Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 25 April 2019

Rashid Khan set to shine as Chennai Super Kings look good to retain title: Indian Premier League 2019 predictions

Ahead of the 12th edition of the world's most popular and lucrative T20 tournament, three staff members provide their thoughts on a series of predictions

Defending champions Chennai Super Kings are among the leading contenders to win the 2019 Indian Premier League title. AP Photo
Defending champions Chennai Super Kings are among the leading contenders to win the 2019 Indian Premier League title. AP Photo

As the 12th season of the Indian Premier League gets under way in Chennai on Saturday, there is very little to choose between the sides.

Firstly, this is Twenty20 cricket. It is a format that evens the playing field because anything can happen within a short span of three-and-some hours between two differently-matched teams. Secondly, all the franchises – except Chennai Super Kings – pretty much start from scratch, having brought in new players who are likely to take time to gel together.

Finally, there is the Cricket World Cup to follow shortly thereafter, which means many of the international players across franchises are going to commit only a certain amount of time to the tournament before flying back to join their respective national teams.

Keeping these pointers in mind, three Indian members of The National’s staff make their predictions.

CHAMPIONS

Rajesh Korde, Production Editor

Chennai Super Kings. Season 12 looks to be tight, especially with the World Cup around the corner. Most of the key players will try to keep themselves fit and in form for the bigger event. To me, Chennai Super Kings will retain the title. They have the composition of a well-balanced team, consistency and excellent overall statistics.

Kumar Shyam, Production Editor

Sunrisers Hyderabad. They have always looked like middleweights who keep punching above their weight. Champions in 2016 and runners-up last year, they have brought Jonny Bairstow, Wriddhiman Saha and Martin Guptill while releasing Alex Hales, Shikhar Dhawan and Carlos Brathwaite to suggest a measured fine-tuning by coach Tom Moody and captain Kane Williamson. With David Warner expected to explode after sitting on the international sidelines through suspension, Hyderabad could go all the way this year.

Chitrabhanu Kadalayil, Assistant Sports Editor

Chennai Super Kings. Had it been a non-World Cup season, Sunrisers Hyderabad would have been runaway title contenders. For precisely this reason, Chennai are favourites in 2019. Dwayne Bravo and Shane Watson - last year’s man of the final - do not play international cricket. Suresh Raina is on the India sidelines for now, which will likely make him even more determined to score heavily and prove the national selectors wrong. Chennai are also the most successful IPL side ever, and they have a tight – even if ageing – unit ably led by MS Dhoni.

BEST BATSMAN

Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli is one of the IPL's leading run scorers. AP Photo
Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli is one of the IPL's leading run scorers. AP Photo

RK: Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore). Three years ago, he came close to scoring 1,000 runs in a single season (973 – the highest ever aggregate by any batsman in one IPL season). Given his current form and hunger for runs, I won't be surprised if the RCB captain takes the ‘Orange Cap’ given to the highest run-scorer.

KS: David Warner (Sunrisers Hyderabad). There is nothing more dangerous in cricket than when an Australian finds himself scorned and with his back to the wall. One of Warner's two chances to get in the World Cup squad went begging when he had a minor elbow injury during the Bangladesh Premier League earlier this year. With Aaron Finch ending his form drought with a century against Pakistan in Sharjah on Friday, and given Usman Khawaja’s recent run in India, Warner has no option but to go all out to regain the opener’s slot in the Australia side. And he will.

Cb: Suresh Raina (Chennai Super Kings). The left-hander is not the archetypal Twenty20 player. He doesn’t blast a lot of sixes, has a compact technique, and relies more on flair than brawn to score his runs. Yet, he tops the run chart in the IPL. Recent form and fitness issues forced him out of the national team. Even though he is unlikely to make the World Cup squad, he will want to remind the selectors of his class. That he is a top-order batsman gives him the opportunity to score big for his side. Expect a run feast from him.

