A New King this IPL?

A new Champion this IPL? The Indian Premier League already has everybody glued to their screens every evening, much to happiness of cricket fans around the world. This cash-rich league, which is a festival in its own way, has been the tournament to watch out for, as the biggest names of the sport have stepped on the field after a hiatus of almost 4 months. This is going to spice up the tournament even more, as the domestic players would look to make amends for the time lost during the pandemic, and perform to appease the selectors for upcoming bilateral tours and the all important T20 World Cup in India. This factor, might just prove to be the most essential one in this shortened league, and who knows, we might end up seeing a new winner on the 10th of November.

Since its inception, the IPL has only seen 5 of the teams lift the coveted trophy, with the rest coming close but not making it past the winning line. Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, who have been the champions 4 and 3 times respectively, enter the tournament every year as the favourites, and their track records prove their brilliance, right when it comes to the business end. Likewise, teams such as Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad also make the cut, owing to their consistent performances in the last 2-3 years. They have cracked the code of making it to the top four consistently. But, apart from these four, none of the teams have quite made the impact they are supposed to. The Royal Challengers Bangalore, easily the most sought after team in terms of brand value and class (all thanks to the dynamic Kohli-ABD duo), are yet to be crowned the champions, even though they have come to the finals thrice, including 2016, which arguably was the season RCB ruled. But, you can never rule them out. Their bowling, which was always a point of concern looks better with a few additions this season. They definitely seem contenders to take the cup home this time.

The Delhi Capitals, which lost its existence after the departure of veterans like Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, seemed to find their way a couple of seasons back, with domestic prospects like Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant adding to their talent and skills. A few necessary yet gutsy revamps (including the name change), along with the tutelage of the legendary Ricky Ponting saw them make the playoffs last year, and the leadership of Iyer was widely appreciated. Quite easily, one can say that their domestic talent is the best among all the teams, and this young blood can nicely gel along with experienced players like Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin and win the cup. Having started off well with two victories in a row, they will want to capitalise on their solid start in the tournament.

Similarly, the Rajasthan Royals, which have been dormant after their inaugural season win, would look to add to that title. Youngsters like Yashaswi Jaiswal and Riyan Parag would love to prove the talent that they have shown glimpses of. This along with the class and experience of Sanju Samson and Robin Uthappa, the match winning abilities of Jos Buttler, Steve Smith and David Miller could do wonders for this franchise.

Arguably though, the team to look out for this season would be Kings XI Punjab. Every time, they seem to strike the right balance in the team, yet, they fail to make the impact. Their repeated finishes in the bottom half of the table doesn’t prove the talent the side possesses. However, this time around, things might just change. Remember the 2014 season. That was by far the closest KXIP came to the title. The main reason, for that was their performance in the first half of the season, which, coincidentally was held in the UAE. The magical duo of Glenn Maxwell and David Miller was in full flow, which resulted in them winning all the fixtures in UAE. This psychological advantage can be put to use, and they can brace themselves up to perform and reach the pinnacle. Maxwell, Rahul, Gayle and Shami are all match-winners, and this might just be their best shot at the title. Having performed considerably well for two matches now, KXIP look all set to make this season one to remember.

The rest four, CSK, MI, KKR and SRH are ever so menacing, and as always the title-contenders for this season as well. They have the right mix of star power and raw talent, and would be set to give a tough competition to all the other sides. But, history might not play a part here, and all the teams would pretty much be on the same page. Added to that - no home crowd and audience support, all the sides have started from ground-zero, to give it their best and take home the title. We all continue to expect fireworks from all the 8 teams, and we might just witness the most entertaining IPL season this year!