Freddie Wilde’s IPL Predictions.
Last season Mumbai played a lot better than their fifth placed finish suggests. They were unfortunate to be on the wrong end of a handful of close matches. A bit of luck here and there and they could comfortably have made the Play Offs. This season Mumbai have one of the strongest Indian cores in the competition with Rohit, Suryakumar and Kishan above all rounders Hardik and Krunal and India’s best bowler Bumrah. Around these star Indians they have a plethora of exciting overseas players with cover in each department: de Kock and Lewis at the top of the order, Pollard and Cutting as all rounders, Milne and Malinga as right-arm quicks and Behrendorff and McClenaghan as left-arm quicks. The main area for concern for Mumbai is the spin attack with a lot of responsibility resting on Krunal and the young Markande. The fitness and availability of Bumrah and Hardik – likely to be closely monitored by the BCCI – will be key.
Top Four: KKR
KKR have retained the core of their strong team from last season who finished third before being eliminated in Qualifier 2. Their squad will be almost totally unaffected by World Cup call-ups with Chris Lynn the only player who may have to leave early. The fitness of Andre Russell and Sunil Narine – both of whom have been nursing injuries of late – will be pivotal but if they stay fit their team is well-balanced and has cover in most departments: Lynn, Narine and Uthappa are a very dangerous Powerplay trio above the middle order engine room of Rana, Karthik and Gill, with Russell assuming the power-hitting responsibilities. Narine, Kuldeep and Chawla make up a superb spin attack. The pace bowling is the most obvious potential weakness with young Indian quicks Nagarkoti, Mavi and Krishna alongside IPL newbies Gurney, Nortje and Ferguson. However, what these bowlers lack in experience they make up for in quality and variation. If Narine and Russell stay fit it is hard to see KKR not making the top four, if they don’t then KKR’s lack of depth may be exposed.
Top Four: SRH
SRH are becoming one of the most consistent teams in the IPL having reached at least the Play Off stage for three consecutive seasons. After finishing runners up last year – only beaten by one of the great IPL innings in the Final by Shane Watson – SRH have made some minor tweaks to their squad and this year they look even stronger. They have retained their exceptional bowling attack, led by Bhuvneshwar and Rashid but supported by plenty of depth. Their batting will be boosted by the return of Warner after his ban and they have found cover for him when he departs for the World Cup in Guptill. With Williamson also in the top order SRH’s overseas batting looks formidable. Bairstow also gives them an alternative wicket-keeping option to Saha. The addition of finger spinner Shabhaz Nadeem, part of a three-way trade with Delhi, gives them the potential to be a bit more flexible with their overseas players with less reliance on Shakib and Nabi. The main area of concern is the Indian batting. With Dhawan traded to Delhi Pandey needs to step up and justify his large auction price, especially when Warner and Bairstow leave for World Cup duty.
Top Four: DC
The battle for fourth will be fierce with any of the remaining five teams capable of challenging for the spot. The injury to Lungi Ngidi is a huge blow to Chennai’s hopes who may end up being pipped to the spot by a young and vibrant Delhi team. Delhi’s Indian batting core is exceptional and will be well supported – but not entirely reliant on – Ingram or Munro. The overseas bowling is exceptional with Rabada and Morris likely to be joined in the XI by Lamichhane. Indian pace bowling is a concern but if Morris misses out on World Cup selection Delhi should be able to mask their shortcomings in that area.
It is hard to call who might finish bottom this season, all of CSK, Rajasthan, Delhi, Kings XI and RCB have notable flaws but also have match-winners. Of those four Rajasthan will be most affected by World Cup absentees with Stokes, Buttler and Archer – all certain to start for Rajasthan – likely to be withdrawn early for England’s World Cup preparation. Turner, signed as cover for Stokes, may also have to depart. Fitness doubts remain over Smith as well. That only leaves Sodhi, Livingstone and Thomas as overseas players for Rajasthan. If the Royals had a strong Indian core they might be able to protect themselves against these losses but their Indian players – Samson and Gowtham aside – are underwhelming: Rahane needs to elevate his strike rate while Tripathi failed to replicate his exceptional 2017, Kulkarni and Unadkat will carry a lot of responsibility with the ball.
Orange Cap: Shane Watson
The hero of last year’s final is showing no signs of letting up. After scoring 555 runs last IPL season Watson since scored more than 700 in the BBL and PSL. With no international commitments Watson is likely to be available all season and play all CSK’s matches. A return to the slower, lower surfaces at Chepauk will test Watson’s game against spin but in recent years he has been exceptional against the slower bowlers, averaging 34 at a run rate of 8.69 RPO. With Chennai likely to be in and around the Play Offs yet again it is hard to see Watson not scoring plenty of runs, anchoring Chennai’s strong batting order.
Purple Cap: Siddharth Kaul
Kaul finished joint second on the wicket-takers list last season with 21 and as part of a strong SRH bowling attack who play at a difficult venue for batting he is likely to be mixing in similar territory this season. Teams are likely to see Kaul as the weakest link of an exceptional attack featuring Bhuvneshwar, Sandeep, Rashid and Shakib. With Kaul set to join Bhuvneshwar at the death he is likely to collect some cheap wickets as teams hit out.
Most Valuable Player: Krunal Pandya
Likely to contribute with bat, ball and in the field Krunal is one of the most dynamic all rounders in the IPL. He is likely to bat in the lower middle order which may only give him a few overs to make his mark but few players are as effective in that phase of the innings – Krunal has scored nearly 300 runs for Mumbai in the last five overs at more than 10 runs per over. With the ball Krunal is consistently economical but he may have to play a more attacking role if Markande can’t replicate his excellent first season. Not set to be in India’s World Cup squad Krunal will be a key man for Mumbai this year who look well set to make a push for their fourth IPL crown.
Emerging Player: Ishan Kishan
Last year was a significant season for Ishan Kishan who was rewarded for his good form for Gujarat Lions with a contract at Mumbai Indians where he started the season ahead of Aditya Tare as wicket-keeper and played every match. 275 runs at an average of 22 was a promising – albeit unspectacular – return but his run rate of 8.96 runs per over was exceptional. Kishan has been in brilliant form in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy this year, blitzing more than 300 runs in eight innings. Only 20 years-old but entering his third season as an IPL regular the time is now for Kishan to take his game to the next level.
Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz. @fwildecricket