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IPL CricViz Predictions – Ben Jones

Winner: Sunrisers Hyderabad

Just look at that bowling attack. There are so many options, so much variety and skill in that unit, it’s tough to imagine any surface or batting order that could be confident of taking Sunrisers down. In a tournament like the IPL where momentum can only get you so far (because of its vast, vast length), consistency is key, and being able to know that nine times out of ten you will keep a side below 170 is a huge bonus. Last year they just lacked a bit of spark with the bat with if Dhawan didn’t fire, and that is still an issue. However, Warner is a superior and more reliable player than the Indian, and the days when neither him nor Williamson hit their straps are going to be few and far between. If they can just find a finisher – and Vijay Shankar could be that man – then they’re a formidable, sophisticated outfit that will take some stopping.

Top Four: Kolkata Knight Riders

Much like Sunrisers, the appeal of KKR is that there is a clear style of play that they are after – and one that makes sense. The classic Lynn-Narine combo starts things off with a bang and a crash, maximising the fielding restrictions during the first six overs. The middle overs see them tick over, before Russell launches them over the finish line. It’s a flexible strategy, but a very clear one that allows them to recruit accordingly – the arrival of Joe Denly, middle-overs tyro, exemplifies this perfectly. The arrival of death over specialist Harry Gurney could give them a bit more nous with the ball in hand, and all-in-all they feel like a side who have subtly tweaked a successful formula. Expect them to challenge.

Top Four: Mumbai Indians

Last year was a disappointment for Mumbai, but things were not as bad as they seemed on the face of it. They lost a series of very close games, including the freak match between themselves and Sunrisers where they failed to chase 118 on a stinker of a surface. The promotion of Rohit Sharma has been a long time coming, his absence from the Powerplay overs a handbrake they placed on their own progress – so they are already starting ahead of where they were last year. The potential for their star-studded line-up to click into gear ahead of the World Cup is considerable, with several players aiming to work their way back to full fitness and peak form ahead of the tournament. All seems aligned for them to compete, though a lack of quality spin could see them slip up if individual batsmen get going.

Top Four: Delhi Capitals

Last year was something of a disaster for Delhi. They were relentlessly beaten, rarely looked competitive, and struggled to form a coherent team structure from what looked like a talented squad. It was a season so bad in fact, that they had to change their name. However, newly monickered as the Delhi Capitals, they have cause for cautious optimism. Their seam bowling will be strengthened by the presence of Kagiso Rabada – ruled out last year through injury – and their youthful prospects all seem to have developed their games in the off season. None more so than Rishabh Pant. Few players are so robustly joyful as the Indian wicketkeeper, but in the last 12 months he’s gone from eccentric novelty to world-class performer in international cricket. If he fires, Delhi fires.

Bottom: Rajasthan Royals

Rajasthan are a difficult prospect for the English cricket fan watching the IPL from a distance. There are so many English players involved that it’s only natural to drift towards them, but if you succumb to that urge then you may be in for a tough few months. Rajasthan’s list may have several high-profile international stars, from Buttler and Rahane to Stokes and Coulter-Nile, but they are not a well put together squad. If Sanju Samson has a poor season, then their domestic batting is severely underpowered, and their reliance on overseas imports could be even greater than last year. They’re playing a dangerous game, and a lot needs to go right for them to qualify.

Orange Cap: Kane Williamson

Pragmatically, there are plenty of solid reasons for why Williamson will be the top run-scorer. He plays for a side who tend to value wicket preservation of explosiveness from their top-order; he is a player more suited to innings of 50 (35) than 20 (7); he’s available for the entire tournament. Add to that the fact that he is inordinately talented and extremely good, he presents a persuasive case. But there is a more intangible element in play here. Williamson has been consistently excellent, in all formats, for many years now, but the vagaries of cricket politics and scheduling mean that it is often hidden away. He is rarely given a stage on which to perform that is befitting of his talents. This summer could be different. With the World Cup to follow, Williamson has the chance to cement his position as the best all-format batsman in the world after Virat Kohli, and that chance starts as he walks out in Sunrisers’ first game against KKR. He’s a focused professional, but this incentive, this increased exposure, could be the carrot to take him to the next level.

Purple Cap: Umesh Yadav

Umesh’s role in the RCB side is to take wickets with the new ball, and it’s a role he has excelled in over the last few seasons. In 2018, he took 14 wickets in the Powerplay, grabbing a dismissal every 13 deliveries – that’s elite stuff. Ahead of a World Cup where his position is not secured, he will be pushing for his absolute best form even if RCB fall out of contention for a play-off berth. With the added responsibility that comes with being RCB’s only elite Indian bowler, Umesh has plenty to focus on, but right now you would have to back him to succeed.

