Ahead of the tenth season of the Indian Premier League, I analyse the strengths, weaknesses and the key performance indicators of the eight teams. IPL 2017 is set to commence on April 5th, with the first match of the season between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore in Hyderabad.
Last season, Hyderabad had the second lowest bowling average, the lowest economy rate and the lowest seam bowling average and economy rate. At the auction, they added Afghanistan’s spinners Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan to complement their seam bowling attack of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Barinder Sran and Mustafizur Rahman.
Last season, their spin attack recorded the highest average and economy rate among all teams. The two spinners therefore, will provide much-needed cover for their existing weakness in the spin bowling department. If both Nabi and Khan do play, Hyderabad’s bowling attack will have the makings of one of the best ever in T20 cricket.
Weakness: Indian middle order
Hyderabad's Indian middle order of Yuvraj Singh, Deepak Hooda and Naman Ojha scored just 20% of Hyderabad's runs last season. Fortunately, David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan’s form masked such deficiencies.
Key Performance Indicator: Indian middle order
If Hyderabad’s middle order do perform well it is likely they will be fairly successful. Their bowling attack is good enough to defend almost anything and with Warner and Dhawan at the top, contributions from that middle order will make them a formidable opponent.
Strength: Bowling attack
It remains to be seen how Delhi balance their overseas players. But with Chris Morris, Pat Cummins and Kagiso Rabada in their squad alongside Mohammad Shami and Amit Mishra, their bowling attack has enormous potential.
Weakness: Top order batting
After the withdrawals of Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy, Delhi’s top order batting looks alarmingly weak. Sam Billings is expected to join a very inexperienced group comprising Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Karun Nair, Sanju Samson and Aditya Tare.
Key Performance Indicator: Indian batting
Delhi’s team is packed with talented but young Indian batsmen. At least two of them are going to have to make significant contributions this season if they are to cover for the major losses of Duminy and de Kock.
Strength: Top order
Last season Gujarat had the highest run rate among all teams in the Powerplay and have added to their top order power of Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith, Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik with Jason Roy this season.
Weakness: Spin bowling
Gujarat Lions bought just one spinner at the auction this year, Tejas Baroka, a little-known leg spinner. He will join the inexperienced Shivil Kaushik and the now resting Ravindra Jadeja as Gujarat’s spinners. The news that Jadeja will miss at least the first three weeks of the season leaves them with two inexperienced wrist spinners and very little else.
Key Performance Indicator: Middle overs batting
Gujarat’s lower order batting is a concern: Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo and James Faulkner are all-rounders whose batting has always been their weaker suit and is declining. Ishan Kishan, likely to squeeze into the middle order, has been in good form but is inexperienced.
Critical to helping this lower order out will be ensuring they don’t come in too early, which therefore places importance on the performance of the top and middle order in the middle overs.
Kings XI Punjab
Strength: Overseas batting options
Punjab has six overseas batting options: Shaun Marsh, Martin Guptill, Hashim Amla, Eoin Morgan, David Miller and Glenn Maxwell. As captain Maxwell is a certain starter, it might leave Marsh, Amla, and Guptill, who is out injured for the start of the season, fighting over one spot and Morgan and Miller fighting over another. The other overseas spot is likely to be contested for by all-rounders Darren Sammy and Marcus Stoinis.
Weakness: Indian batting and spin bowling
Following the news that Murali Vijay will miss the entire season, Punjab has only one Indian batsman, Wriddhiman Saha, who is a certain pick in the team. Punjab’s other Indian batting options are Manan Vohra, Gurkeerat Singh, Armaan Jaffer, Rinku Singh and Nikhil Naik. At least two of them are likely to play. Punjab’s spin options are not much better. Axar Patel is their number one choice but their back-up options are Pardeep Sahu and Swapnil Singh.
Key Performance Indicator: Overseas players
Punjab is the only team in the IPL to not have a player who is in, or at the very least on the immediate fringes of, either of India’s limited overs teams. They are heavily reliant on their overseas players and the success of their season will depend largely on the overseas players they select and how well they fare.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Since Venky Mysore took over as Kolkata’s Managing Director and Gautam Gambhir as their captain before the 2011 season Kolkata have used just 48 players - by some distance the fewest of the five teams to have played all seasons since then. The stability of Kolkata’s team has bred a familiarity of roles amongst their players which in turn has brought specialisation and success.
