The World Cup is over, and after a month of high class cricket, we are treated to a bonanza with the IPL 4 coming up just a week after the World Cup finals. This year's IPL is said to be more about cricket and less about extravagant parties, fashion shows, etc. and this is very heartening to hear.
The auctions had a different aftermath for each and every IPL team. Some teams revamped their side, some teams more or less stuck with the same backbone, and 2 new IPL teams were put in the fray.
Lets look at some of the teams in this IPL, showing their chances of winning, key players and what they need to do to win.
Here's a team that believed in balance and the tried and tested in this year's auctions. And why not? They are the most successful team so far in the IPL, they have the best captain in the world in Dhoni, possibly one of the best T20 players in Suresh Raina and the best "new ball spinner" in Ravichandran Ashwin. When we look at this team, it shows a sense of calm. Doug Bollinger looked doubtful for this year's IPL, so they went out and got Tim Southee, one of the more impressive bowlers in the World Cup. With a calm management and a set of players who have more or less already gelled, the Chennai Super Kings look favorites again to win the IPL crown.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Captain Cool. It took guts to play the innings he played in the World Cup Final, and with Dhoni at the helm, you can almost certainly expect Super Kings to make it to the knockout stages. Was his last ball six in the World Cup symbolism of the destruction he is going to cause to the opposition in this year's IPL?
He has the highest amount of runs in the IPL as a whole, and is quite the perfect T20 player. His batting shows a mix of aggresion and consolidation, he is a brilliant fielder and a very handy bowler. If Raina clicks in all departments, there are few doubts that Super Kings can go all the way.
The only complaint that you can have with this Super Kings side is that they lot a tad too top-heavy. A lot of impetus will be on Ashwin as the spearhead of their bowling attack, and he has rarely disappointed. The World Cup achievement will only make him more determined.
What faith the South African selectors haven't shown, the Chennai Super Kings management have shown in abundance. He is the only foreign player to have been retained by a team who is not currently playing for their international side, and for good reason. Albie Morkel can hit sixes at will, and his bowling will be very important to the Super Kings as they look a little weak bowling wise.
The success of this team can revolve around only one man: Yuvraj Singh, the enigma. And Pune Warriors will be happy that he is in top form heading into this IPL. He has been moulded as a genuine all rounder in the World Cup, and that angry Yuvraj that hit six sixes off Broad because Flintoff agitated him has been streamlined by an extremely monk like Yuvraj Singh. While Pune do boast of some good names, the equation is simple: if Yuvraj Singh is in form, Pune stand a good chance of making a difference in this year's IPL.
As aforementioned, the southpaw is critical to Pune's success. He's got it all. He is one of the most dangerous batsmen today, his fielding seems to be returning to its best if the World Cup Final is anything to go by, and he's turned into a wicket-taking bowler.
Few eyebrows were raised when Uthappa went for such a whopping price, but I believe Uthappa and Yuvraj Singh together have the potency to wreak havoc. The only problem with Uthappa was that he was born at the wrong time, when India is blessed with so many good batsmen. Uthappa is effervescent in his batting and a reliable wicket-keeper, and if he does perform this IPL, who knows, maybe the Indian cap will come knocking at his doorstep.
This IPL will prove as an acid test to Smith, who has not been in good form at all. His partnership with the brilliant young Manish Pandey will prove to be critical if you expect the likes of Uthappa and Yuvraj to finish it off. Smith will also provide good insight to Yuvraj, which makes his role in this team very important.
The perennial bad boy of New Zealand cricket, Ryder's batting style is immensely suited for T20. He is capable of the big boys as well as the gentle flicks and dabs of the Jayawardene mould. His bowling could also prove to be very important for the Warriors.
The dark horses of this year's IPL. Despite 3 years of underachieving, it was still quite surprising that the Knight Riders had not retained a single marquee player, including Sourav Ganguly. But this team that they have looks potent and sprinkled with very good all rounders. One of the main problems of KKR was their lack of Indian talent (they had foreign powerhouses in Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum and David Hussey) and they had solved that head on in the auctions, purchasing World Cup hero Gautam Gambhir and the destructive Yusuf Pathan.
