IPL 2017 – Definitive Team By Team Preview
After a marathon home season that involved 13 Test matches across India, it is time for the country to sit back and enjoy the carnival that is the IPL 2017 (Indian Premier League).
IPL 2017 is a landmark for the tournament, entering its tenth edition, and the cricket promises to be better than it has ever been while the entertainment promises to be like it has always been.
Will the Sunrisers Hyderabad become the first team after the Chennai Super Kings to successfully defend their crown? Can the Royal Challengers Bangalore finally get their hands on silverware? Can the Mumbai Indians or the Kolkata Knight Riders take advantage of CSK’s absence and become the most successful side in the competition?
These are all questions that we will find the answers to, over the one-and-a-half months of the tournament.
The IPL 2017 will begin on April 5, and the opening ceremony of the cash-rich league will be held in the den of the defending champions — Sunrisers Hyderabad.
In the first match of the tournament, Hyderabad will lock horns against Virat Kohli’s much-fancied Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad.
A total of 60 matches will be played in IPL 2017 which will be spread over a span of 47 days, with the final also scheduled to be played in Hyderabad on May 21.
Here, we take a look at how the teams stack up, what their possible combinations could be, what options they have and how well-equipped they are to mount a challenge for the title.
After a stunning journey to become champions last year, the Sunrisers have a tougher task on hand in 2017 – to prove that 2016 was not a fluke and that they are a good cricketing side.
Once again, Tom Moody’s side were brilliant in the auction. They have covered most bases in their squad and have multiple options – both Indian and overseas – for most positions in their squad.
The middle order still does look slightly brittle as it did last year, when David Warner’s brilliance carried the entire batting lineup. But in Vijay Shankar and Deepak Hooda, they have got two fabulous young players who have had brilliant domestic seasons for their state sides.
Shankar, in particular, will be full of confidence. He only recently led Tamil Nadu to victory in both the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Deodhar Trophy.
The Sunrisers have the most enviable bowling attack in the tournament too. The variety and the quality that they have is quite brilliant.
The new-ball ability of Ashish Nehra and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the death bowling of Bhuvneshwar and Mustafizur Rahman and the two Afghan spinners make their attack as potent as any in the tournament. In any case, Warner will be able to call on Hooda, Shankar or Yuvraj to roll their arm over, should one of the main five have an off-day.
Also, when you are a good enough side to be able to keep the likes of Chris Jordan, Kane Williamson and Moises Henriques on the bench, you have got to be a fantastic side.
In summary, the champions have only gotten stronger this year. It would be a huge upset if they don’t at least make the playoff this year.
IPL 2017 Best XI: David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan, Vijay Shankar, Yuvraj Singh, Deepak Hooda, Eklavya Dwivedi, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mustafizur Rahman, Ashish Nehra
Royal Challengers Bangalore
The nearly men of the IPL have one more opportunity to prove that they aren’t the South Africa of the IPL. Every year, it looks like RCB have the ammunition to finally win the trophy, but they have fallen short.
This year, it will be a different kind of challenge. They will almost certainly be without their inspirational leader, Virat Kohli, for the initial stages of the tournament.
RCB are generally slow starters. Considering that, it is a huge blow for the side to not have a player of the Kohli’s ability available.
In Kohli’s absence, it will be pretty easy for the RCB management to play Chris Gayle. The big Jamaican’s spot looked to be in danger, given that only four foreigners could be played.
Also, Kohli has shown recently that batting at the top is what suits his game best in T20s and KL Rahul, after his form in the home season, cannot be batting anywhere except right at the top. But now, Rahul is ruled out of the entire tournament, with a shoulder injury that he picked up in the Test series against Australia.
Rahul’s absence also means that RCB have a problem with the wicketkeeper slot. That will mostly be taken up by Kedar Jadhav, since they do not really have too many other options.
In the absence of Mitchell Starc, who pulled out of the tournament due to a stress fracture, RCB will depend on their big-money signing at the auction, the Englishman Tymal Mills. Unlike the other Englishmen in the tournament, RCB will have Mills available for the entire duration of the tournament.
The big concern for RCB remains the bowling though. Yuzvendra Chahal has recently shown that he has got the ability and the mentality to fight on the big stage, but the other bowlers are still pretty inexperienced.
In the absence of Kohli, whether it is AB de Villiers or Shane Watson leading the side, RCB need to find a stable combination and figure out their best XI very soon.
