Cricket has been revolutionized by the Indian Premier League (IPL). The league, now valued at over $5 billion, has been copied all around the world, including in the Caribbean, England, Australia and Pakistan. T20 cricket, the newest and shortest form of the game, lasts only around three hours, unlike Test cricket which spans five days. The result has been an emphasis on power hitting and bowling variety which has provided a new style of entertainment for millions of fans, including a new wave of fantasy cricket players.
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The IPL is now firmly established as one of the most popular sporting events in the world, attracting star players from across the globe to enter into the IPL auction. The addition of two new franchises – the Lucknow Super Giants and the Gujarat Titans – stands to further increase the quality and competitiveness of the IPL, with every team having had to rebuild their teams in this year’s recently concluded IPL 2022 Mega Auction.
Every IPL team’s 25 man squad contains a mixture of homegrown Indian talent and eight overseas stars. But with only four overseas players allowed on the field of play for any given match, finding the right balance for the first-choice XI is essential if a franchise wants to be successful. But having back-ups who can slot in without causing too much disruption is also vital. T20 cricket may not be as physically demanding as Test cricket, but there will be 74 matches played across just two months.
But which sides have emerged from the IPL 2022 Mega Auction in the best shape and who will be regretting missing out on their first choice targets? Will the record-champions Mumbai Indians recover from a disappointing season in 2021 to finish on top yet again, or might their great rivals Chennai Super Kings mount a successful defence of the title they won last year? How will the new franchises Lucknow Super Giants and Gujarat Titans fare on their first outing?
Lucknow Super Giants
The brand new franchise spent big in the auction to assemble what looks a formidable team on paper. KL Rahul is the captain and star man, with the Indian firmly established as one of the most effective batters in IPL history. South Africa’s de Kock will provide him with able support in opening the batting, with the middle-order well stocked with hard-hitting all-rounders in Marcus Stoinis, Deepak Hooda, Krunal Pandya and Jason Holder. If the Super Giants can gel quickly, they will surely be the team to beat.
Led by opening-batsman Rohit Sharma, India’s white-ball captain, the IPL’s most valuable franchise look a strong side heading into the IPL. The loss of de Kock is a blow, but the twin purchases of Ishan Kishan and Tim David, both of whom signed for over $1 million, has strengthened their batting line-up, whilst fast-bowler Jasprit Bumrah remains one of the best in the business. That said, this does not look like the strongest Mumbai Indians side in recent memory.
Chennai Super Kings
The defending champions have had to rebuild their side, but they have retained some of the core that led them to the title in 2021. Ravindra Jadeja, Darren Bravo and Deepak Chahar have vital roles to play as the all-rounders. Josh Hazlewood will be a big miss. But there is plenty of power with the bat at the top of the order in Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devon Conway and Moeen Ali. They also have the most experienced captain in the league in the veteran MS Dhoni.
The Royals real strength is in their bowling attack. Pace bowler Prasidh Krishna has been in great form, cutting a swathe through the West Indies recently while on India duty. The quality of spinners R Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal is well-established. They lack experience at the top with Devdutt Padikkal and Yashasvi Jaiswal both young, but there is plenty of power in the middle order in Sanju Samson and Jos Buttler, as well as a deep pool of talent. They might just be a dark horse for a deep run this year.
The nearly men of the last cycle, it is a fresh look for Delhi Capitals heading into the 2022 IPL. But the top order looks very strong with openers David Warner and Prithvi Shaw a potentially destructive combination, whilst Mitchell Marsh and Rishabh Pant are amongst the best around at three and four. But missing out on Kagiso Rabada was a blow and much will depend on Anrich Nortje’s fitness. Still, the Capitals have enough quality to go toe-to-toe with anyone and come out on top.
Punjab Kings spent big money bringing Liam Livingstone and Rabada into their side. Both look like shrewd acquisitions, particularly the Englishman Livingstone. There are few batters more explosive, and he can also bowl handy overs of spin. With the versatile Johnny Bairstow also in the side, as well as established India stars Shikhar Dhawan and Mayank Agarwal, Punjab Kings look as well-stocked as any side at the conclusion of the IPL Mega Auction.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Kolkata thrived in the UAE last season, but they have struggled on Indian soil in recent years and again look to have a slightly imbalanced squad. Pat Cummins brings great name recognition as Australia’s Test skipper, but T20 cricket does not play to his strengths. It will be interesting to see him bowl in partnership with the vastly experienced Tim Southee however. Much will depend on how well Shreyas Iyer bats. KKR spent big to bring him in and that is a gamble that must pay off if they are to be competitive.
The Sunrisers are another team who have struggled in recent editions of the IPL and this could be another lean year for them. Kane Williamson’s quality is beyond doubt, but the New Zealand captain has been battling an elbow injury and batting stocks look light if he is absent. South Africa’s Aiden Markram is a power-hitter, but he has not generally opened in T20 cricket of late. Don’t expect Sunrisers to trouble the playoffs this time around.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Virat Kohli will once again lead the way for RCB, with the vastly experienced Faf du Plessis a potential partner for him at the top of the order. But neither man is the sort of explosive batter that has become so valuable in T20 cricket. They will need the ‘Big Show’ Glenn Maxwell to fire as a result. The addition of Hazlewood to the side looks a wise move, however. The Australian quick has been one of the form T20 bowlers over the last year and excelled for Australia against Sri Lanka recently.
Their cautious approach to the auction seemed odd, but they ended up with a strong side. Jason Roy was a steal and should prove a very effective partner to Shubman Gill in opening the batting. Matthew Wade has reinvented himself as a finisher for Australia and those are in short supply. Captain Hardik Pandya is capable of performing a similar role, whilst there are few spinners more effective than Rashid Khan. Don’t underestimate what Gujarat can do in this year’s IPL. Even the title might not be beyond them.