IPL 5 - Tournament Preview
It's that time of the year again. When everything else takes the backseat. Yes, it is IPL time again. The 5th
edition of IPL brings 9 teams head to head as they vie for the coveted trophy. The teams have bought in
reinforcements. The all have their strategies in place. But is there any team out there that can stop the
seemingly unstoppable CSK from winning their third straight title? We look at all the teams and see how
Chennai Super Kings are the two times defending champions and without doubt the favourites for this edition too. Hailed by some as the Manchester United of the IPL, the men in yellow are the team to beat yet again. Runners up, semi finalists, champions and champions, if that's not consistency then nothing is. It will take some brilliant performances to keep the trophy away from the hands of Captain Cool, MSD.
CSK is the only team to have par or better win record against all the teams. They have utterly dominated KXIP, KKR and PWI and have par record against DC and MI. CSK will look to maintain their records against all sides just to guarantee themselves a spot in the semis. But will that be good enough for a crowd that's used to watching their side win everything in its path?
MSD leads the batting with his trusted lieutenant Raina. Vijay, Anirudh, Mussey, Bailey and Badri make for solid batting line up and have been consistently pushing CSK towards win for 4 years now. On the bowling front Bollinger, Hilfy, Tyagi, Ashwin, Jadeja, Morkel, Bravo, Randiv, Jakati and Kulasekara have more than enough firepower to snuff out most challenges but the team does miss the guile of Muralitharan.
With the international duties and injuries depleting their squad a bit, CSK will look at its all-rounders to step and cover up for the missing players. Jadeja was the biggest buy of the IPL auctions and there is a lot of pressure on him to justify the money spent on him. Was that the correct decision? Only time will tell. A lot will depend on MSD and his seemingly magical ability to win matches from the toughest situations but it will need not just his captaincy but runs from his willow too. Will CSK win their third trophy? Probably.
Deccan Chargers (DC):
The Deccan Chargers scripted the Cindrella story of IPL when they went from being the bottom team in the first edition of the IPL to being the winners of IPL 2 under the captaincy of Adam Gilchrist who led from the front. In season 3 they looked like sliding down the table again before a 5 match winning streak saw them make it to the playoffs. Next season they put their entire team out on auction and lost Gilly to KXIP. With the stylish Sangakkara at helm great things were expected of DC but their terrible home form saw them finish 7th.
Over all, DC has struggled against the likes of DD, KXIP, KXIP and RR but the team has a better or even
win percentage against teams like CSK, MI, PWI, and RCB. KKR and RR are two that have thoroughly dominated DC with 6 wins each. If Sangakkara can inspire the team to defeat this two, another run to the semis could be on the cards.
DC's biggest problem will be their bowling attack with Steyn alone spearheading the attack in the absence of Ishant who is ruled out due to ankle surgery. Theron, Christian and Gony are competent but will not be able to share Steyn's workload. Mishra, White, and JP will be the tweakers with Ojha transferred out but if you look at that bowling attack, barring Steyn none are going to give nightmares to the other teams.
Sangakkara remains the lynchpin for DC and all their hopes of success will be pinned on him. Dhawan and Parthiv will be instrumental is giving them a rapid start. With KP off to DD, White, Chipli and JP will have to ensure any momentum is carried forward till the 20th over.
Delhi Daredevils (DD):
Delhi Daredevils were the most consistent team of the IPL with 4th, 4th and 5th finish in the first three iterations of IPL before the wheels came off completely last season as they ended the season at the bottom of the table. Yet, despite the setback of last year DD have an even 50% overall win percentage in the IPL. Their first 3 seasons were earmarked by trademark blistering starts thanks to the Indian openers, Viru and Gauti. However the power struggle saw Gauti shipped off to KKR last season and an injury to Viru saw the team tumble down the table.
For a mid table side, DD have a surprisingly good record against RCB and a surprisingly poor record against KXIP. They have a par or better win record against DC and RR while they have struggled against CSK and KKR to some extent. If they can buck the trend against KXIP they might find themselves in the play offs once again.
DD perhaps has the strongest batting line up of all teams. Despite Taylor being ruled out due to injury they still have Viru, Warner, Finch, KP, Jayawardene... the list is endless! Their line up is undeniably the most explosive batting side in this season's IPL. The bowling department isn't that weak either with Morne, Irfan, Umesh and Aaron forming a formidable quartet with the experienced Agarkar around to lend support. However with no known spinner apart from Van der Merwe, it will be up to the youngsters to step up.
