How the teams square up in big league

Team talk

How the teams square up in big league

MUMBAI INDIANS

Strengths: The defending champions have retained as many as 11 players from their last year’s victorious campaign and that should work in team-bonding. This will be first time in seven years that Mumbai will be playing without Sachin Tendulkar but that hasn’t diminished their batting fire-power that includes skipper Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard, Ambati Rayudu and the newly acquired Corey Anderson and Mike Hussey. They have perhaps the finest T20 paceman in Lasith Malinga.

Weaknesses: The MI management will be cracking their heads over the fitness of all-rounders Pollard and Anderson, who was snapped up for Rs 4.5 crore in the last auction. Despite the presence of Malinga, the pace department appears thin on resources with veteran Zaheer Khan looking the next best. MI may rue letting go Mitchell Johnson.

Key players: Rohit Sharma, Lasith Malinga, Harbhajan Singh, Corey Anderson (if fit).

Past record: 2008: 5th; 2009: 7th; 2010: 2nd; 2011: 3rd; 2012: 4th; 2013: 1st.

CHENNAI SUPER KINGS

Strengths: Chennai has always had the model T20 team. Big-hitting batsmen, excellent bowlers and canny all-rounders and the scene is not different this season either. Skipper MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum, Ravindra Jadeja, Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Smith and Dwayne Bravo complete a set of bionic batsmen/all-rounders, while Ashwin and Samuel Badree could put any batsman through the wringer.

Weaknesses: There are no obvious chinks. But didn’t even the mighty Achilles had a soft spot on his heel? In CSK’s case, it’s a complete off-colour day in office -- it’s rare but that’s the biggest hope for other teams against them or someone like Steyn or Lasith Malinga need to have an exceptional day.

Key Players: MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, Samuel Badree, Suresh Raina.

Past record: 2008: 2nd; 2009: 4th; 2010: 1st; 2011: 1st; 2012: 2nd; 2013: 2nd.

ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE

Strengths: Like it always has been, batting that revolves around Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and skipper Virat Kohli is the strength of RCB. Some may say it as over-dependence on the troika, but the truth is that they have been vastly consistent in the IPL that the rest had hardly been stretched. Now, they also have the additional torque that Yuvraj Singh and Albie Morkel bring.

Weaknesses: In Varun Aaron and Mitchel Starc they have speed but not accuracy, in Abu Nachim Ahmed, Harshal Patel and Ashok Dinda they have talent but not enough fire power, leaving Ravi Rampaul the only trustworthy name. That mismatch may come back to haunt them at some stage.

Key Players: Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, Yuvraj Singh.

Past record: 2008: 7; 2009: 2nd; 2010: 3rd; 2011: 2nd; 2012: 5th; 2013: 5th.

RAJASTHAN ROYALS 

Strengths: A mix of less costly but high-utility players, making them a force hard to ignore as ever. Skipper Shane Watson is their biggest name but their real strength is a bunch of exciting players like Sanju Samson, Stuart Binny, Ajinkya Rahane and James Faulkner. They also have the talented Steve Smith.

Weaknesses: They don’t have a bowling unit that can run through a side even in helpful conditions; no fiery pacer or wily spinner. There may be a time this season when Watson’s desperate eyes look around for a Dale Steyn or a R Ashwin.

Key Players: Shane Watson, Sanju Samson, James Faulkner, Steve Smith.

Past record: 2008: 1st; 2009: 6th; 2010: 7th; 2011: 6th; 2012: 7th; 2013: 3rd.

KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS

Strengths: Their ability to fire in unison was the reason behind their title win in 2012. So, they will once again rely on a collaborative effort to come up trumps, and this season -- unlike in 2013 where they finished seventh -- they look a lot more capable of forming a formidable unit. While several names stand out in making the Knight Riders serious contenders, not one evokes the kind of respect and fear that West Indian spinner Sunil Narine does.

Weaknesses: The Shah Rukh Khan-owned outfit suffers from a problem of aplenty, especially with regards to their batting. Skipper Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Jacques Kallis, Ryan ten Doeschate, Yusuf Pathan etc are all exceptionally talented but it will come down to how well the team management assesses conditions on that particular day.

Key Players: Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Robin Uthappa, Ryan ten Doeschate.
Past record: 2008: 6th; 2009: 8; 2010: 6th; 2011: 4th; 2012: 1st; 2013: 7th.

KINGS XI PUNJAB

Strengths: Packed to the brim with some of the most powerfull hitters in cricket, the Punjab side is hoping to end its dismal run in the tournament. They roped in Virender Sehwag from Delhi Daredevils and made George Bailey the skipper after acquiring him from Chennai, while also including Mitchell Johnson, making this team one of the most destructive to date.

Weaknesses: Barring Johnson, the Kings XI don’t possess the quality in bowling that will threaten too many teams. South African Beuran Hendricks, L Balaji and Parvinder Awana can be effective on their day but they are not wicket-taking bowlers and that may haunt the side.

Key Players: Virender Sehwag, David Miller, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell.
Past record: 2008: 3rd; 2009: 5th; 2010: 8th; 2011: 5th; 2012: 6th; 2013: 6th.

SUNRISERS HYDERABAD

Strengths: Sunrisers Hyderabad are perhaps the most balanced side in the eight-team event thanks to their strategy of retaining the core of their squad that made the play-offs last season. In addition, they have acquired two of the most explosive T20 batsmen in Aaron Finch and David Warner who complement skipper Shikhar Dhawan at the top and Darren Sammy in the lower middle. In Dale Steyn, Amit Mishra and Karn Sharma, they have three of the finest T20 bowlers.

Weaknesses: The batting is top-heavy which means opposition attacks can exploit the apparent inexperience and lack of fire power in the middle order. Ishant Sharma, a vital cog in their previous campaign, will have to regain his form quickly. Skipper Dhawan too needs to rediscover his touch.

Key Players: Aaron Finch, Darren Sammy, Amit Mishra, Dale Styen.

Past record: 2008: 8th; 2009: 1st; 2010: 4th; 2011: 7th; 2012: 8th; 2013: 4th.

DELHI DAREDEVILS

Strengths: Their biggest advantage is the captain-coach combination. Kevin Pietersen is free of his England duties and the skipper is available for the full length of the tournament. Even before they went all out to buy back the charismatic batsman, they had pulled off a coup by roping in Gary Kirsten as their coach. The duo is expected to turn around the fortunes of this team that finished at the bottom of the heap in the last edition.

Weaknesses: In an effort to cleanse the rot, the franchise owners didn’t retain even a single player and have bought several new players who may take some time to gel together.  Besides, their pace bowling appears a bit iffy while Jharkhand left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem is their best bet when it comes to spin.

Key players: Kevin Pietersen, Dinesh Karthik, Ross Taylor, Mohammad Shami.

Past record: 2008: 4th; 2009: 3rd; 2010: 5th; 2011: 10th; 2012: 3rd; 2013: 9th.

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