2018 Indian Premier League: The Squads and Our Early Predictions
With the start of the 2018 Indian Premier League less than a month away, we have run the rule over the eight teams competing and made our prediction for cricket’s richest tournament.
The annual IPL auction is always packed with drama, and the 2018 edition in January was no exception. England all-rounder Ben Stokes fetched the highest price at a massive ₹12.5 crore (US$1.95 million) despite a looming court case, while Jaydev Unadkat was the most expensive Indian player at ₹11.5 crore (US$1.80 million).
Among the uncapped players, spinner Krunal Pandya topped the charts at ₹8.8 crore (US$1.38 million) . There were a few surprises among the players who went unsold, too, with England skipper Joe Root not attracting any suitors, while Father Time appears to have caught up with the once-lethal fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Lasith Malinga.
There was, of course, a flurry of excitement before the auction, too (there is almost always excitement when it comes to the IPL!), with the teams naming the players from their 2017 squad that they would be retaining, with each team able to retain a maximum of two players.
There was an extra twist this year, with the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals returning to the fray after serving out two-year suspensions. While the other six squads were able to retain players who were on their squad last year, the returning teams were able to “retain” players who were part of their 2015 squad and were not attached to one of the other six teams.
Now that the dust has settled, we can properly assess the strengths and weaknesses of the eight squads, but first a few reminders about the parameters for each squad.
- Squads must have between 18 and 25 players
- A maximum of eight overseas players are permitted in each squad
- No under-19 players may be selected unless they have played first-class or List A cricket
- Playing XIs cannot contain more than four overseas players
It’s the rules governing overseas players that are the most important to take note of; a squad that is packed full of international players may look good on paper, but be impossible to fully utilize. In previous editions of the tournament, it has often been young or uncapped Indian players who have proved key, with their ability to perform around a star-studded cast making the difference.
With that in mind, here is a look at the squads…
Chennai Super Kings (+600)
The Super Kings are back, and you can bet it will be with a bang. The Chennai outfit was one of the tournament’s perennial favorites before their suspension, and the two-time champions have wasted no time in retaking that mantle.
CSK is packed to the brim with match-winners: MS Dhoni, Faf du Plessis, Murali Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina, Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo – the list is almost endless! Throw in the fact that they have a squad that knows how to win, and they’ll be hard to beat.
The CSK pace attack looks questionable. If du Plessis, Watson, and Bravo play, then that leaves space for just one additional overseas player, and they’ll need to pick between either Mark Wood or Lungi Ngidi, and neither man boasts the international experience one would want from a frontline paceman. As a result, much will be required from the medium pacers. There could also be a case made that too many of the CSK stars are past their prime, as they boast 10 players over 30, four of whom are over 35.
MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, Karn Sharma, Shane Watson, Shardul Thakur, Ambati Rayudu, Murali Vijay, Harbhajan Singh, Faf du Plessis, Mark Wood, Sam Billings, Imran Tahir, Deepak Chahar, Mitchell Santner, Lungisani Ngidi, KM Asif, N Jagadeesan, Kanishk Seth, Monu Singh, Dhruv Shorey, Kshitiz Sharma, Chaitanya Bishnoi
Delhi Daredevils (+1100)
The IPL’s great underperformers will be hoping that the arrival of Gautam Gambhir, one of the competition’s most successful captains, will prove a turning point in their frustrating history.
A strong batting unit and a well-rounded squad should make Delhi a competitive team. Word out of the Australian camp is that Ricky Ponting is developing into a coach of the highest standard, and the former Australian skipper has the perfect opportunity to develop further as the Delhi coach. Look for Kagiso Rabada, Mohammad Shami, and Trent Boult to pose many problems with their pace.
Maxwell aside, the Daredevils might not have enough x-factor to challenge consistently at the backend of the tournament. Much will be required from Maxwell, and while Jason Roy and Rabada have the talent, neither are proven in India.
Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Chris Morris, Glenn Maxwell, Kagiso Rabada, Amit Mishra, Shahbaz Nadeem, Vijay Shankar, Rahul Tewatia, Mohammad Shami, Gautam Gambhir, Trent Boult, Colin Munro, Daniel Christian, Jason Roy, Naman Ojha, Prithvi Shaw, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Avesh Khan, Abhishek Sharma, Jayant Yadav, Harshal Patel, Manjot Kalra, Sandeep Lamichhane, Sayan Ghosh
Kings XI Punjab (+900)
After a number of disappointing seasons, the Kings XI have added some glitz to their squad in the experienced pair of Yuvraj Singh and Chris Gayle, but it’s the Australian trio of Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis, and AJ Tye who could be the key.