MVP: Sunil Narine

It’s a dull choice, but a sensible one. Narine is so tangibly among the most valuable going around, his blend of pinch-hitting and uber-tight bowling allowing him to contribute throughout the entire match, in concentrated impactful efforts. For KKR, he is a lock for the opening berth and to bowl out, and whilst the nature of his batting does invite dips in form, if he hits a hot streak he can be devastating. If he did seal the crown this season following on from his triumph in 2018, he would become the first three-time MVP in IPL history, pulling away from Shane Watson. If KKR make it into the latter stages, he’ll be odds on.

Emerging Player: Sandeep Lamichhane

Nepalese leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane has had quite a year. After a successful campaign with St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, he secured a deal with the Melbourne Stars, for whom he took 11 wickets in eight matches, with an economy of 6.57. Further travels to the BPL (economy of 5.6) and PSL (11 wickets in seven matches) saw him gain yet more experience, and he now arrives for his second IPL season having played in five of the six major T20 leagues. His opportunity to make a lengthy impression will be partially determined by the form of Amit Mishra, given that Delhi may be reluctant to have both Mishara, Axar Patel and Sandeep all in the same XI. If he gets a look in, he’ll make that place his own.

Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.

IPL Season Preview: Sunrisers Hyderabad

Ben Jones previews Sunrisers Hyderabad ahead of the 2019 IPL season.

Last Season: Runners-up

In 2018, Sunrisers had arguably the most distinctive style of any team in the competition. A bowling-heavy strategy was marked most clearly by their extraordinary defence of 118 against Mumbai Indians, among the best performances in T20 history. Across the competition as a whole, their run to the final was relatively assured, only falling to an accomplished Chennai in the final, ending a successful season that they will be looking to repeat in 2019. With a strong list, and plenty of experience, Sunrisers will start this season among the favourites.

Personnel Changes

New Zealand opener Martin Guptill adds some serious power to the top of the order, though unlikely as a replacement for Shikhar Dhawan (traded to Delhi), given the cost of an extra overseas spot. More likely, Guptill will cover David Warner when he heads to the World Cup. Vijay Shankar, Shahbaz Nadeem and Abhishek Sharma also arrived from Delhi, the other noticeable overseas signing being the arrival of English wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow.

Squad Summary

  • Total players: 23
  • Numbers of overseas players: 8
  • Openers: David Warner, Martin Guptill
  • Middle-order batsmen: Manish Pandey, Kane Williamson, Ricky Bhui
  • Wicketkeepers: Wriddhiman Saha, Shreevats Goswami, Jonny Bairstow
  • Allrounders: Shakib Al Hasan, Abhishek Sharma, Vijay Shankar, Yusuf Pathan, Deepak Hooda, Mohammad Nabi
  • Wristspinners: Rashid Khan
  • Fingerspinners: Shahbaz Nadeem
  • Fast Bowlers: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Siddarth Kaul, Basil Thampi, T Natarajan, Sandeep Sharma, Billy Stanlake

Best XI:

1 Warner

2 Saha (k)

3 Williamson (c)

4 Pandey

5 Shankar

6 Shakib

7 Yusuf Pathan

8 Rashid Khan

9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar

10 Kaul

11 Khaleel

Key Player

The presence of Rashid Khan in any team gives them a hope. The Afghanistan star is a world-renowned as a lethal bowler, and has a more than reasonable claim to be the best T20 bowler of all time – last year, nobody took more T20 wickets than him. Indeed, nobody got close. His partnership with Shakib was a key aspect of the Sunrisers attack in 2018, and it will likely remain so this year. However, he could well have another role. Given that Sunrisers batting depth is likely to remain a weakness, Rashid could be deployed as a pinch-hitter, helping to extend that batting order – since the start of 2018, he scores at 10.07rpo, his power hitting a useful asset that Sunrisers could exploit.

Strengths

Death Bowling

Last year Sunrisers’ economy rate in the last five overs of the innings was just 8.91rpo, comfortably the lowest for any team in the competition, and three runs-per-over better than the worst side in the competition, Royal Challengers Bangalore. With the key performers behind that excellence still at the franchise (Bhuvneshwar, Kaul), they hope to back up that strong death record with yet more late-innings mastery.

Overseas Availability

The make-up of their overseas list means that they keep the bulk of their squad for the whole tournament. Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Mohammed Nabi and Rashid Khan will all be sticking around, meaning that the balance of the side will remain essentially the same throughout – the strength of their overseas roster, already considerable, is amplified by this.

