Rising Pune Supergiant
Likely XI: Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Faf Du Plessis, Steve Smith (capt), MS Dhoni (wk), Ben Stokes, Manoj Tiwary, Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir, Ashok Dinda, Ankit Sharma.
Strengths: The Supergiants have a strong batting lineup, with Rahane, Du Plessis, the man in the middle of a golden run skipper Steve Smith and one of the most prolific finishers in MS Dhoni. They also boast a quality all rounder like Ben Stokes, who can make a difference with both the bat and the ball. They have a world class spinner Imran Tahir in their ranks alongside Adam Zampa, who performed well in the previous IPL season.
Weakness: Pune lack firepower in the pace bowling department. Ashok Dinda can leak a lot of runs while Jaydev Unadkat is not quite fluent in his line and length. The opposition batsmen would be looking to dominate them from the first ball. Ashwin's injury is also going to hurt them. They don't have much backup for their batting lineup, which is why they suffered last year after injuries to Smith, Du Plessis, Pietersen and Marsh.
Chances: Their batting seems quite strong on paper. If the bowlers do their bit, RPSG would be a difficult side to beat. Under the leadership of new skipper Steve Smith, who has come in from a hard fought series against India, Rising Pune Supergiant will be keen to make up for their disappointing debut last season.
Likely XI: Sanju Samson(wk), Rishabh Pant, Karun Nair, Aditya Tare, Angelo Mathews, Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Morris, Amit Mishra, Zaheer Khan (capt), Mohammed Shami, Pat Cummins.
Strengths: Delhi seems to have a perfect blend of talented youngsters while boasting of versatile, experienced, international all rounders like Angelo Mathews, Corey Anderson, Carlos Brathwaite and Chris Morris. Delhi Daredevils have one of the most balanced squads. Talk about the bowling lineup and the experience of Zaheer Khan and Mohammed Shami along with IPL specialist spinner in the form of Amit Mishra, Delhi Daredevils look quite a formidable side on paper. With Kagiso Rabada and hot property Pat Cummins, who recently created a lasting impression in the Test series, this bowling keeps getting better. This is not to mention their phenomenal bench strength.
Weakness: The absence of Quinton De Kock and JP Duminy will hurt. The rest of the batting lacks international exposure. With Zaheer Khan not playing competitive cricket and Mohammed Shami returning from injuries, it will be interesting to see how they rebuild and cope.
Chances: Delhi Daredevils have been known for being one of the most inconsistent sides of the IPL and this can be an exciting chance for them to shut off their detractors. Stars like Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant who proved their credentials time and again in the domestic arena will look forward to making a considerable impact for Delhi. The side looks quite promising and if they can live up to expectations, there's no stopping them. They also have quality backups in their squad.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Likely XI: Gautam Gambhir (capt), Robin Uthappa (wk), Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan, Chris Woakes, Suryakumar Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Trent Boult, Sunil Narine.
Strengths: Kolkata Knight Riders have always been a side with tremendous balance. Gautam Gambhir's captaincy will be key to KKR's success. The presence of Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey at the top order has been exemplary for KKR in the past. They can brag of stupendous all rounders and power hitters in Shakib Al Hasan and Yusuf Pathan, who can smash any bowler out of the park on a given day. They have a decent spin attack as well with Piyush Chawla, Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav. Trent Boult can be something special for the two time IPL champions.
Weakness: Andre Russell has been the most valuable player for KKR and his ban from competitive cricket for a year is going to dent this side. The pace attack looks a little off-colour if Umesh Yadav isn’t playing. This can be quite vulnerable unless the other bowlers step up.
Chances: Without Russell, Kolkata might be missing their star, but they can still make it big with quality match-winners. They are an exceptional team with renowned players like Yusuf, Shakib and Chris Woakes, who can make a significant contribution to the side. The spinners have also done remarkably well.
Kings XI Punjab
Likely XI: Manan Vohra, Martin Guptill, Glenn Maxwell (capt), Eoin Morgan, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Marcus Stoinis, Gurkeerat Singh, Axar Patel, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma, Varun Aaron.
Strengths: With big hitters like Martin Guptill, Eoin Morgan and Glenn Maxwell, this batting lineup has the potential to turn games around in a few deliveries. They've got a good mix of domestic players and it will be interesting to see how they demonstrate their talent at this level. Marcus Stoinis is an astounding all rounder.
Weakness: With Murali Vijay missing this year's IPL due to injury, there's one less Indian player for the Kings XI Punjab. The bowling lineup lacks big names and if the Indian bowlers don't deliver, KXIP could be facing another off season. They also don't have a quality backup wicketkeeper for Saha.
Chances: Since they have fewer marquee players, the Indian players will have to step up and deliver to their true potential. If that happens, then KXIP will worry about fewer things. Under their new skipper, Maxwell, KXIP would be longing to prove their mettle. The form of Maxwell and Morgan will be pivotal for Punjab, since they both can change the fate of the game.