The Kings XI have a number of hard-hitting batsmen, so much so that coach Brad Hodge is going to have a headache deciding who to leave out! Chris Gayle is likely to be the overseas batsman to miss out, with Yuvraj, Finch, David Miller, Manoj Tiwary, KL Rahul, and Karun Nair likely to make up a strong batting order.
Wicketkeeper is likely to be a problem area for the Kings XI, with part-time keeper KL Rahul in line to take the gloves. Captaincy has proven problematic in the past two seasons when inexperienced skippers (first Miller and then Glenn Maxwell) struggled, and new captain Ravichandran Ashwin doesn’t have the experience that is likely to change that trend.
Axar Patel, KL Rahul, Ravichandran Ashwin, AJ Tye, Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis, Karun Nair, Mujeeb Zadran, Ankit Singh Rajpoot, David Miller, Mohit Sharma, Barinder Singh Sran, Yuvraj Singh, Christopher Gayle, Ben Dwarshuis, Akshdeep Nath, Manoj Tiwary, Mayank Agarwal, Manzoor Dar, Pardeep Sahu, Mayank Dagar
Kolkata Knight Riders (+600)
The 2018 season sees something of a changing of the guard for the Knight Riders, with Gautam Gambhir, who led the franchise with great success, requesting the opportunity to join his home-town team, Delhi. In addition, Kolkata has invested in youth in the form of Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti, who were part of the victorious India under-19 World Cup team.
Spin will once again be at the forefront for the Knight Riders. Sunil Narine has developed into one of the masters of the art of spin in limited overs cricket, and the West Indian will be ably assisted by Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav.
In a slightly bizarre turn of events, the Knight Riders only selected a squad of 19 players, six below the squad maximum and two less than the next smallest squad. With few reserves, Kolkata can’t afford injuries to key players, and they’ve already suffered two in the build-up, with Chris Lynn in doubt due to a shoulder injury and Andre Russell sidelined by a hamstring strain. Among the fast bowlers, Mitchell Starc has struggled with injury of late, and Mitchell Johnson is far from the young gun he once was – injuries to either man could prove costly.
Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Chris Lynn, Mitchell Starc, Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa, Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Nitish Rana, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Mitchell Johnson, Shubman Gill, Ranganath Vinay Kumar, Rinku Singh, Cameron Delport, Javon Searless, Apoorv Vijay Wankhade, Ishank Jaggi
Mumbai Indians (+450)
The defending champions have done well to retain the core of the squad that saw them secure the title in 2017, and they’ll most certainly be in the mix for glory again this year.
A strong all-round unit will propel Mumbai in 2018. Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, and Krunal Pandya could be joined in the starting XI by Ben Cutting, and with Pat Cummins’ batting coming along at a rapid rate, Mumbai will bat deep and bat big.
Mumbai is short on options at the top of the order, and this will likely mean that skipper Rohit Sharma will have to open. Spin is often the key on the subcontinent, but it’s an area where Mumbai doesn’t have many options, and that could prove costly.
Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Krunal Pandya, Ishan Kishan, Kieron Pollard, Pat Cummins, Evin Lewis, Suryakumar Yadav, Ben Cutting, Mustafizur Rahman, Rahul Chahar, Pradeep Sangwan, Jason Behrendorff, Jean-Paul Duminy, Saurabh Tiwary, Tajinder Dhillon, Akila Dhananjaya, Nidheesh M D Dinesan, Aditya Tare, Siddhesh Dinesh Lad, Mayank Markande, Sharad Lumba, Anukul Roy, Mohsin Khan
Rajasthan Royals (+600)
The Royals join Chennai in returning to the fray after suspension, and they’ve made their presence felt already with two big statement buys at the auctions – the two most expensive purchases, Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat, will be in the blue of the Royals this season.
The talents of Steven Smith and Ajinkya Rahane are nicely complemented by the big hitting of Stokes and Jos Buttler in the middle order, while D’Arcy Short is one to watch should he get a chance at the top of the order. With the aforementioned foursome leading the way, the Royals should post some big scores.
The Royals are light on spin options, and their bench strength on the whole is not great. A lot of the bowling load will have to be shouldered by the all-rounders, with Unadkat the only out-and-out bowler who the Royals prioritized at the auction. Royals fans will have fingers crossed that their English and Australian players don’t have their time cut short due to international commitments, as they’re hugely reliant on players from those nations and are short on capped Indian players.
