IPL 2021 Preview! – MI’s Dominace, DC’s Likeability, SRH’s Understatedness And RCB’s Holy Trifecta

IPL 2021 Preview! – MI’s Dominace, DC’s Likeability, SRH’s Understatedness And RCB’s Holy Trifecta

If there ever was a good time to be a cricket fan, it is now. Since 19th September 2020, we have been treated to some mind-boggling, stupendous cricket almost every day. From the lows of 36, to the unexplainable highs of Gabba. From the Magic At Melbourne, to the day in Sydney because of which ‘grit’ and ‘determination’ became a part of the whole nation’s dictionary. From the shock at Chepauk, to the thrashings at Motera. From Rishabh Pant being ‘an overrated disgrace’ to him earning a well-deserved spot in all of our hearts. From Ravichandran Ashwin not even knowing whether he’d start in the first test in Australia, to him reaching the milestone of 400 wickets, becoming the fastest Indian to ever get there. From Shubman Gill and Mohammad Siraj, to Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur. From T Natarajan and Axar Patel, to Suryakumar Yadav  and Ishan Kishan. So many stars were born. In this period of 6 months, we saw one of the best IPL seasons ever, one of the most dominant displays by India at home, and most importantly, we saw what I believe to be the greatest series ever in the history of the game – India vs Australia, The Border Gavaskar Trophy, 2020-2021.

And guess what? It doesn’t stop here! We’ve got two months of absolute lightening coming up with the IPL dawning upon us. The tournament is back to India now, even in the midst of rising COVID cases. The BCCI managed to pull off a literal heist the last time around, with almost no COVID cases to any players or staff at all. This time, things are just a bit different. A lot of players and staff have already tested positive for COVID-19. However, with all members being required to quarantine for at least a week before mingling about, and also testing being mandatory every second day or so, I personally feel (and hope) that the COVID scare won’t plague the tournament for too long. Now onto the preview!

MUMBAI INDIANS

 I mean, what even can we say about this team. I’m tired of hearing ‘Oh MI is way better than all the other teams, this IPL is going to be held just to discover who plays the final against MI and loses hahaha’, but like MI is way better than all the other teams, and this IPL is going to be held just to discover who plays the final against MI and loses.

Seriously though, MI are definitely in a different league as far as quality is concerned. Last year, before the season the only chinks in their armor seemed to be the No.3 and No.4 positions, and also the lack of spinners. The rise and rise and rise of Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan has definitely put an end to any discussions of the former now. As for the latter, Rahul Chahar did do well for them last season and also earnt himself an Indian cap. Plus, they’ve now added the veteran Piyush Chawla, the third most successful bowler in the history of the IPL (in terms of wickets) into their ranks, so I think that hole is somewhat covered too. The only issue (if you really really had to find one) now would seem to be the lack of backup Indian batsmen. But that seems to be a universal problem for IPL teams across the board and it isn’t too likely to emerge as a huge problem.

 So, the only real thing going against them is the format they’re playing. Anything can happen in T20s. The game of 20 overs is a bit too short to reach the shelf with the piece of paper with the name of the deserving winner written on it. Too often, T20 games become just a matter of the toss of a coin. That’s the only reason why MI might not win the IPL, no logical analysis would suggest so.

It’s literally impossible to find an issue with their playing XI. It’s, well it’s the f-word. You know, flawless.

Probable XI

1.            Rohit Sharma ©️

2.            Quinton De Kock*

3.            Suryakumar Yadav

4.            Ishan Kishan

5.            Hardik Pandya

6.            Kieron Pollard*

7.            Krunal Pandya

8.            Nathan Coutler-Nile*

9.            Rahul Chahar

10.          Trent Boult*

11.          Jasprit Bumrah

DELHI CAPITALS

Delhi Capitals seems to be quickly snatching away the ‘everyone’s second favorite team’ tag from the Rajasthan Royals. Their story of rising from the ashes of Delhi Daredevils, having this new ownership who are very involved with the team, this new young captain being given a lot of faith, this great Indian core who can beat other teams eve without the help of any foreign players just appeals to the human inside all of us. Before this season, they received some good news and some bad news.

Bad news – Their captain since 2 years who consistently led them to the playoffs contributing heavily with the bat too was ruled out of the tournament with an injury.

Good news – Their captain since 2 years who consistently led them to the playoffs contributing heavily with the bat too was ruled out of the tournament with an injury. BECAUSE IT MEANT THEY COULD NOW MAKE THE MOST LIKEABLE PLAYER IN WORLD CRICKET THEIR CAPTAIN!

The move to make Rishabh Pant the captain in the absence of Shreyas Iyer was definitely more of a business decision than a cricketing decision. #RP17’s brand is just growing and growing, and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Plus, Rishabh Pant has actually been signed by the JSW group, which also owns the Delhi Capitals. So…hard to say this decision is purely cricket-based.