Bowling Variety

The variety of your attack is crucial in T20 cricket, with head-to-head records informing strategy more than ever. Sunrisers are able to boast one of almost every bowling type: right-arm seam, left-arm seam, leg-spin, off-spin, slow-left arm. The only bowling type they are without is left-arm wrist spin, traditionally the rarest technique and perhaps the most dispensable, particularly given the presence of Rashid Khan. Sunrisers’ skipper will have lots, and lots of options to turn to.

Weaknesses

Late-Order Hitting

The Sunrisers line-up is designed for ruthlessly chasing mid-range totals, and as a consequence is lacking in power hitters later in the order. Yusuf Pathan or Vijay Shankar is likely going to be tasked with playing this role, but neither is as effective as similar players at other franchises. Mohammad Nabi has had success in other leagues in this role but he is unlikely to get into the side ahead of Shakib, given the Bangladeshi’s IPL experience. For Sunrisers to really explode in the last few overs, they’ll need to rely on maintaining very high dismissal rates in the middle overs, leaving plenty of wickets in hand at the death.

Domestic Batting

The absence of Shikhar Dhawan does make a difference to the balance of the side. The fact they have replaced a domestic world-class opener with an overseas one does skew their roster in one direction. They now need to select Wriddhiman Saha or Manish Pandey as an opener in all likelihood, weakening a strength – overperformance from one of those two is fundamental for Sunrisers to balance the side.

IPL CricViz Predictions – Patrick Noone

Winner: Kolkata Knight Riders

KKR look to have all bases covered: an aggressive top order of Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine and Robin Uthappa, supplemented by the emerging talents of Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill in the middle order. Dinesh Karthik, the captain and wicket-keeper is a safe pair of hands in every respect and the big hitting prowess of Carlos Brathwaite and Andre Russell down the order round off their batting nicely. With the ball, Narine, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav, KKR have arguably the most complete spin attack in the tournament, a huge weapon given that they will play half of their matches at the spin-friendly Eden Gardens. The seam attack lacks IPL experience, aside from Russell, but Lockie Ferguson and Harry Gurney have shown their prowess in the death overs in other leagues. Injuries to Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi and Anrich Nortje are less than ideal, but KKR still have enough options to cover those losses.

Top Four: Chennai Super Kings

Chennai have never failed to finish in the top four when they’ve competed in the IPL and the defending champions will likely be in amongst it again this year. Aiming for a record fourth title, the Super Kings have an experienced team who have been there and done it time and time again. Shane Watson scored a match-winning hundred in the final last year, capping off a fine tournament in which he and Ambati Rayudu each scored more than 500 runs from the top of the order. Chennai’s only questionable area of their squad is whether their Indian seamers can step up and perform regularly; Lungi Ngidi’s injury is a huge blow and with Watson, Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo and Imran Tahir likely to occupy their overseas spots, one of Mohit Sharma, Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar will have to carry the seam bowling burden.

Sunrisers Hyderabad

Sunrisers could consider themselves unlucky not to claim a second IPL title last season, falling at the final hurdle. Any team containing Rashid Khan is likely to go far and Sunrisers can also count on Bhuvneshwar Kumar as their premier pace bowler. Kane Williamson, last season’s leading run scorer will lead the side again and though Shikhar Dhawan has departed, Sunrisers’ batting still looks strong with the returning David Warner and the incoming Martin Guptill and Jonny Bairstow. Sunrisers will potentially be affected more than most by World Cup call-ups which could see them severely weakened in the latter stages of the competition.

Delhi Capitals

After years of underachievement, having not qualified for the playoffs since 2012, Delhi have undergone a rebranding, shaken up their squad and look to have assembled a team capable of finally finishing in the top four. The precocious talents of Rishabh Pant and Prithvi Shaw alongside Shikhar Dhawan, Colin Ingram and Colin Munro makes for an explosive batting lineup while they look to have all bases covered with their spin bowling as Sandeep Lamichhane, Amit Mishra and Axar Patel all offer something different with the ball. With Trent Boult and Kagiso Rabada in their ranks as well, Delhi Capitals have a highly-skilled, varied attack capable of causing any team problems. The middle order is perhaps an area of concern for Delhi: their all-rounders are broadly bowling all-rounders and, even though players such as Chris Morris are capable of giving it a whack down the order, it’s easy to see them losing momentum during the middle overs if they lose early wickets.