Him and Jacques Kallis are expected to open the batting, so it will be interesting to see Gambhir's approach. What cannot be doubted is that he adapts to the situation brilliantly and can move up a gear if required.
Here's a man who can change a game all by himself. Many thought of him as just a T20 player, but he has saved India in the one-day format in occasions when they looked down and out. A miserly bowler and a deadly batsmen, Yusuf Pathan could end up being Kolkata's talisman.
The best all-rounder in the world. Shakib al-Hasan is brilliant with the bat and can accelerate with ease. He is also one of the world's best spinners, and has been an astute leader for Bangladesh. If things go his way, he could end up being the toast of Eden Gardens.
There's a big difference in the way him and Yusuf Pathan play, but they are equally dangerous and give Kolkata Knight Riders one of the best middle orders in the tournament. While Pathan is all about brute power, Morgan improvises, and how. He is a brilliant fielder, and imagining him and Pathan playing together in the last few overs of a innings is mouthwatering.
I look at this Deccan Chargers lineup, and the first thing I see is a lack of quality Indian players. I did see a good mix of international players, but the injury of Kevin Pietersen is making it look like the Deccan Chargers might struggle this year. But don't discount anything with street smart Sangakkara at the helm.
Sangakkara faces an uphill task of bringing this Chargers side to the knockout stages, but if anyone can do it, its this man. Charismatic and a true sportsman, Sangakkara will instill confidence in this lad's and that gives this Chargers side a glimmer of hope.
Consistency is a huge problem, but Cameron White is destructive and will prove a worthy deputy to Sangakkara. He is a matchwinner and his bowling can be handy as well. But all that doesn't matter if you have no consistency and Cameron White needs to show this in the IPL.
Two years ago, he was the talk of Indian cricket. A genuine pacemen, a wicket-taker and his Test series at Australia made him one of the integral cogs of the Indian team. Now, he is nowhere near contention in the Indian squad, his pace has dropped and he is low in confidence. He will need to be in form in Deccan Chargers want to progress. Thankfully for him, he has...
If there's anyone who can get Ishant Sharma back to form, it might as well be the best fast bowler in the world. Steyn is a thinking bowler with oodles of pace, and his partnership with Morne Morkel is probably the best fast bowling duo in the world. He will be the Chargers' spearhead and if he can bring back Ishant Sharma's confidence, he would be doing the Chargers as well as the Indian team a huge favour.
In the inaugral IPL, no one expected Rajasthan Royals to perform the way they performed. But two IPLs later, the Rajasthan Royals look like a side who would be happy to win a match one by one than a side capable of mounting a proper title challenge. But with Shane Warne at the helm, who knows what might happen? They also possess two matchwinners in Shane Watson and Ross Taylor.
The cleanest hitter of a six in the game. Ross Taylor can win you a match all by his own, and Royal Challengers Bangalore will be gutted to have not retained him. Taylor is also an astute leader and can instill a lot of confidence in his Rajasthan team.
The second matchwinner in this side and a handful with both the bat and the bowl. He will be expected to give the Royals blazing starts, and his bowling will be crucial to a side that looks light in everything. He will need to give another Man of the Series performance if Royals are to lift the trophy.
At the beginning of the IPL, people chuckled when the thought of Rahul Dravid being a success in the format was mentioned. But that's the thing with talented batsmen. If you have quality, you can be a success in any format. Rahul Dravid will need to act as the anchor in this side, and if he clicks, you can expect Rajasthan to be dangerous.
Last but not least, its the enigma. Its simple: they need Shane Warne to captain and bowl out his skin if they have any chance.
Read again tomorrow as I look at the other 5 teams in the tournament (Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils, Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Kings XI Punjab) and their chances to win any silverware, along with the key players that has bring them this.