The all rounders Irfan and Andre are going to play a major role in DD's campaign with both the ball and the bat while Maxwell will be looking to showcase his potential. It could also be the season where the promising Unmukt Chand will get the opportunity to shine.
Kings XI Punjab (KXIP):
Kings XI Punjab is perhaps the most underachieving team in IPL. Barring a semi final spot in the first edition, the team has struggled to make any impact in the three subsequent editions. Though, after hitting an all time low in 2010 they showed tremendous improvement in 2011, missing out on a semi final spot by mere 2 points.
KXIP doesn't not have as poor a record as it might seem to be. In fact, they have excellent win percentages against DC, DD, and MI. They have a nearly even record against KKR, RR, and RCB. But it is, well of course, the mighty CSK who have truly dominated them like no other with 6 defeats in the 8 matches that they have played. So if KXIP can maintain their record against other teams and pull off even one win against the CSK they could easily make it to the semis.
KXIP's biggest worry must be the form of Marsh over the last few months. With DK traded to MI, Marsh, Valthaty, Dussey, Miller and Gilly are supposed to shoulder the burden of batting, which on paper is better than most teams. Ryan Harris, Praveen Kumar, Chawla, and new acquisitions Powar and Mahmood will look to bolster what is one of the weakest attacks in IPL.
Buying Azhar Mahmood just might turn out to be the most brilliant decision by KXIP as his amazing experience and redoubtable talent makes him a contender to be one of the top performers. Nayar and Harmeet may not seem like shrewd purchases but their IPL experience makes them very useful options to have. All in all KXIP perhaps are even weaker than they were last year but Gilly's inspirational leadership and Azhar Mahmood's uncanny ability to deliver just might see them turn things around this year and deliver bountiful to the KXIP loyalists.
Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR):
Kolkata Knight Riders are probably the team with the most fiercely loyal following. But that did not do anything for them as they came crashing down in IPL 2 to land at the bottom. They recovered sufficiently in IPL 3 to end up at the 6th spot just like they did in IPL 1. At the end of season 3, KKR were the biggest joke in IPL. But the owners stepped in to revamp the entire squad and that clicked as under the leadership of a charged up Gautam Gambhir they defied all odds to end at 4th spot in last IPL.
KKR may have had a mediocre IPL record so far but their record against the teams like DC, KXIP and RR is anything but mediocre. However, just like other teams they falter against CSK and RCB but their record against MI is nothing but sad. They will really need to change the way they perform against these 3 if they want to harbor any hopes of winning the title.
KKR's worry must have been bowling and the way they went after bowlers at the auction it seemed that they wanted all for themselves! Lee needed some solid support and, Kallis apart, Pattinson, Sangwan and de Lange fit the bill perfectly. There is no dearth of spinners with Narine, Shakib, Ladda, Iqqi and Yusuf to share the duties. And batting looks formidable with Gauti, Kallis, Tiwary, Yusuf, RTD and Baz in the lineup.
The biggest news for KKR fans is the return of Baz to the place where he created history. Baz and Shakib
will play crucial roles in any success that KKR will achieve this season. While for Morgan this might be the last chance to finally live up to his promise. But the pick of the season has to be de Lange. Keep an eye out for this exciting young bowler.
Mumbai Indians (MI):
Mumbai Indians, or should we call them Mumbai Internationals, are undoubtedly the strongest side in the IPL. They are the Manchester City of the tournament. After two poor seasons they finally bought enough good players to end the season 3 as the finalists and bought even more players last season to end at 3rd. But the title still eludes MI and despite winning the CLT20, the squad has seen yet more acquisitions. However this season promises to be different with a new man at the helm.
MI is one of the two teams to have a par win record against CSK. They have par or better record against DC, DD, RCB and KKR (whom they have utterly dominated). But it is surprisingly KXIP and RR who have the measure of their side. If they can reverse the results against these two, another final could be on the cards.
The biggest change for MI this season has been the transfer of captaincy from Sachin to Bhajji. Apart from that there seems to be no other concern for MI. Sachin leads the likes of Rohit, Dinesh, Rayudu, Surya, Gibbs, Blizzard, Jacobs and more when it comes to batting while the bowling is spearheaded by the deadly Malinga with support from Johnson, Perera, Mckay, Franklin, Pollard, Munaf, RP, Ojha and of course Bhajji. But what will they do with so many players? They have enough players to field two formidable teams in the IPL.
The biggest challenge for MI will be to keep all the players happy. There are so many quality players and they would all want some piece of the action. Pollard as always will be the driving force but it will be interesting to see how RP Singh deals with being one of the leading wicket takers to just one of the bowling options. Surya Kumar's exploits could be a talking point of this season.