IPL 2017 Best XI: Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Kedar Jadhav, Shane Watson, Sarfaraz Khan, Mandeep Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal, Tymal Mills, Sreenath Aravind, Aniket Choudhary – (I predict Pawan Negi or Stuart Binny to replace Kohli for the first part of the tournament. They could open with either Watson or Mandeep.)
On the batting front, Gujarat have an embarrassment of riches. They will have to choose two out of Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch and Jason Roy. That is almost unfair to the other teams, to have such talent sitting on the bench.
Even the middle order is in fantastic form. Suresh Raina did well in the T20I series against England earlier this year, but the difference could be made by Dinesh Karthik and Ishan Kishan and numbers 4 and 5.
Karthik has had an outstanding domestic season, especially in limited overs cricket. In both the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Deodhar Trophy, he was the highest run-getter for Tamil Nadu. He made 100s in the finals of both those tournaments to carry his team to victory. Kishan, too, has developed immensely as a player.
That being said, the all-rounders are the real trump cards for Gujarat. Ravindra Jadeja is in the form of his life, and Dwayne Bravo and James Faulkner are among the best in the business in T20 cricket.
They might be a little short of bowling firepower though, especially in the spin department. Shivil Kaushik was impressive last year, and they have the experience of Shadab Jakati to call upon. But, there is still a weakness there. A lot will rest on the shoulders of Dhawal Kulkarni and his performance with the new ball. Towards the back end of last year’s IPL, Kulkarni was brilliant in providing the early breakthroughs whenever Gujarat needed it.
They have the firepower, they have the depth, they have the quality. But as they say, tournaments are never won on paper.
IPL 2017 Best XI: Dwayne Smith, Jason Roy, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, James Faulkner, Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shivil Kaushik
Kolkata Knight Riders
Along with the Sunrisers, the Knight Riders were the best performers at the auction. They didn’t buy players for the sake of it. There was a clear plan to what they wanted to do, and the kind of players they wanted. They ended with a well-balanced squad.
The core of the batting group is still in place, and that is a group which has served Kolkata well over the years. But there are some concerns, especially over the form of Robin Uthappa and Yusuf Pathan. On their day, both can be destructive, but that was barely seen in the recently concluded Indian domestic season.
As it always has, the batting hinges on Gautam Gambhir. If Gambhir can block one end, and keep the scoreboard ticking, it will give the destructive players around him the chance to express themselves.
The bowling is well-rounded. KKR have quality in both the pace and spin bowling departments. Umesh Yadav is coming off his best ever season in international cricket. Kuldeep Yadav has just had a stunning initiation to international cricket. Sunil Narine and Shakib Al Hasan are proven performers. And KKR will have the services of Chris Woakes and Trent Boult.
Depending on the nature of the surface, KKR could well pick both Woakes and Boult in the same XI. If the surfaces at Kolkata are the typical spin-friendly ones, Kolkata will play the way they love to. But on a different kind of track, I expect them to play Rovman Powell or Boult ahead of Sunil Narine from their best XI that I have mentioned below.
IPL 2017 Best XI: Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Manish Pandey, Chris Lynn, Suryakumar Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan, Chris Woakes, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Sunil Narine
Of all the teams to have played over the ten years of the IPL, only CSK have a better win percentage than Mumbai. Mumbai’s success has revolved around having the core of their squad constant, and building the team around them.
Last year was a failure for Mumbai. For the first time after the first two seasons, they had failed to make the playoffs.
But in the auction this year, one cannot really say that Mumbai strengthened their squad.
They added Asela Gunaratne, Nicolas Pooran, Mitchell Johnson and Krishnappa Gowtham to their squad, but that really doesn’t seem like it will sort the problems that they had last year.
The problem for Mumbai will be the performance of their big players, who are all in rather uncertain form.
Rohit Sharma has barely played any cricket since hurting his arm in the ODI series against New Zealand in October. Harbhajan Singh has been in diabolical form in domestic cricket. Lasith Malinga’s fitness is uncertain. Kieron Pollard has not been in the best of form either.
But the X-factor for Mumbai will be the brothers from Baroda – Hardik and Krunal Pandya. Both have been in terrific form recently. Krunal did brilliantly in Baroda’s run to the semifinal of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, while Hardik’s performance in the limited overs games he has played for India recently, has been fantastic.
It will also be interesting to see if Mumbai give either Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal or Karn Sharma ahead of Harbhajan.
IPL 2017 Best XI: Lendl Simmons, Parthiv Patel, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Jos Buttler, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jasprit Bumrah, Lasith Malinga
Delhi have been dealt a massive pre-tournament blow, as both JP Duminy and Quinton de Kock have pulled out of the tournament. That leaves a huge dent in their batting.