BEST BOWLER

Rashid Khan is expected to play a pivotal role for Sunrisers Hyderabad. AFP
Rashid Khan is expected to play a pivotal role for Sunrisers Hyderabad. AFP

RK: Rashid Khan (Sunrisers Hyderabad). Last IPL season, he impressed one and all with his 21-wicket haul. This makes him the bowler to watch out for in 2019. Although not a big turner of the ball, he puts batsmen under constant pressure by bowling quickly through the air. He also maintains a stump-to-stump line.

KS: Rashid Khan (Sunrisers Hyderabad). According to the ‘Best Bowling Impact’ index developed by CricViz, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders have the two most potent bowling attacks. The rest of the teams do not come close. It is hard then to look beyond two spinners – Rashid Khan (Hyderabad) and Sunil Narine (Kolkata). The latter happens to be the first overseas spinner to take 100 IPL wickets. But given Narine may have the additional responsibility of makeshift opener, Rashid will have an edge.

Cb: Sunil Narine (Kolkata Knight Riders). The ICC has had an issue with his bowling action. He has also been saddled with the additional responsibility of opening for Kolkata. And yet, Narine is the best spinner to have played in the IPL. The West Indian is best classified a “mystery spinner” – no one can quite tell if he is a leggie or an office – and it is probably one of the reasons he takes plenty of wickets. He is also nicely settled in this KKR side. Expect him to continue ambling in, seemingly effortlessly, and bumfuzzling opposition batsmen this season.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Lockie Ferguson, third right, has been one of the best bowlers in world cricket this year. Getty
Lockie Ferguson, third right, has been one of the best bowlers in world cricket this year. Getty

RK: AB de Villiers (Royal Challengers Bangalore). The South African wicketkeeper-batsman has always been a crucial player for RCB. Only this time he won't have to worry about keeping himself fresh for the World Cup as he has retired from international cricket. Fans will be eager to see how he fares in the tournament.

KS: Lockie Ferguson (Kolkata Knight Riders). The New Zealand seamer has fast grown in his role as understudy to the veteran pair of Trent Boult and Tim Southee. He is the best bowler this year, even impressing on the flat wickets of the UAE in a series against Pakistan last year. A match-winner in the Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka in January, he has a variety of weapons at his disposal, including yorkers, short balls and slower deliveries. He could be a handful while bowling in tandem with teammate Sunil Narine.

Cb: Ishan Kishan (Mumbai Indians). At least at this stage, it seems two players are going to be vying for the wicketkeeper’s position in the India team over the coming decade. One of them – Rishabh Pant of Delhi Capitals – is already establishing himself in the national side, while it is a matter of when and not if Kishan starts to force the selectors to give him a shot. An aggressive top-order batsman, Kishan is also a decent stumper. Nonetheless, he needs to gain more experience. But there is something special about the left-hander: he has an easy confidence about him, and yet seems driven while on the pitch. Mumbai Indians will be right to hope he follows up on a successful debut season in 2018.

PLAYER TO DISAPPOINT

Could Yuvraj Singh prove to be a liability for the Mumbai Indians? AFP
Could Yuvraj Singh prove to be a liability for the Mumbai Indians? AFP

RK: Shikhar Dhawan (Delhi Capitals). There are always a lot of expectations from this left-handed opening batsman. But he has been scoring just above average. Although back with his first team, Delhi, he will be in a lot of pressure to perform in front of the home crowd and keep his place in the World Cup.

KS: Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore). The Bangalore captain has in the past shouldered the burden of scoring runs without losing focus. But I predict he will not live up to his humongous reputation this term, which will count as a disappointment. Iit may not be a bad thing from an Indian perspective as fans would rather he focus less on IPL than on the 50-over World Cup.

Cb: Yuvraj Singh (Mumbai Indians). India’s veteran batsman has been one of the most publicised trades at the draft having been snapped up by Mumbai. The IPL journeyman – he has played for five other franchises – will no doubt lend plenty of experience to the youngsters in the side. But how he bats at this level is left to be seen. Yuvraj’s creaking body and uncertainty in batting position may even make him a liability to the side. He will likely sparkle on the odd occasion, but his acquisition will end up backfiring.

Updated: March 23, 2019 05:49 PM

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