It’s time for the blockbuster T20 cricket tournament of the world – the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) arrives this weekend! The premier franchise T20 competition returns to India, albeit in a reduced manner in the new Covid environment. Instead of the usual home and away format, the eight franchises are set to play in six different venues over the next 50-odd days.
The 14th edition of the IPL will see the eight franchises - Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Capitals, Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians, Punjab Kings, Rajasthan Royals, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad will fight out across venues in Chennai, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Bengaluru, and Kolkata.
While COVID-19 continues to be the outlying factor, the teams will look to make the most of their squads in reaching the playoffs and eventually winning the title. So, which side looks the best?
Two-time defending champions Mumbai Indians have won the title four times in the last six seasons and look extremely competitive to make it a three-peat.
Rohit Sharma’s side boasts of two Aussie T20 stars in Chris Lynn and Nathan Coulter-Nile, although both remain backups in the squad and do not have great chances of game time. Keep an eye on Coulter-Nile, though, who has been impressive for Mumbai whenever he got a chance.
One team that is expected to challenge Mumbai all the way is Delhi Capitals. With new captain Rishabh Pant at the helm, the Capitals have high expectations of doing better than being losing finalists last year. Their hopes will revolve around all-rounder Marcus Stoinis. The Aussie bulwark scored 352 runs (SR 148.52) and picked up 13 wickets last season and has been the cynosure of their campaign. The Capitals have landed Steve Smith in the player auction and the former Aussie captain could make a difference to their fortunes – at least in vital matches.
Among other Aussies, Pat Cummins and Ben Cutting in the Kolkata Knight Riders stable provide an interesting combo. Cummins was KKR’s second-best bowler last season (12 wickets), but has been equally impressive with the bat (146 runs, Avg. 20.85). Ben Cutting may not get too many games, although his versatility and experience could be a game changer.
Similarly, among the Aussie outliers are Moises Henriques at the Punjab Kings and Andrew Tye at Rajasthan Royals. While Henriques may struggle for game time, Tye could be a starter for the Royals – at least for the start of the tournament. However, the biggest attraction from down under will be in the form of Glenn Maxwell for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. The all-rounder struggled for Kings XI Punjab last season, but is gunning for a redemption season.
The biggest opportunity from those down under may be reserved for David Warner. The aggressive Aussie opener will be back leading the Sunrisers Hyderabad, who remain one of the biggest underdogs of the season. With three ‘Orange Cap’ wins in the last six years, Warner remains one of the biggest players in this year’s competition. Expect the opener to be close to the top of the run charts once again!
Considering the consistency of Sunrisers Hyderabad – they have reached the playoffs in each of the last five seasons – they can be backed to reach the last four once again.
For a pick for the outright winner, it’s hard to go past the consistency of the Mumbai Indians. They are going to be thereabouts when the finals roll around, and we can expect their experience to shine through. The ones to beat!
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