But as their mentor Rahul Dravid said, it is an opportunity for the young Indian batsmen in the side to step up and prove their worth.
There is no doubt about the kind of talent that Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Sanju Samson possess. They, along with Karun Nair and Sam Billings will be expected to bear the brunt of the batting responsibility for the side.
One department where Delhi are blessed is the all-rounders. Apart from already having Chris Morris and Carlos Brathwaite in the side, Delhi bought Angelo Mathews and Corey Anderson at the auction. But with Mathews grappling with injuries, his participation might be limited.
Dravid also said that he expects Zaheer Khan to play a part in the tournament, but with a pace attack that already has Mohammad Shami, Pat Cummins and Kagiso Rabada, it might not be a big necessity for Delhi.
What Zaheer will bring, if he plays, is leadership. There is an evident lack of leaders in the squad, with both Duminy and De Kock missing. Carlos Brathwaite leads the West Indies in T20 cricket, but he has not won a single game as captain yet.
In Jayant Yadav, Amit Mishra and Murugan Ashwin, Delhi have three quality spinners who can dent any opposition in the league, but for Delhi, their batting is the concern. The bowling looks to be in safe hands.
IPL 2017 Best XI: Sam Billings, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Karun Nair, Sanju Samson, Chris Morris, Carlos Brathwaite, Jayant Yadav, Amit Mishra, Mohammad Shami, Kagiso Rabada
Rising Pune Supergiant
They aren’t the Supergiants any more, changing their name to the singular. Pune will hope that the name change brings about a change in their fortunes on the pitch.
There is a change in captaincy too, with Steve Smith taking the reins from Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Pune’s opener against Mumbai will be the first time in IPL history that Dhoni takes the field as a non-captain.
Pune splurged a large chunk of their auction purse on Ben Stokes, and they will be hoping that the Englishman can repay a good part of that sum with his performances on the pitch.
In many ways, the injury to Mitchell Marsh proved to be a blessing in disguise for Pune, as they replaced him with Imran Tahir, who is the no. 1 bowler in both ODIs and T20Is at the moment.
The fast bowling is a massive concern for Pune though. Ashoke Dinda leaks runs by the dozens, and the other options are inexperienced. However, it is a massive opportunity for the likes of Shardul Thakur, Jaydev Unadkat and Deepak Chahar to prove their worth.
The batting is as strong as they come in the competition. However, Pune need to get their batting order right. Ajinkya Rahane and Faf du Plessis have got to open the innings. One of them has got to keep the striking moving at one end, allowing the likes of Steve Smith, MS Dhoni and Stokes later to wield the long handle.
There is another interesting sub-plot within the Pune camp. Rahane, Smith and Ravi Ashwin were all part of the recent ill-tempered series between India and Australia. It will be interesting to see if and how the three bury the hatchet and work together for Pune’s success.
IPL 2017 Best XI: Ajinkya Rahane, Faf du Plessis, Mayank Agarwal, Steve Smith, MS Dhoni, Ben Stokes, Rajat Bhatia, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Jaydev Unadkat, Imran Tahir
Kings XI Punjab
Punjab finished last in 2016. There is nothing to suggest anything but a repeat in 2017. The bowling is a massive massive concern for Punjab.
Also, as far as their batting is concerned, they have got a huge number of impact players, but most of them are of the hit-or-miss variety. Punjab need reliability in the middle order, and Eoin Morgan could be the ideal one to provide that.
Marcus Stoinis almost single-handedly pulled off a crazy chase for Australia recently, and was in the Test squad that toured India too, based on his ability as a bowler.
But the bowling is where Punjab need their youngsters to step up. They paid big money for Tamil Nadu’s T Natarajan at the auction.
Natarajan burst into the scene during the Tamil Nadu Premier League, with his ability to bowl precise yorkers at the death. There was a super over, where he bowled six yorkers on the trot, to win the game for his team.
Anureet Singh has also shined in patches for Punjab. But a huge responsibility will lie with Mohit Sharma, as the leader of the attack, and one who has performed consistently in the IPL, especially when he was with the Chennai Super Kings.
They have a new captain too, in Glenn Maxwell. With Morgan and Darren Sammy also a part of the squad, Maxwell will have enough experience to bank upon, when the pressure is on them.
But in truth, Punjab need something truly special for them not to be wooden spoon holders yet again.
IPL 2017 Best XI: Murali Vijay, Manan Vohra, Glenn Maxwell, Eoin Morgan, David Miller, Wriddhiman Saha, Marcus Stoinis, Axar Patel, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma, T Natarajan