Indian Premier League is a long tournament and the beauty lies in its unpredictability. If we take the 2015 edition, the Kolkata Knight Riders was going strong and the finishing line was almost in sight. However, the team slipped in their last few games and could not even qualify for the playoffs. Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, were stuttering having lost most of their first phase of games. However, they bounced back in splendid fashion and went on to win the championship itself. So, to make a prediction as to who can win the tournament at this stage can be a foolhardy assessment.
After all, all teams have at least three games and anything can happen in these games. Teams that have no chance of qualifying – Kings XI Punjab and Rising Pune Supergiants – can win the remaining games and change the equation. However, the tournament has now indeed entered the business end and it seems – as per cricketing logic – that teams, which have performed so far, look set to win the ninth edition of the tournament, with perhaps a few surprises expected to happen along the way.
The biggest area of strength for Sunrisers – at the first place with 14 points – is that the team is performing. The openers – Warner and Dhawan – have been among the runs and so are Deepak Hooda and Naman Ojha. They also have good backup with the likes of Yuvraj, Williamson and Morgan. In terms of bowling, the four quicks have performed well with Mustafizur, Bhuvaneshwar, and Nehra standing out. However, the team is heavily dependent on Warner and Dhawan for runs. If they fail, there would be a lot of pressure on the middle order. In bowling, too, the supporting cast of Boult, Ben Cutting, Abhimanyu Mithun, and Siddharth Kaul need some game time as well. The team also lacks sufficient spinners and the bowling is entirely pace-oriented, factors which could prove to be costly on some pitches.
Gujarat Lions is perhaps the most all-round team in the competition. They have batsmen like Raina, Karthik, Finch, McCullum and bowlers such as Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, and Pravin Tambe who have been performing. However, their biggest areas of strength are their four all-rounders – Jadeja, Bravo, Faulkner and Dwayne Smith. In a team such as this, it is hard to find a weakness as such. However, as they have shown in a few matches that their top-heavy batting can implode in certain circumstances and that is one area they need to be careful about. Their international fast bowlers – Tye and Steyn – need to be given a few matches as well.
Kolkata Knight Riders
A good team that has met expectations so far in this tournament, Knight Riders’ strength clearly lies in their batting with a star-studded line up led by Gambhir and followed by Uthappa, Pandey, Pathan, and Suryakumar Yadav. There is also some solid backup with the likes of Munro and Lynn. The team also has a couple of all-rounders such as Russell and Shakib. However, the bowling is heavily dependent on international recruits – Morkel, Hogg and Narine. A lot will depend on Shaun Tait, who has replaced Hastings. Among Indian bowlers, Chawla has performed well and Umesh Yadav also needs to step up if the team is to do better than last time around. The major problem in this case is that there are no suitable replacements in the ranks as far as bowling is concerned. Jason Holder and Jaydev Unadkat have appeared to be woefully below par so far and others lack the experience.
Mumbai Indians has a strong first unit with all the units firing exceptionally well. Both Rohit and Rayudu have been scoring runs and have been backed up by Pollard and Buttler late in the order. Parthiv Patel has been among runs as well and you have Martin Guptill and Corey Anderson as more-than-capable replacements. The bowling led by the Kiwi pairing of McClenaghan and Southee has been backed up admirably by Bumrah and Harbhajan. Krunal Pandya has also proved to be a revelation with his hard hits and canny spin bowling. However, the batting is highly dependent on the aforementioned players and they really need someone like Hardik Pandya to fire. The reserve bowlers like Marchant de Lange, Jerome Taylor, Jagadeesha Suchith and Nathu Singh also need to play a few games if possible since that will ensure readiness in case a call comes.
They are the dark horses of the tournament and have surprised everyone so far with their displays. It has perhaps the most exciting young Indian talent as far as batting is concerned with the likes of Mayank Agarwal, Shreyas Iyer, Karun Nair, Sanju Samson, Rishabh Pant along with international heavyweights – JP Duminy and Quinton de Kock. Sam Billings has also literally lived up to his billing as an exciting prospect. In the bowling stakes the likes of Morris, Zaheer, Shami, Amit Mishra, and Tahir have done well and they have some splendid back up in the shape of Brathwaite, Coulter-Nile, Gurinder Sandhu, Pawan Suyal, and Chama Milind. The only major problem with the team is that the Indian component of the batting unit is inexperienced. However, the quality is there and it can be expected that with time this will be team to beat in the future editions of the IPL.