Brace up for the hit parade

Brace up for the hit parade

With its share of entertainment, pulsating twists and turns, the journey of the Indian Premier League provides a perfect script for a potboiler.

Having begun to a great reception from fans and trepid reaction from traditionalists in 2008, the IPL will complete a decade when the current edition of the tournament ends on May 21 here. The league, thorough its existance, may have been dotted with controversies but it has grown only in strength with every season of slam-bang cricket and this year promises no less entertainment.

The biggest name in Indian cricket today, Virat Kohli, isn’t expected to play till the first two weeks of the league but even then the tournament has good presence of star power to keep the public interest going. If anything, IPL will only spread to a wider audience this year with the enhanced presence of the English players.

All-rounder Ben Stokes -- for whom the Pune Supergiant shelled out Rs 14 crore -- will be the biggest attraction from England with Chris Woakes, Jason Roy, Eoin Morgan, Tymal Mills, Sam Billings and Jos Buttler expected to prove why they were the hottest properties in this year’s auction.

Stokes, with the  highest price-tag for a foreign player in the history of IPL, will be under pressure to perform and change the fortunes of the Pune team which finished second from the bottom on its debut last year. The franchise since then has changed its captain MS Dhoni and have installed Aussie skipper Steven Smith at the helm. Smith, not a popular man among the Indian fans at the moment after an acrimonious Test series only last month, will have a big challenge of marshalling perhaps the best batting line-up in the league. Besides Smith, Dhoni and Stokes, the RPS also have Faf du Plessis, Ajinkya Rahane and Mayank Agarwal in their ranks.

Talking of Aussies and not withstanding the public sentiment, the players from Down Under seem to be the flavour of the season for team owners. Apart from Smith and Shane Watson, who is a stand-in skipper of Royal Challengers Bangalore, the Australians will be leading two other teams: Sunrisers Hyderabad (David Warner) and Kings XI Punjab (Glenn Maxwell).

While Warner will have the pressure of living up to his last year’s show which saw Hyderabad emerge champions, Maxwell has the onerous task of lifting the fortunes of Punjab which brought up the rear the last season.

Another team that would look to change their fortunes will be Delhi Daredevils. The Rahul Dravid-mentored team had flying start in the last season but suffered such a big and sudden slump that they even failed to finish in the top five. Having already lost two of their key players -- Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy -- the Zaheer Khan-led side face a tough challenge. 

Mumbai Indians will be hoping to finish above the fifth place they managed last season and with the kind of collection of players they have, there is no reason why they can’t achieve that. The one thing that goes against them, though, is quite a few of their players are coming off long injury lay-offs and they will have to get over their rustiness quickly.

Among the top four last year, RCB have been hit the hardest by a spate of injuries to their main players and how they overcome those setbacks will shape their fortunes.

Gujarat Lions, who topped the league but finished third eventually, will need to learn how to big moments while it remains to be seen how Kolkata Knight Riders overcome the absence of Andre Russell who not only was their key player but provided great balance to the side.
DH News Service

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