The extravaganza is all set to take over the TV screen once again, and this time around it would be a litmus test for the corporate jamboree, ‘Indian Premier League’. Into its 5th season, the IPL has seen it all – from being the golden goose to controversies’ favourite, the cash rich T20 league has become cricket’s most anticipated tournament; or has it? Only time will tell.
Indian Premier League is slated for a grand opening with the likes of Katy Perry, Priyanka Chopra and Big B performing on April 3, a day before the tournament. After fresh auctions which took place a couple of months back, the teams have a new and fresh look to them. Let’s take a peek.
Chennai Super Kings
Probably the only team to make its mark as a brand so early, CSK has everything going right for them. The most consistent team in the league, CSK has two IPL titles to boast about. With Dhoni at the helm of affairs, Chennai would look to make it three titles in a row in 2012. After the termination of Kochi Tuskers, Ravindra Jadeja was the hottest properly up for auction and CSK grabbed him for a whopping USD 2 million (Rs 9.71 crore). With the likes of Mike Hussey, Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina and talented George Bailey already in the ranks, addition of Dhoni’s favourite Jadeja among the long list of all-rounders (Albie Morkel, Dwayne Bravo, Scott Styris, Faf du Plessis) will only strengthen the already well balanced CSK squad.
Stars to look out for: Ravindra Jadeja, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina.
Deccan are not the star studded outfit that they where in the first season with the likes of Gilchrist, Symonds, Gibbs, Afridi and Rohit Sharma. From finishing last in 2008 to winning the crown in 2009, Deccan have seen both ends of the spectrum. They have retained Sangakkara as their captain who had been instrumental in the team’s decent showing last season where they finished 6th in the table. The big blow however would be the loss of charismatic Kevin Pietersen to Delhi Daredevils. They won’t be able to get in the services of Darren Bravo also till May. But the inclusion of Daniel Harris and Kenyan Tanmay Mishra will bolster the Deccan batting line-up which features Sanga, Duminy and Shikhar Dhawan. The bowling unit looks settled with Rusty Theron, Amit Mishra leading the charge, but again, Ishant Sharma will be missing the season due to his ankle surgery.
Stars to look out for: Kumar Sangakkara, Amit Mishra, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala
Remember the Daredevils of 2008 – Sehwag, Gambhir, Dhawan, McGrath, Asif and Vettori. This was the most feared outfit then. But they flattered to deceive each season and had a dismal 2011 finishing at the bottom of the table. During the first season they had the coach of MRF Pace Foundation T A Shekhar as a consultant. He then went to Mumbai and changed their fortunes. The man is now back with Delhi and just look at these names – Sehwag, Warner, Pietersen, Jayawardene, Ross Taylor, Morne Morkel, Aaron Finch, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron. Delhi have finally got it right, the perfect T20 squad, but will they be able to deliver? Morkel, Warner and Taylor will only be available after April.
Stars to look out for: Sehwag, Jayawardene, Pietersen
Kings XI Punjab
‘The Paul Valthaty’ show stole the thunder last time around as they finished 5th. Adam Gilchrist will be in charge and this season they have got a big T20 veteran in their squad, the Brit Azhar Mahmood. Along with the explosive Gilchrist, David Hussey and David Miller from South Africa will form the crux of KXIP’s batting line-up with Praveen Kumar leading the bowling attack. The Kings will also depend heavily on their utility players in the form of Abhishek Nayyar, Azhar Mahmood, James Faulkner and Dimitri Mascarenhas. But the key man again might be Paul Valthaty, or will he?
Stars to look out for: Azhar Mahmood, Bhargav Bhatt, David Hussey
Kolkata Knight Riders
A resurgent KKR under the leadership of Gautam Gambhir registered their best result last season with a semi-final spot. This year, the outfit have dug deep into their pockets to keep the momentum going by bringing back former KKR captain Brendon McCullum for USD 900,000. KKR also boasts of one of the best middle order in the IPL with the likes of Jacques Kallis, Eion Morgan, Yusuf Pathan and Manoj Tiwary and the best all-rounders in the world as well -- Jacques Kallis, Ryan ten Doeschate and Shakib Al Hasan. The bowling unit is bolstered with inclusion of James Pattinson and Sunil Narine.
Players to look out for: Yusuf Pathan, Manoj Tiwary, Shakib Al Hasan.
A horrendous debut season saw them finish at the bottom of the table along with Delhi and to make matters worse their star player Yuvraj Singh was diagnosed with cancer effectively ruling him out of IPL 5. Sahara group, owner of the Warriors then went on to break all ties with BCCI over the IPL issue, though it was patched up later. With Yuvi’s absence Sahara have not only lost the face of Pune Warriors but will also miss one of the most charismatic player of the current generation. Sourav Ganguly, who was drafted mid way during the IPL 4 will lead the Warriors as the emotional quotient will be on a all time high for the franchise. They have 11 overseas players in the squad and with the likes of Michael Clarke, Jessie Ryder, Callum Ferguson, newly acquired James Hopes and Angelo Mathews, the team looks well balanced. Even the local talents like Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa have the prowess to own the big stage.
Players to look out for: Clarke, Pandey, Angelo Mathews.
The 2011 Champions League T20 winners, Mumbai Indians have acquired some solid players this year and they sure are strong contenders to lift the trophy this edition. Rugby player turned cricketer Richard Levi would be the one to look out for and inclusion of Dinesh Karthik will relieve the talented Ambati Rayadu off his additional wicket keeping job and would stabilse the Mumbai Indians’ lower middle order. Harbhajan Singh will be looking to make a strong statement. With Malinga leading the bowling charge, addition of all rounder Mitchell Johnson and wily Clint MacKay will only add to Mumbai’s already versatile bowling attack.
Players to look out for: Ricahrd Levi, Harbhajan Singh, Suryakumar Yadav
Rajasthan Royals have been IPL’s perennial underdogs and each season they have performed 100 times better than what had been the expected of them. A certain Shane Warne was behind the implausible success of the outfit, but this time around he is not a part of the team. Rahul Dravid will be in-charge this edition and he has some powerhouse talent at his disposal. Rajasthan have grabbed Brad Hodge and Sreesanth from the disbanded Kochi franchise and with the likes of Johan Botha, Dinesh Chandimal, Owais Shah, Shaun Tait in their ranks, they could very well spring a surprise or two in IPL 5 as well.
Players to look out for: Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Chandimal, Owais Shah
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Chris Gayle has been the driving force for the Bangalore outfit and this season also, the Challengers will rely on the big West Indian to power them throughout the season. Daniel Vettori will be leading the side and with the likes of Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, newly acquired Andrew McDonald, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Muttiah Muralidharan, there is no dearth of talent and experience. They also have the perfect blend of local talents in the form of Sourabh Tiwary, Cheteshwar Pujara, Abhimanyu Mithun and Harshal Patel who was a revelation for Haryana in the recently concluded Ranji Trophy.
Players to look out for: Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, Sourabh Tiwary.