Likely XI: Brendon McCullum, Jason Roy, Dwayne Smith, Suresh Raina (capt), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Ishan Kishan, James Faulkner, Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar, Shivil Kaushik, Nathu Singh.
Strengths: The Gujarat Lions boast a fiery top order with attacking batsmen like McCullum, Finch and the recently acquired Jason Roy. They also have impressive all rounders in Faulkner and Dwayne Smith, who have time and again shown their match winning abilities with bat and ball. Suresh Raina would be raring to go with the bat.
Weakness: The absence of significant all rounders Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo for the first leg will affect Gujarat's prospects. Praveen Kumar and Kulkarni have not been quite consistent with their lengths. The bowling lineup lacks players with international experience. They will have to stand out and deliver some sensational performances.
Chances: The Gujarat Lions have got a good mix of the Indian and foreign players. The batting order is gigantic but their bowling doesn’t inspire confidence. Overall they look excellent but need to put some efforts to get a notch above the others. They will not be an easy team to beat under any circumstances. After a splendid season last year, they'll be looking to get a head start. A lot depends on Jadeja and Bravo regaining fitness at the earliest.
Likely XI: Rohit Sharma (capt), Parthiv Patel (wk), Ambati Rayudu, Jos Buttler, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell McLenaghan, Jaspreet Bumrah, Mitchell Johnson.
Strengths: The 2015 champions will be high on confidence. The in-form Parthiv and the elegant Rohit will start the proceedings for the Mumbai Indians. Pollard and the Pandyas are great athletes on the field. They acquired Buttler in the auctions who played some lavish knocks in the WT20. Even the bowling looks in a good shape with Mclengahan and Bumrah in the mix. With the return of veteran Malinga back into the mix, it would be high time he unleashes his toe crushing yorkers in the slog overs. The bench strength looks solid with Asela Gunaratne and Nicholas Pooran providing depth.
Weakness: Harbhajan Singh hasn't been at his best for a long time. And yet MI lack names in the spin fold. Karn Sharma doesn't look as effective as he seemed at the beginning of his career. They don't have many other drawbacks and look quite a formidable unit.
Chances: One of the most consistent outfits, the two time IPL champions will hope to win their 3rd title in five years. In the last few seasons, they haven't begun well, so they'll be looking to fire from the beginning. MI not only bat deep, but also have the capability of simply batting the opponent out of the game. Undoubtedly the favourites for this IPL season, with most of their bases covered.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Likely XI: Chris Gayle, Mandeep Singh, Travis Head, Kedhar Jadhav (wk), Shane Watson, Sachin Baby, Stuart Binny, Pawan Negi, Yuzvendra Chahal, Tymal Mill, Sreenath Aravind.
Strengths: Royal Challengers Bangalore possess an astonishing batting lineup with the magnificent Gayle and the stupendous AB De Villiers. Shane Watson has been one of the finest all rounders in the shortest format. Yuzvendra Chahal and Kedhar Jadhav have done exceedingly well in the international arena lately and RCB will be banking on them.
Weakness: RCB are going to miss the backbone of their batting, skipper Virat Kohli, due to an injured shoulder. KL Rahul’s injury also comes as a huge blow. Their bench strength is quite ordinary which might hurt their prospects if the top players fail to perform. The absence of Starc will affect their pace attack. RCB may have concerns with their bowling. Thus, they will expect better performance from the Indian bowlers in absence of the stalwarts.
Chances: The kind of batting sensations RCB have in their team, they can win any game singlehandedly on their day. It will be difficult for any bowling lineup to contain them or restrict the run flow. RCB hope their captain Kohli gets back in shape soon. They have a well-rounded, explosive team and if things fall at the right place, this season could well belong to them after having missed out last year for a whisker.
Likely XI: Shikhar Dhawan, David Warner (capt), Kane Williamson, Yuvraj Singh, Naman Ojha (wk), Mohammed Nabi, Deepak Hooda, Ashish Nehra, Barinder Sran, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rashid Khan.
Strengths: The Sunrisers have a destructive top order featuring Dhawan, Warner, Williamson and Yuvraj, who can do some serious damage to the opposition. The spin department also looks splendid with Rashid Khan joining in. His teammate Mohammed Nabi can provide some much need balance to the SRH team.
Weakness: The pace bowling department looks a bit clawless without Mustafizur Rahman. While Ashish Nehra doesn't have age by his side, Barinder Sran's inexperience won't help either. SRH doesn't have enough power hitters in the end to give the finishing touches. Moreover, they're short on Indian bench strengths.
Chances: The defending champions will be high on confidence after last year's dream run. The onus would again be on openers Warner and Dhawan to tear apart the opposition and on Bhuvneshwar Kumar to pick early wickets. If they can overcome their shortcomings, SRH look good enough to sneak through the playoffs.
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