The tenth edition of the IPL gets underway with the return of last year’s finalists: the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Sunrisers Hyderabad. The RCB team has had multiple setbacks even before the first ball of the tournament has been bowled: their talisman, Virat Kohli, is down with a shoulder injury, KL Rahul is set to miss the tournament completely, while budding star Sarfaraz Khan, who copped a leg injury during one of the training sessions, is most likely to sit out for the entire season.
In such a scenario, they lock horns with the Sunrisers Hyderabad, a team that has retained the core of its players from the triumphant 2016 side. They have also added some extra zing to their lineup by signing two Afghanistan players: Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi.
In Kohli’s absence, Shane Watson, who has previously captained the Rajasthan Royals, will take over the mantle of captaincy. He also hinted at playing up the order to balance the workload with Chris Gayle, who might have it tough in the initial stages after having had a below par Pakistan Super League.
The Sunrisers will be banking on their stars from the previous edition: David Warner, Yuvraj Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to get their IPL off to a solid start. Ashish Nehra, who missed a part of the previous season, will be back to put brakes in the opening overs.
Where: Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Uppal
Match date: April 5, 2017
When: 8 PM IST
If RCB bat first
Predicted score: 160 and above
With Chris Gayle and Shane Watson set to open, the likes of Nehra and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will aim to stifle the run flow in the first powerplay. The middle order looks a bit lean: with no KL Rahul or Sarfaraz Khan to chip in with their fireworks, there will be added pressure on Mandeep Singh and Kedar Jadhav to finish the innings with a flourish.
AB de Villiers is set to miss the first game, which means that Travis Head might be one of the players to complete the foreigners’ quota.
The Sunrisers were good at chasing last season, especially because of the way David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan closed in on the targets with their calculated aggression.
If SRH bat first
Predicted score: 170 and above
It will be ideal for RCB to send Hyderabad to bat in first, especially because of the jitters surrounding the first match of the season. With no Mitchell Starc, the RCB bowling has surely lost firepower, but have an X-factor in the form of Tymal Mills, who can prove to be a real thorn in the flesh with his crafty bowling.
The likes of Yuzvendra Chahal can be handy in the middle overs, and can easily derail a chase, as he showed during the final T20I against England, where he took six wickets to complete an India win in February.
The fact that Sunrisers won’t have Mustafizur Rahman in their ranks can be a big setback to them, but the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashish Nehra can clog the flow of runs in the death overs.
Probable winners: Sunrisers Hyderabad.