Weakness: Adjusting to life after Russell
Historically, the strength of Kolkata’s Indian batting and the power of Russell down the order has allowed Kolkata to pick two overseas all-rounders and two overseas bowlers. That formula is under threat due to the absence of Russell and the poor availability and form of Shakib Al Hasan.
Woakes is likely to replace Russell in the team but is unlikely to match his scoring rate, leaving Kolkata in need of additional power. Lynn provides that option but selecting him will mean Kolkata adjusting an overseas balance that has served them well for two seasons now.
Key Performance Indicator: Chris Lynn
If Lynn does play - and he should - then how well he does will be hugely significant for the team. Lynn has historically struggled against spin but the indications more recently are that he is improving that aspect of his game.
Lynn is a powerful batsman as opposed to Russell the power-hitter; Lynn will be afforded the time to make a greater impact, and if he maintains his BBL form Kolkata’s batting will take on a new dimension.
Strength: Power hitting and bowling
With Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard, Jos Buttler and Krunal Pandya likely to bat in Mumbai’s top six and Lendl Simmons, Nicholas Pooran and Asela Gunaratne in reserve, Mumbai have one of the most powerful batting line-ups in the IPL.
If Mumbai maintain their historical preference for two overseas bowlers, their bowling line-up is also enviable: two of Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell McClenaghan and Tim Southee alongside Indian seamers Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya, and Indian spinners Harbhajan Singh and Krunal Pandya, with Karn Sharma in reserve.
Weakness: Opening partnership
Mumbai’s principal area of weakness last season was at the top of the order: their Powerplay run rate of 6.74 was the second worst in the league and their average of 22.76 was the worst. They had five different opening pairings - more than any other team, and their average opening partnership of 16.07 was the lowest among all teams.
Mumbai signed no new players at the auction to partner Rohit and unless they lose an overseas bowler to accommodate Simmons at the top of the order Mumbai will have to choose from the same Indian crop as last year.
Key Performance Indicator: Batting powerplay
If Mumbai sort out their opening partnership problem they will be a formidable team. Too often last season, Mumbai’s strong, although one-dimensional middle and lower order, was put in unfamiliar situations and left with too much to do.
Rising Pune Supergiant
Strength: Batting structure
A likely top six of Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Faf du Plessis, Steve Smith, Ben Stokes and MS Dhoni has a clear crescendo-like structure, in which roles are well-defined. Rajat Bhatia is their likely number seven, and with a career run rate of just 7.11 he signals a short batting order, so that top six are under pressure - but if they click they’ll post some decent scores.
Pune’s bowling attack is arguably the weakest in the IPL. Before Ravichandran Ashwin was ruled out with injury, their spin attack, with Imran Tahir and Adam Zampa, was their saving grace. But with only one of the wrist spinners likely to play, whichever one it is will have a hard time supporting a seam attack likely to comprise three of Stokes, Ashok Dinda, Ishwar Pandey and Jaydev Unadkat.
Key Performance Indicator: Powerplays
If Rahane and Agarwal can form a stable and busy opening partnership they will lay the platform for a stellar middle and lower order. Meanwhile, Dinda can be a wicket-taking threat in the Powerplay - if he can do that this season he might be able to mask their bowling deficiencies.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Last season Bangalore had the highest batting average and the highest run rate and had the second highest Powerplay run rate, highest middle overs run rate and highest death overs run rate. Despite Lokesh Rahul’s absence through injury Bangalore’s batting with Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Shane Watson and Kedar Jadhav likely to make up their top five, is still staggeringly good.
Weakness: Their home ground
While it may seem obvious that Bangalore’s bowling, which had the highest economy rate of all teams last season, is their weakness, the truth is altogether more complex. Bangalore’s home ground, the M. Chinnaswamy is such a good venue for batting - perhaps the best in world cricket - that it brings even weak batting teams, who are forced to attack furiously, into the game and with chasing teams winning 60% of matches it makes the toss hugely significant; of which Bangalore have won just 38% ever over nine seasons.
Key Performance Indicator: Tymal Mills
Last season Bangalore’s fourth overseas spot was occupied by Chris Jordan, Tabraiz Shamsi, David Wiese and Adam Milne. This season that spot is likely to be occupied by Tymal Mills, who although only having recently emerged, is highly regarded and his statistics, especially in the powerplay and at the death—critical phases of the match—are excellent. If Mills has a good season Bangalore will be considerably closer to that elusive IPL title.