Nonetheless, the team looks quite strong. Just like last year, their Indian core is their main strength this time around too. Having Ishant back is a big positive since they really struggled with that Indian pacer spot last time round. They’ve also acquired Umesh Yadav to avoid a similar situation if any injuries occur. After poor shows in the UAE and Australia, Prithvi Shaw is back to his best and in the form of his life, having led his Mumbai side to the Vijay Hazare Trophy, breaking the record for the highest individual score in the tournament along the way too.

The only real problem they have is because of Shreyas Iyer’s injury. Now that No.3 spot is left wide open. So they have a choice to make – sacrifice intent and attacking talent and go for the experience of Rahane/Steve Smith, or sacrifice experience and go for the intent and attacking talent of Lalit Yadav/Ripal Patel/Vishnu Vinod. Personally, I’d do the former. This Delhi team is already littered with adrenaline junkies. I think Rahane might be the right man for the job, he brings in stability and calmness sandwiched between the likes of Shaw and Pant.

Probable XI

1.            Shikhar Dhawan

2.            Prithvi Shaw

3.            Ajinkya Rahane

4.            Rishabh Pant

5.            Shimron Hetmeyer*

6.            Marcus Stoinis*

7.            Axar Patel

8.            Ravichandran Ashwin

9.            Kagiso Rabada*

10.          Anrich Nortje*

11.          Ishant Sharma

SUNRISERS HYDERABAD

 Something that we don’t talk about enough is the fact that SRH had made it to the playoffs 5 out of 5 times in the last five seasons. This team performs when it matters.

Alongside MI and DC, SRH look like the team to beat in this year’s edition. In fact, they have also been pegged as the only team who can give MI a fight by many. Their overseas contingent is definitely the best in all of the teams. Imagine guys like Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman just chilling on Hyderabad’s bench when they would all easily make it into a lot of team’s starting XIs. Unlike other teams with strong overseas groups though, SRH also has a very decent Indian core, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, T Natarajan and Manish Pandey being the highlights. Also, they have possibly the next big thing in Indian Cricket within their ranks. Who amongst every single Indian player in IPL 2020 had the highest strike rate? No it wasn’t Hardik Pandya or Rishabh Pant or Sanju Samson or MS Dhoni. It was in fact Abdul Samad, all of 19 years old, lighting up the world’s biggest cricket league on fire. SRH may just have India’s future No.6 at their hands, let’s hope they use him right and back him.

Also, they have the IPL’s best ever batsman in David Warner and the world’s best spinner in Rashid Khan, so yeah.

Probable XI

1.            David Warner* ©️

2.            Wriddhiman Saha

3.            Manish Pandey

4.            Kane Williamson*

5.            Kedar Jadhav

6.            Abdul Samad

7.            Jason Holder*

8.            Rashid Khan*

9.            Bhuvneshwar Kumar

10.          Sandeep Sharma

11.          T Natarajan

ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE

 RCB is probably the first team yet that is worse this season than in 2020. They made some horrendous miscalculations while retaining and releasing players. For all the credit that Mike Hesson’s management gets for being ‘smart’, I don’t necessarily believe that’s true. I mean c’mon, how do you release guys like Shivam Dube, Chris Morris and Umesh Yadav in a mini auction? Did they really expect Morris to go for under 10 crores when literally every single team could’ve done with a top quality overseas pacer? And the Jamieson pick? How do you value Morris, a proven, top-quality, international level player with loads of experience and skill at under 10 crores but value Kyle Jamieson, a completely untested, inexperienced, primarily red-ball bowler who hasn’t even played 5 T20i games? And literally all of his good bowling spells have come in New Zealand, on pacy and bouncy pitches. How sure can you be that he will work on the dry, flat tracks of the subcontinent?

For all their frailties, RCB do have a few positives too. The first being clear as day – that trio. That trio of Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers, and Glenn Maxwell is enough to instill fear in the best of bowling attacks. I shudder thinking of what carnage these three would do at the Chinnaswamy, but unfortunately they won’t be playing there this season because no team will be playing at their home ground. They also have a few very exciting young talents whose stocks are rapidly rising. Devdutt Padikkal, after the Vijay Hazare season he just had, will be raring to go having just recovered from COVID too. Siraj and Sundar have earnt their spots as mainstays in the Indian National Team already, being two of the heroes of that legendary Gabba game.

Probable XI

1.            Virat Kohli ©️

2.            Devdutt Padikkal

3.            Rajat Patidar/Sachin Baby/Mohammad Azharudeen (this player just need to slog and get out)     

4.            AB De Villiers*

5.            Glenn Maxwell*

6.            Dan Christian

7.            Washington Sundar (they can send him up at No.3 too and push that player down)

8.            Kyle Jamieson*

9.            Navdeep Saini

10.          Yuzvendra Chahal

11.          Mohammad Siraj

Interesting team.

Image credits: Times Of India