Steve Smith, Ben Stokes, Jaydev Unadkat, Sanju Samson, Jofra Archer, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jos Buttler, Ajinkya Rahane, D’Arcy Short, Rahul Tripathi, Dhawal Kulkarni, Zahir Khan Pakteen, Ben Laughlin, Stuart Binny, Dushmantha Chameera, Anureet Singh, Aryaman Vikram Birla, Midhun S, Shreyas Gopal, Prashant Chopra, Jatin Saxena, Ankit Sharma, Mahipal Lomror
Royal Challengers Bangalore (+450)
Can the perennial underachievers finally find a winning combination? After struggling for depth in their bowling attack last time out, Bangalore recruited Chris Woakes, Tim Southee, and Umesh Yadav, but it’s the arrival of wily veteran batsman Brendon McCullum that might just prove the last piece of the puzzle.
It’s tough to know where to start! Bangalore has a ton of depth in their squad at almost every position, and they aren’t overly reliant on overseas players; the foreign contingent provides some highlights and neatly complements a strong Indian core. A batting line-up that could include McCullum, Virat Kohli, and AB de Villiers will ooze class.
There aren’t any glaring weaknesses in the RCB squad, and their biggest challenge is likely to be finding the right balance in their starting XI. Historically, the lower middle order has been problematic for RCB, and it’s an issue they’ll need to rectify.
Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Sarfaraz Khan, Chris Woakes, Yuzvendra Chahal, Umesh Yadav, Brendon McCullum, Washington Sundar, Navdeep Saini, Quinton de Kock, Mohammed Siraj, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Colin de Grandhomme, M. Ashwin, Parthiv Patel, Moeen Ali, Mandeep Singh, Manan Vohra, Pawan Negi, Tim Southee, Kulwant Khejroliya, Aniket Choudhary, Pavan Deshpande, Anirudha Ashok Joshi
Sunrisers Hyderabad (+450)
The 2016 champions once again look a strong side, and one that’s full of leaders, too, with skipper David Warner joined by New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan. Hyderabad did well to secure the services of the core of their previous squad despite only retaining Warner and Bhuvneshwar Kumar prior to the auction, with Shikhar Dhawan, Deepak Hooda, and Rashid Khan Arman acquired through the Right to Match card.
Warner, Williamson, and Dhawan will provide a powerful top order, and much of the Sunrisers’ success will depend on their ability to deliver consistently. Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, and Shakib have made the switch from KKR and add some handy experience.
Having failed in their bid to re-sign Ben Cutting, Hyderabad will be a bit over-reliant on Carlos Braithwaite to deliver the big hits late in the game. Hyderabad might also struggle to find the right balance of overseas players. Warner and Rashid are certainties for the starting XI, and that leaves just two spots remaining for foreign players, and you imagine that Williamson will take one of those places, leaving a lot for the Indian all-rounders and bowlers to shoulder.
David Warner, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Manish Pandey, Rashid Khan Arman, Shikhar Dhawan, Wriddhiman Saha, Siddarth Kaul, Deepak Hooda, Syed Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Kane Williamson, Carlos Brathwaite, Shakib Al Hasan, Yusuf Pathan, Shreevats Goswami, Mohammad Nabi, Chris Jordan, Basil Thampi, T Natarajan, Sachin Baby, Bipul Sharma, Syed Mehdi Hasan, Ricky Bhui, Tanmay Agarwal
On paper, Royal Challengers Bangalore look to have a squad that has the potential to finally end the franchise’s title drought – unfortunately, it’s not the first time they’ve been labeled favorites! AB de Villiers’ lack of form of late will be of concern to Daniel Vettori, but on the other side of the coin, Virat Kohli has been in such spectacular form that between the pair, runs appear guaranteed. A lot will depend on Yuzvendra Chahal, who took more wickets in T20Is in 2017 than any other player, and given that he’s started 2018 with a bang, the signs are good for Bangalore. With such a well-rounded squad, this is Bangalore’s best shot yet.
If you’re not sold on Bangalore, then the returning Chennai Super Kings are worth a bet. If this was 2015, then the current Super Kings squad would be near-unbeatable, but despite many of their big names being a bit long in the tooth, this is a squad that knows how to win and has proven it. The IPL has proven the burial ground of many reputations, but the likes of MS Dhoni, Shane Watson, Suresh Raina, and Dwayne Bravo will be out to prove they’re far from finished.
Their lack of depth is a concern, but as discussed earlier, they have such a strong core that if their key men are on form, there could be carnage. That’s a big if, though…
Backing the Mumbai Indians is never a bad thing, and they’ll once again be in the mix of it. Can they make it back-to-back titles? The lack of a true match-winning spinner looks like a fatal flaw, but don’t count them out.