The Indian Premier League (IPL) has been often called a “money-making machine”. It has also attracted its fair share of controversy with the recent betting scandal that led to Raj Kundra giving up his share in the Rajasthan Royals franchise. However, one thing that has always been the saving grace of this tournament is the quality of cricketers on display. Since its very inception, the tournament has attracted the very best in Indian and international cricket, and the eighth edition will be no different. Once again the who’s who of world cricket will dazzle the stage.
Following are certain choices – some unconventional ones – that can be expected to stand out during the tournament.
Top 5 Batsmen to Watch Out For
Virat Kohli: The captain of the Indian test team heads the list. He may have had a lukewarm World Cup and the response to his failure in the crucial semi-final against Australia may have been vitriolic. However, he knows how to bounce back and could very well choose the IPL as the stage for a return to form.
Aaron Finch: He will be playing for a new team this season – Mumbai Indians. The star-studded line-up means there will be less pressure on him to deliver every time and he would be free to play as he wishes. He has already shown signs of returning to form in the World Cup final and could very well explode in this form of game, which he clearly has a penchant for.
Francois du Plessis: Many would be surprised to see him in the list ahead of compatriot AB de Villiers, but the Proteas T20 skipper has been breathing fire in this version, of late. His success will be crucial for Chennai Super Kings as well.
Brendon McCullum: The New Zealand captain had been in roaring form in the World Cup and he is also one of the top batsmen in this form. Expect to see him tear attacks to shred with du Plessis for company for CSK this season.
Chris Gayle: He may be injured but he is the most dangerous batsman in the T20 game with a record second to none. He also has vast experience and is a preferred choice for T20 teams all over the world, a testament to his quality.
Top 5 Bowlers to Watch Out For
Samuel Badree: On the spin-friendly surface at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, the Caribbean leg spinner will prove deadly. Together with the likes of Jadeja and Ashwin, he can be the architect of many a victory for the CSK.
Sunil Narine: If he is finally allowed to play, the West Indian spinner will play a significant role. He has a majestic record at the IPL and his contribution in Kolkata Knight Riders’ winning of two titles is undeniable.
Ravichandran Ashwin: The off-spinning all-rounder was one of the bright lights of the 2015 World Cup campaign for India. He picked up a bagful of wickets and will look to perform similarly for his franchise, CSK.
Imran Tahir: The leg spinner has been performing well for South Africa internationally – both in T20s and ODIs. In 2014, he did well for Delhi Daredevils – the franchise that has shown faith in him by retaining him for the upcoming edition. Delhi Daredevils will expect him to do even better this time.
Lasith Malinga: Lasith ‘The Slinga’ Malinga had a bad World Cup, but has done well for Sri Lanka in international T20s. His record for Mumbai Indians speaks for itself. He will have a major role to play this time around as well.
As has been said earlier, in a tournament like IPL with so many top players it is really hard to pick some who will stand out. An effort has been made but one always feels that the list can be so much longer. Following is a lowdown of some other players who are expected to come good –
Kolkata Knight Riders: Johan Botha, Piyush Chawla, Morne Morkel, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan, Robin Uthappa, Umesh Yadav, Azhar Mahmood, Pat Cummins, Brad Hogg, Andre Russell, Ryan ten Doeschate, and Gautam Gambhir
Royal Challengers Bengaluru: Sean Abbott, AB de Villiers, Dinesh Karthik, Nic Maddinson, Adam Milne, Rilee Rossouw, Mitchell Starc, and Darren Sammy
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni, Kyle Abbott, Michael Hussey, Ashish Nehra, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Rahul Sharma, Dwayne Bravo, Matt Henry, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohit Sharma, and Dwayne Smith
Kings XI Punjab: George Bailey, Parvinder Awana, Glenn Maxwell, Thisara Perera, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, David Miller, Axar Patel, Wriddhiman Saha, and Virender Sehwag
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Parthiv Patel, Corey Anderson, Marchant de Lange, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell McClenaghan, Kieron Pollard, and Ambati Rayudu
Rajasthan Royals: Shane Watson, Stuart Binny, James Faulkner, Chris Morris, Abhishek Nayar, Kane Richardson, Steven Smith, Rusty Theron, Ben Cutting, Ajinkya Rahane, and Tim Southee
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Ravi Bopara, Shikhar Dhawan, Praveen Kumar, Eoin Morgan, Ishant Sharma, Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Karn Sharma, Dale Steyn, David Warner, and Laxmi Ratan Shukla
Delhi Daredevils: Jean-Paul Duminy, Zaheer Khan, Amit Mishra, Albie Morkel, Manoj Tiwary, Yuvraj Singh, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Angelo Mathews, and Mohammed Shami