Kolkata Knight Riders have gone in for some serious firepower in the ‘mini’ auction which probably indicates that they are looking at an IPL life beyond Sunil Narine. Alternately they might be looking for more options on pacy pitches.
Five of their purchases are very handy fast bowlers. The choice of Australian John Hastings, West Indies' tall all rounder and skipper Jason Holder, UP’s young, impressive Ankit Rajpoot (Rs 1.5 cr) and left arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat would suggest a shift in priorities. To boot they have also signed up New Zealand’s explosive all-rounder Colin Munro who can also bowl medium pace. If he comes to terms with Indian conditions his batting could be the game changer for KKR.
The Kolkata outfit already had a good mix of quality Indian batsmen in skipper Gautam Gambhir, Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan and Suryakumar Yadav. The all round skills of Bangladeshi Shakib Al Hasan and West Indian Andre Russell would also come in handy to prop up the score.
KKR thus seem to have all bases covered and could be expected to go very far in the tournament.
Strength: Sunil Narine if he is allowed to bowl after being banned for chucking earlier. Good crop of batsmen with mix of explosive hitters.
Weakness: Lack a quality backup option for wicket-keeper Uthappa. This could be an issue when spinners come into play on turning tracks.
Opportunity: This is the first time KKR have such an experienced line-up. They must make it count, especially before the less experienced sides settle down.
Threat: Age. The older batsmen may not play with the same abandon and carefree attitude of youngsters. This could make the difference in a close finish.
KKR Squad: Gautam Gambhir, Kuldeep Yadav, Manish Pandey, Piyush Chawla, Robin Uthappa, Sheldon Jackson, Suryakumar Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Brad Hogg, Chris Lynn, Shakib Al Hasan, Morne Morkel, Jaydev Unadkat, Ankit Rajpoot, R Satish, Manan Sharma, John Hastings, Jason Holder and Colin Munro.
Buttler further fortifies team Mumbai
Mumbai’s most strategic purchase would obviously be Jos Buttler. Besides being an outstanding limited overs batsman who believes in belting the ball (his four ODI hundreds have come in 41, 61, 66 & 73 balls), Buttler’s prowess with the gloves gives Mumbai an added boost in the wicket-keeping department along with Parthiv Patel who was impressive last season.
MI have great depth in batting, with Rohit Sharma leading from the front. The West Indians Keiron Pollard and Lendl Simmons take to T20 cricket like a duck to water. Along with Hardik Pandya, Rayudu, Parthiv and the big-hitting Kiwi Corey Anderson they make a very commendable batting unit.
The spin bowling department, with Harbhajan Singh, Shreyas Gopal and J Suchith, has a lot of variety. But it is the death-overs bowling combination of Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah that would be the envy of any team.
Mumbai have a brilliant mix of youth, experience, batsmen, bowlers along with a good fielding unit. They will be the team to beat in this edition.
Strength: Proven game-changing cricketers in Kieron Pollard, Rohit Sharma, Lasith Malinga.
Weakness: Abrupt fall in experience or quality in second tier medium pacers. They’d be the obvious target for opposition batsmen.
Opportunity: For the younger lot - Hardik Pandya, Shreyas Gopal, Unmukt Chand, Nathu Singh - MI provides the right stage to step up and make a name for themselves.
Threat: Malinga and Bumrah’s ability to stay sharp, fit and focused right through the tough, long, hot season.
MI Squad: Rohit Sharma, Akshay Wakhare, Ambati Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh, Hardik Pandya, J Suchith, Jasprit Bumrah, Nitish Rana, Parthiv Patel, R Vinay Kumar, Shreyas Gopal, Siddhesh Lad, Unmukt Chand, Corey Anderson, Mitchell McClenaghan, Kieron Pollard, Lendl Simmons, Lasith Malinga, Marchant de Lange, Nathu Singh, Krunal Pandya, Kishore P Kamath, Jitesh Sharma, Deepak Punia, Jos Butler and Tim Southee.
RCB top order looks formidable with Watson
The bagging of Shane Watson has given Royal Challengers Bangalore the best top order batting line-up of IPL. No team can match a line-up consisting of Watson, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
Actually the inclusion of Watson gives RCB a real chance of going very far in the IPL. He brings with him not only great batting ability, but a fast bowling option as good as any around.
RCB would have liked a frontline wicket-keeper to relieve De Villiers. But that was not to be. In all probability Kedar Jadhav would be asked to play that role.
RCB could also benefit from the inclusion of Stuart Binny. He would be a very handy middle/lower order batsman and could be expected to bowl in all matches. Twenty two year-old Australian multi-talented left-hander Travis Head who smashed unbeaten 101 in 53 balls in Big Bash League is another good acquisition who will feature in at least a few games.
Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc spearheads a useful bowling attack. RCB’s spin bowling options include Yuzvendra Chahal who made a fine impression last year and rookie local leg spinner-all rounder Praveen Dubey.
Strength: Game changers and power hitters Gayle, Watson, De Villiers and Kohli.
Weakness: Few options if top order batsmen flop. The middle and lower order batting does not look very impressive.
Opportunity: Sreenath Arvind, Varun Aaron, Harshal Patel have the chance to lift the quality of their support to the main bowlers.
Threat: Spin bowling options look too limited especially if away matches are played on slow tracks designed to contain RCB’s big hitters.
RCB Squad: Virat Kohli, Abu Nechim, Harshal Patel, Kedar Jadhav, Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Sreenath Arvind, Varun Aaron, Yuzvendra Chahal, AB de Villiers, David Wiese, Adam Milne, Chris Gayle, Mitchell Starc, Stuart Binny, Praveen Dubey, Vikrameet Malik, Sachin Baby, Iqbal Abdullah, Akash Karnewar, Vikas Tokas, Shane Watson, Kane Richardson, Samuel Badree and Travis Head.
SRH bank on Warner, Dhawan, Yuvraj for success
Sunrisers Hyderabad splurged a lot of money shoring up the Indian component of their team. They bought Yuvraj Singh (Rs 7 Cr), Ashish Nehra (5.5 cr), Deepak Hooda (4.2 cr), Aditya Tare (1.2) and Barinder Singh Bran (1.2) among others.
SRH already had the highly explosive opening pair of David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan in its ranks. Yuvraj, if he can get going, would be a great asset along with Eoin Morgan and Kane Williamson. While these batsmen, along with KL Rahul, should form an excellent top six, others, including Naman Ohja and Deepak Hooda could be expected to chip in with valuable contributions.
If Nehra stays fit, he and Trent Boult would make a very good opening bowling pair. Hyderabad badly need to do well this year to reaffirm faith in their supporters. They seem to have a better team than last year and must make it count.
Strength: Impact batsmen David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh
Weakness: Poor spin bowling options. Could impact on wearing pitches
Opportunity: Good chance for younger Indian players to put up their hand and be counted
Threat: Fitness levels of Nehra, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. They are vital in the team’s scheme of things.
SRH Squad: Ashish Reddy, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Bipul Sharma, Karn Sharma, KL Rahul, Naman Ojha, Parvez Rasool, Ricky Bhui, Shikhar Dhawan, Siddharth Kaul, David Warner, Moises Henriques, Eoin Morgan, Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra, Deepak Hooda, Aditya Tare, Barinder Singh Bran, Vijay Shankar, Abhimanyu Mithun, T Suman, Mustafizur Rahman and Ben Cutting.