Pune Warriors India (PWI):
Now in their sophomore year, PWI were the whipping boys of the IPL in their debut season as they notched up just 4 wins to end 9th out of 10, just edging out DD. The learning curve has been steep for them and they must hope to show a distinct improvement this time around. It is going to be a tough season with Yuvi's illness but in Dada they have a more than capable leader at helm to guide them away from the bottom.
PWI have a par or better win record against KXIP and DC but have been washed out by all the other teams. PWI need to improve their record dramatically, and that will happen as they play more and more against these sides. This is just their second season. A little faith in themselves, a bit of trust in Dada and a drive to do this for Yuvi should be enough to see them win a lot more this time around.
Indeed any team will miss a player of Yuvi's caliber but PWI have been able to rope in Clarke to soften the blow. An injury to Smith and Mathews is another bitter blow but return of the temperamental Ryder is a boon, at least on paper. Dada will lead the batting charge with Ferguson, Ryder, Samuels, Pandey, and Uthappa lending a hand. Bowling will be spearheaded by the injury prone but experienced Nehra along with Sharma, Dinda, Kamran (of RR fame), Nathan, Karthik, Thomas and Parnell.
The biggest role in PWI's fortunes will be played by its motley crew of all rounder James Hopes, Luke Wright, and Michael Clarke. These utility players have the ability to change the match with the bat or the bowl and all three are capable to winning matches on their own. They have to provide all the entertainment for the spectators for, let's face it, their cheerleaders can't.
Rajasthan Royals (RR):
Rajasthan Royals turned out to be IPL's 'Moneyball' team as the serious underdogs ran away with the inaugural IPL title rather emphatically. A major credit for that must go to Shane Warne who inspired the relative unknown players to outperform some of the top players. The team played as a unit and simply wiped away everyone in its path to the title. However, the second season wasn't that good for RR as the players struggled to perform in South Africa. They missed out on the playoffs by just 1 point. The 3rd season was perhaps their worst as they ended second from the bottom but they bucked the trend in IPL 2011 where Warne revived the team's fortunes with a 6th spot finish before his retirement from IPL.
Despite their relatively lower team strength, albeit on paper, RR has surprisingly got a par or positive winning record against the 9 teams that they have played against including DC, DD, KXIP and MI. However, CSK, KKR and RCB have proven to be their arch nemesis but there is no one team that has outclassed them on regular basis. A similar performance this year with an extra win again any of those three will see them in the semis again.
RR is not the strongest team on paper and the loss of Taylor and Smith is not going to help. And Watson's absence for a major part will be detrimental too. So it will be Dravid, Hodge, Shah and Rahane who will shoulder most of the responsibility for batting. The RR pace twins Trivedi and Singh will have some competition from Tait and Sreesanth but they look very weak when it comes to spin.
Chandimal has the potential to be the buy of the season as he has been in good form and well with Sreensanth you never know which Sreesanth will show up. But it could be Chahar who could emerge as the brilliant bargain. But the biggest challenge will be adapting to life without Warne.
Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB):
Royal Challengers Bangalore, or Chris Gayle Support Cast as they are popularly known as, didn't get off to a good note with a 7th place finish in IPL 1. However with more money to throw around than anything else they set about rebuilding the team and the result is for all to see. Runners up, 3rd and runners up in 3 IPLs in a row now. Yet they haven't gotten the success their owner covets.
As expected RCB have a subpar record against CSK, MI and DC but their record against DD is surprisingly bad. They have dominated PWI, KKR and RR quite impressively though while with KXIP they have been even stevens. A little catching up with DD would see them maintain their impressive run. But can they go on to win the title remains to be seen.
When it comes to batting I have two words for you: Chris Gayle. This man has single handedly dragged this team to the finals last year and continues to be the biggest threat in this game. Throw in Dilshan, AB, Kohli, Pujara, Tiwary and Agarwal and you have perhaps the most destructive batting side in the IPL. Bowling is not weak either as the attack led by Vettori has Aravind, Zak, Langeveldt, Mithun, Murali, Nannes and RVK. Fielding? Dilshan, AB and Kohli are enough to make it seem like 15 fielders on the field. A very strong side that is capable of beating even the international sides.
Of course Chris Gayle is the man we all know RCB will be banking on but for Tiwary this is yet another chance to make it on the big stage and he must grab this one. Appanna is another one to watch out for though with Dan the man in the side his chances will be limited.
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