Chennai Super Kings
Captain MS Dhoni Coach Stephen Fleming Key Player Brendon McCullum
Last year 3rd (lost play-off for place in final)
Chennai have re-signed Michael Hussey, who spent six seasons there before moving to Mumbai for a season. Many eyes will be on McCullum, whose rampaging batsmanship was such a highlight of the World Cup, but Chennai can also rely on proven performers like Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Dwayne Smith and Dwayne Bravo.
Five of their eight captures at the auction in February were young local players. Among them, Irfan Pathan, who has fallen off the Indian team’s radar, invited the highest bid of 20 million rupees. Ankush Bains, a 20-year-old who played for India at the Under-19 World Cup last year, could be groomed as Dhoni’s understudy, while South Africa’s Kyle Abbott was a steal at three million rupees. The two-times champions have reached the knockouts in each of the seven seasons, and there’s little to suggest that streak will end this year.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Captain Virat Kohli Coach Daniel Vettori Key Player AB de Villiers
Last year 7th
The Bangalore side is a fantasy team owner’s dream, and a bowler’s nightmare. Chris Gayle, Kohli and De Villiers can dismantle any attack in the world. Add to that the finesse that Dinesh Karthik – the second-costliest buy at the auction at 105 million rupees – brings, and you have a power-packed batting unit. Yet, in recent seasons, RCB have fallen short due to inconsistent bowling that relies heavily on foreign stars. With Mitchell Starc and Adam Milne, a new recruit, unavailable for at least the first fortnight, the onus is on Ashok Dinda and Varun Aaron to man the pace attack. Australia’s Sean Abbott could be in the fray, while Darren Sammy’s medium pace and lower-order muscle could give the team a much-needed lift as they seek a maiden IPL title.
Captain Rohit Sharma Coach Ricky Ponting Key Player Corey Anderson
Last year 4th (lost in eliminator to make final qualifier))
One of only two sides to have achieved the IPL-and-Champions League Twenty20 double, Mumbai Indians are brimful of experience. Sharma has taken over the leadership mantle, while Kieron Pollard and Harbhajan Singh, who had to watch the World Cup from afar, have much to prove. As does Lasith Malinga, returning to full throttle following ankle surgery. Aaron Finch, a World Cup winner with Australia, and the Karnataka duo of Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun, who won a domestic treble, lend the side balance and experience. Unmukt Chand, the Under-19 World Cup-winning captain in 2012, faces a season of reckoning after his transfer from Rajasthan Royals. If they can get their balance right, Mumbai will be part of the play-off picture.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Captain Gautam Gambhir Coach Trevor Bayliss Key Player Sunil Narine
Last year Champions
Narine being cleared to bowl after last-minute tests to determine the legitimacy of his action comes as much-needed relief for the reigning champions. Narine aside, much of their success has been built on dynamic batting at the top from Robin Uthappa and Gambhir. Kolkata are also the only side with a Pakistani in the ranks. Azhar Mahmood, now a British citizen, was signed, along with Johan Botha, in place of Chris Lynn and the injured Jimmy Neesham. Yet, the acquisition that turned heads was that of KC Cariappa, an unknown mystery spinner from Bangalore’s club cricket scene. He was bought for an astounding sum of 24 million rupees, more than what was spent on superstars like Kevin Pietersen. After being subject to ridicule in the first four seasons, Kolkata have been champions in two of the past three seasons.
Captain JP Duminy Coach Gary Kirsten Key Player Yuvraj Singh
Last year 8th
In a bid to start afresh after seven luckless seasons, Delhi Daredevils have appointed JP Duminy as captain. But the talking point has been Yuvraj. He may or may not play for India again, but his popularity hasn’t dimmed, and his signing for 160 million rupees – the most expensive buy at the auction – brings with it massive hype and expectation. Zaheer Khan is another veteran with the chance to script a season in the sun.
Delhi signed 14 players, the most by any franchise. Among the biggest surprises was Angelo Mathews, bought for five times his base price at 75 million rupees. Australia’s Gurinder Sandhu too is an interesting gamble at 17 million rupees. On paper, they have a team to win the competition, but the real challenge now lies in sustaining momentum over the six weeks.
Kings XI Punjab
Captain George Bailey Coach Sanjay Bangar Key Player Glenn Maxwell
Last year Runners-up
One of the more settled sides, Kings XI Punjab have often struggled to keep pace with teams from the bigger cities. The decision to go for an overhaul last year paid handsome dividends as they finished runners-up after topping the table.
The combination of Bailey as captain and Bangar as coach – two men well aware of life on the fringes – has thrown young Indian players into the deep end and seen them thrive. Axar Patel was a prime example last season. A settled core, including high-impact foreign players, meant the management could snooze through the auction, though they did reinforce the top order by signing Murali Vijay, who had an excellent Test tour of Australia.
Experience goes hand-in-hand with entertainment, as they have in their ranks Virender Sehwag, Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson, each capable of singlehandedly transforming matches.
Captain David Warner Coach Tom Moody Key Player Shikhar Dhawan
Last year 6th
They have a new captain in Warner, Dale Steyn, a settled Indian brigade in Dhawan, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, not to mention heightened expectations from KL Rahul. Sunrisers, however, have often been hampered by the inability of uncapped Indian players to step up at crucial junctures. In that sense, Praveen Kumar, a former international, lends valuable experience.
Kevin Pietersen’s late withdrawal is a blow, but Hyderabad will benefit from the calming influence of New Zealand’s Kane Williamson, a steal at six million rupees. They can also call on the pace and aggression of his fellow Kiwi Trent Boult, joint-highest wicket-taker at the World Cup.
Sunrisers have often been unable to put enough runs on the board. If the top order can remedy that, they could reprise their 2013 performance and make the playoffs.
Captain Shane Watson Coach Paddy Upton Key player Steve Smith
Last year 5th
A popular team without superstars, the Royals are almost always underdogs who have turned in eye-catching performances season after season without ever emulating the run to the title under Shane Warne in 2008.
The emergence of Sanju Samson and Pravin Tambe in 2013 was evidence of the franchise’s vision of backing talent irrespective of age and experience. They can also boast of three World Cup winners – Watson, the captain, Smith, perhaps the best all-format batsman of late, and James Faulkner, man of the match in the final. Tim Southee, who didn’t get too many matches last year, could have a bigger role in Kane Richardson’s absence, while South Africa’s Chris Morris, previously with Chennai, lends all-round variety.
Their no-frills approach has yielded impressive returns, and their brand of cricket has made them the neutral’s favourites. They will once again start as underdogs, but they won’t be pushovers.