The end of the World Cup brings a small void in the life of cricket crazy fans but there is a lot to cheer about as the Pepsi IPL 2015 is just around the corner. Australia proved to the world champions once again as they claimed the title for the fifth time but the action now shifts to T20 cricket in the biggest cricketing extravaganza held annually in India. There have been a lot of changes with regards to personnel due to the auction held earlier in the year. Many new faces will turn for different teams than before so all the teams are in with a good chance at this edition of the Pepsi IPL.
Teams and Player Analysis
The first match will feature last year’s champions, Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians at Kolkata on the 8th of April. Kolkata has relied heavily on the services of Sunil Narine for winning the title on both the occasions but his place is under doubt given that he was banned from bowling during the Champions League last year. His availability is uncertain with the KKR franchise looking at legal options to help the bowler play in the IPL. KKR is also threatening to not play the IPL if things take a turn for the worse. KKR has some good players but their dependency on Narine does not augur well for them and it looks unlikely that he will play in the tournament. Hence, their chances are not too bright in this year’s edition.
Mumbai Indians probably played the best T20 match last year as they picked up a win against Rajasthan Royals and reached the last four against insurmountable odds. But, their campaign did not go further than the eliminator and they could not get to the main draw of the Champions League as well. Last year was the first one that Mumbai played without Sachin Tendulkar, and the effects clearly showed. The inclusion of Michael Hussey did not proved to be a big success and they rued the loss of players like Mitchell Johnson, Maxwell and Dwayne Smith who were released by the team. However, Mumbai Indians have bolstered their team with the inclusion of Parthiv Patel, Aaron Finch in the batting department. Mumbai Indians has always had a problem with good openers and wicket keepers. Both these issues have been addressed for this year and they will hope for a better campaign. Mumbai Indians is definitely one of the favorites and should reach the last four once again. The bowling has also been strengthened with the inclusion of Vinay Kumar.
Chennai Super Kings is one of the toughest teams to beat in the IPL. They are the most consistent sides and have won the IPL twice. Chennai is full of superstars, starting with their charismatic leader, MS Dhoni. He is one of best captains in the modern era and has led the side well reaching the knockouts in every season. They are always the frontrunners for the title and it will be no different this season. They were knocked out by Punjab in the second qualifier in the last year so will be hoping to do better this time around. Chennai bought Michael Hussey who was released by Mumbai Indians after a below par IPL last year. Hussey has been a prolific scorer for Chennai at the top of the order and it will remain to be seen if he gets a chance to play. Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum were outstanding as an opening pair last year. However, Hussey brings in a lot of experience and will also be used as a mentor to the younger players in the squad. The other notable player to be included in the side is Irfan Pathan, one of the premier all-rounders from India. Chennai has Bravo and Jadeja who have played key roles as all rounders , so the same will be expected of Irfan Pathan.
Delhi Daredevils had the worst season last year even though they had big names in their midst. They off loaded almost their entire team and are now back with a new look squad, hoping to do better in this year’s IPL. Coached by Gary Kirsten and newly appointed JP Duminy, Delhi looks a formidable side on paper. Yuvraj Singh was the most sought after player in this year’s IPL after being released by RCB and was eventually picked up by Delhi for a whopping 16 crores. He became the most expensive player once again but a lot will reside on his performance if Delhi wants to make it to the knockouts this year. The wily Zaheer Khan was also bought by the competition after stiff competition from Mumbai Indians, his former side. Both franchises involved in heavy bidding before Zaheer landed in Delhi’s net. The bowling and batting looks strong with players like Angelo Matthews, Imran Tahir, Quinton De Kock and Nathan Coulter-Nile. Delhi will be hoping for more success but it remains to be seen if these bunch of players can deliver as a team.
Like Delhi Daredevils, Sunrisers Hyderabad came in with a lot of funds in the auction after releasing many of their players and picked up some big players. Three English players, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara and the biggest of them all, Kevin Pietersen will not represent Hyderabad in the IPL. Kevin Pietersen was a big name in the auction but his participation is under doubt as he may forego his contract in a bid to revive his international career with England. He has given hints that he may play county cricket to prove his form and be eligible for England selection. However, even without Pietersen, Hyderbad has some exceptional players in their ranks. Trent Boult was a fantastic pick and he has proved his worth in the recently concluded World Cup. He is a top bowler in world cricket today. The duo of Dale Steyn and Trent Boult should cause problems for a lot of the opposing teams. Shikhar Dhawan has been relieved of captaincy duties as David Warner is the new leader of the side.
Punjab emerged as one of the strongest sides of the tournament last year under the guidance of Sanjay Bangar. Punjab was not doing too well but a complete overhaul and some savvy buying in the auction led to a well balanced team that was missing in the last several years. George Bailey has led the side well and Punjab will be one of the toughest teams to beat this year as they have gelled well as a unit. Mitchell Johnson will be the main bowler for the team while Maxwell, Sehwag and Murali Vijay hold the key to their batting. They may not have a lot of big names but they know how to play together as a team. They emerged as an unlikely team to reach the finals last year but they would like to win the cup as they are yet to do so in the seven years of IPL. Punjab is also a favorite in this year of the IPL owing to their huge success in IPL 7.
Rajasthan Royals has always depended on their youngsters to come good and take their team forward. But, they have failed to make any impact after winning the IPL in the first season. Under the mentorship of Rahul Dravid, Rajasthan seemed well on course last year but got knocked out of Mumbai Indians in the very final ball of the league stage. At one stage, Rajasthan looked like comfortably getting into the knockouts but a string of losses pegged them back before the final blow from Mumbai Indians. Rajasthan Royals lack the presence of big players ad it hurts them at important moments. They will have to play very well against some of the bigger teams to have any chance of qualifying to the knockouts this time. They do not look like a champion team as they have the same players from last time and may fail to make the cut once again.
The biggest players in the IPL have often been seen in the RCB squad which is why it is a surprise that the team has ever won the IPL till now. RCB came close when they reached the finals in IPL 2 but lost to Deccan Chargers. They have not looked like winning the trophy ever as they fail to make the knockouts again and again. The odd case of Yuvraj Singh was highlighted during the auction when RCB big huge money for the player but lost to Delhi in the end. The odd thing was RCB big more money than what he was bought for last year. It did not make sense to release a player and bid more money to buy him back. But, RCB still has a good team with players like Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB De Villiers. Mitchell Starc is key bowler but the bowling looks thin otherwise. RCB has always lacked quality bowlers which has been one of the reasons for their ouster in every season. RCB is expected to reach the knockouts in this year and it could be at the expense of one of the bigger teams.
IPL 2015 Predictions
Villiers IPL 7 was a pretty close affair and no one could have guessed at the start of the tournament that Punjab would be taking on Kolkata in the finals. Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Punjab are true favorites at this stage and the onus is on teams like Hyderabad and Delhi to spring a surprise, as they have made sweeping changes to their squads. Chennai Superkings being the most consistent team is a safe bet as they are placed at odds of 4.00 at Bet365 . Mumbai Indians is a strong team even though odds are higher at 7.50 but they are my second favorite team to win the IPL 2015 tournament.