizur Rahman.
Outright Win Odds: 6.50 @ Bet365
RCB has always been one of the strongest teams on paper. Boasting of a batting lineup which will be envied by almost all the teams in T20 arena, the team is yet to win the title despite coming close on numerous occasions.
Led by aggressive Indian skipper Virat Kohli, the team consists of T20 stalwarts like Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Shane Watson, KL Rahul and Kedar Jadhav. They've added Tymal Mills to cover for Mitchell Starc's absence. Mills will be well supported by Yuzuvendra Chahal, Sreenath Arvind, Pawan Negi and Aniket Chaudhary. Their bowling certainly appears to be a weak link, but this is the way RCB has always been and they've been reasonably successfull till now. Virat Kohli is in form of his life and if RCB goes the distance, he could end up with topping not only his team, but the IPL scoring charts as well.
Players to watch out for: Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Shane Watson
Outright Win Odds: 4.50 @ Bet365
The core of KKR has been stable from past many editions and they've refused to make any changes to it yet again. Gautam Gambhir will once again lead the side consisting of Yusuf Pathan, Manish Pandey, Sunil Narine and Shakib al Hasan. This team does not contain any of the famous big hitters, but they have a very strong local pool of talent.
Suryakumar Yadav, Robin Uthappa and Piyush Chawla have won them many games and their performance will be crucial once again. Andre Russell, who won them many games single-handedly in the last edition of the competition, will not be available and his absence is certainly going to hurt them. Chris Lynn was the leading run-scorer in this year's Big Bash League and can be a game-changer for KKR. In IPL, he's known for his fielding more than his batting and he'd like to change this perception and let his bat do more of the talking.
All in all, KKR have a strong lineup with its core almost the same as before can really cause some damage if their local talent is able to fire up all cylinders.
Players to watch out for: Yusuf Pathan, Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Narine
Outright Win Odds: 8.50 @ Bet365
Similar to Sunrisers' composition, Mumbai Indians too is a side which is extremely strong in the bowling department. They've roped in Mitchell Johnson, who bowled with pace and bounce in BBL, to strengthen their bowling. Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah and Harbhajan Singh are the other big names present in the bowling department. Kieron Pollard gained some form in the back-end of the Pakistan Super League and his batting can be crucial when the required run rate is soaring. Jos Buttler, Rohit Sharma and Parthiv Patel form the batting back-bone for the side. Mumbai Indians bat deep with Mitchell Johnson, who packs a punch with the bat as well, expected to come at nine.
Historically, Mumbai Indians have been slow starters, but they'd like to change it by winning the first few games. It's not going to be easy with fierce competition all around, but they surely have the team for it.
Players to watch out for: Mitchell Johnson, Jos Buttler, Rohit Sharma
Outright Win Odds: 6.00 @ Bet365
Daredevils followed a unique policy of horses-for-courses in the last edition which paid them off pretty well and we might see a similar thing happening again. Whenever Zaheer Khan was fit, his leadership was instrumental, but more often than not he was found in the dug-out.
Their weak middle-order played a part in lots of wins converted to losses last year and it continues to stay that way. They have almost the same batting lineup with players grown mature and perhaps in better form than last year. Quniton de Kock has been scoring tons for South Africa and Nair's confidence will be high as well. Iyer too has done well in the domestic season for Mumbai. They've roped in Kagiso Rabada to bolster their bowling which already consists of Mohammad Shami, Amit Mishra and Jayant Yadav.
Daredevils is a team of youngsters and with Rahul Dravid and Paddy Upton as mentor and coach respectively, they can surprise everyone.
Players to watch out for: Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Karun Nair
Outright Win Odds: 7.00 @ Bet365
Kings XI Punjab did brilliantly in 2015, but failed miserably in 2016 despite having almost the same team in both the seasons. The major difference was the performance of Glenn Maxwell and David Miller, who were brilliant in the 2015 edition of IPL. They still have the same team with the onus of captaincy now on Glenn Maxwell.
They got Eoin Morgan, Darren Sammy and Martin Guptill in the auction and they'd be hoping that it helps their batting. Martin Guptill won't be available for the earlier part of the tournament as he's to undergo hamstring strengthening training. Their bowling department consists of Sandeep Sharma, Mohit Sharma and Axar Patel who could be pretty handful when the conditions are helpful. They've added T Natrajan to the side who was excellent at death-bowling in Tamil Nadu Premier League. The bowling lineup is a little inexperienced, but with Maxwell, Miller and Morgan available with the bat, it might not matter at all.
Players to watch out for: Glenn Maxwell, T Natrajan, David Miller, Eoin Morgan
Outright Win Odds: 11.00 @ Bet365
One of the newest addition to the IPL, RPS did not have a tournament to remember in 2016. They finished at the bottom of the table with none of their stalwarts performing up to their potential.
Despite not playing as a skipper, MS Dhoni continues to be the iconic and one of the most important player for the side. They purchased Ben Stokes for a whopping 14.5 crore INR along with Dan Christian and Lokie Ferguson to bolster their all-rounder department. Mitchell Marsh is set to miss IPL owing to shoulder injury and his absence should not hurt RPS much considering their shopping in the auction. Ajinkya Rahane, Faf du Plessis and skipper Steven Smith form the top four with MSD to follow to finish things off. Zampa, Ashwin and Bhatia could be extremely useful on Indian tracks and will have a vital role to play.
RPS would love to bounce back after a dismal last year's show and they certainly have the team which can turn things around.
Players to watch out for: MS Dhoni, Steven Smith, Faf du Plessis
Outright Win Odds: 6.50 @ Bet365
As evident from the auctions, the Lions were one of the most settled units before going into it. Only one of their purchases is likely to walk-in to the playing eleven, that is, Jason Roy. They, however, bolstered their bench strength by getting some of the good Indian talent into the team. They have one of the most devastating opening pair in Brendon McCullum and Jason Roy. With Raina, Karthick and Bravo to follow, they have players who can keep the run-rate up right from the word go. Ravindra Jadeja and James Faulkner add balance to the side with their all around skills. Dhaval Kulkarni was decent with the new ball in the previous year and his team would be hoping for similar returns from him. Gujarat Lions topped the league stage last year with almost the same team and they can a force to reckon with once again.
Players to watch out for: Brendon McCullum, Jason Roy, Suresh Raina
Outright Win Odds: 7.00 @ Bet365
Indian Premier League is a carnival of T20 Cricket with eight teams tussling it out to win the trophy. Teams went into the auctions with their own strategy and everyone appeared happy with their teams.
All the teams look good on paper with RCB, GL and KXIP being batting heavy sides and SRH and MI boasting of a strong bowling attack. KKR and DD have kept the things balanced. Sunrisers Hyderabad are a strong unit which has bolstered its batting lineup. Gujarat Lions were brilliant in the last year, but fumbled in the playoffs. Anything can happen in Cricket and more so in T20s.
Royal Challengers Bangalore, despite being a little light on bowling front, is a unit which appears to be most settled and strongest of all. Going by the recent form of the players, the team on paper and balance of the squads, Royal Challengers Bangalore is our choice as Outright Winner of Indian Premier League 2017.