Bottom: Kings XI Punjab

Perennial strugglers Kings XI look set for another tough season. The presence of Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman and Ravichandran Ashwin in their squad means that they are well covered in the spin department while Chris Gayle’s recent form for West Indies offers them some encouragement alongside the batting firepower of KL Rahul and David Miller. But beyond those three big hitters, there is not a great deal that suggests Kings XI will be mixing it with the big boys this season. Sam Curran has done little in the shortest form of the game to justify his huge price tag while their other all-rounder options are Moises Henriques or inexperienced Indian players such as Varun Chakravarthy. Similarly, aside from Andrew Tye, last season’s leading wicket taker, Kings XI are light on top quality seam bowling options. Juggling their overseas players will be a challenge for Kings XI as well: Gayle and Tye are presumably locked in, leaving Miller, Curran, Henriques, Mujeeb, Nicholas Pooran and Hardus Viljoen battling it out for two places. It is hard to see a way in which Kings XI can regularly field a well-balanced team containing all their best players.

Orange Cap: Prithvi Shaw

Assuming he has fully recovered from the knee injury that ruled him out of the Australia tour, Prithvi Shaw has an opportunity to own this IPL. He showed glimpses of his undoubted talent in the nine matches he played last year and he is set to open the batting throughout the tournament for the rebranded Delhi Capitals. Of IPL venues to have hosted 50 matches or more, the Feroz Shah Kotla is the second fastest scoring ground behind Bengaluru’s Chinnaswamy Stadium, so Shaw will have conditions in his favour alongside the ability and temperament to go big.

Purple Cap: Jasprit Bumrah

35% of IPL wickets fall in the death overs and Jasprit Bumrah is arguably the best death bowler in the world at the moment. He’s struggled with injuries recently, but if he can play the majority of Mumbai Indians’ matches, there is no reason to think he can’t go home with the purple cap. Bumrah has finished as one of the top ten wicket takers in each of the last three IPL seasons, with tallies of 15, 20 and 17 wickets in those years. The winner of the purple cap has averaged 24 wickets across the last five IPL seasons and, given how Bumrah bowled for much of 2018, you wouldn’t bet against him reaching a figure in that region this time around.

Most Valuable Player: Rishabh Pant

Rishabh Pant has already lit up previous tournaments for the Delhi franchise. Only Kane Williamson scored more runs than the left-hander’s 684 in 2018, a performance that ultimately led to him breaking into India’s Test XI. Pant’s strike rate across 14 matches last season was 173.60; if Delhi can deliver this season and finally make an impact on the top four, Pant will surely be one of the driving forces behind it.

Emerging Player: Shivam Dube

The all-rounder enjoyed a fine Ranji Trophy earlier this year, finishing as the leading wicket-taker and second highest run scorer for Mumbai. He showed his prowess in the shortest form as well, as he was named Player of the Series in the 2018 Mumbai T20 League, a performance that led to RCB stumping up Rs 500 lakh for his services in this year’s IPL. A left-handed batsman with long levers, Dube is capable of clearing the ropes regularly, and will be playing half of his matches at the batting-friendly Chinnaswamy Stadium. He could play the role of finisher for RCB and chip in with some handy overs of medium pace as well. Genuine all-rounders are worth their weight in gold in any form of cricket and RCB have one who is young, talented and Indian who is set to take his first IPL by storm.

Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.

IPL Season Preview: Chennai Super Kings

Patrick Noone previews Chennai Super Kings.

Last season: Winners

Chennai secured their third IPL triumph with a convincing 8-wicket win over Sunrisers Hyderabad in Mumbai. It was their first season back after a two-year ban and the men in yellow hit the ground running, winning five of their first six matches before ultimately finishing second in the final ladder. Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu scored the bulk of Chennai’s runs while five bowlers took more than ten wickets throughout the competition.

Personnel Changes

Chennai were the least busy of all teams in this year’s auction, retaining 23 players from last season and signing just Mohit Sharma and Ruturaj Gaikwad as Mark Wood, Kanishk Seth and Kshitiz Sharma were released.

Squad Summary

  • Total players: 25
  • Number of overseas players: 8

Squad Composition

  • Openers (3): Faf du Plessis, Shane Watson, Murali Vijay
  • Middle order batsmen (7): Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Sam Billings, Dhruv Storey, Ruturaj Gaikwad
  • Wicket-keepers (2): MS Dhoni, N Jagadeesan
  • All-rounders (4): Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Monu Kumar, David Willey
  • Wrist spinners (2): Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir
  • Finger spinners (2): Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Santner
  • Pace bowlers (5): Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, KM Asif, Lungi Ngidi (injured), Mohit Sharma

Strengths

Middle order batting

Chennai bat deep and have a wealth of options to choose from when selecting their middle order. Ambati Rayudu and Shane Watson routinely laid platforms for Chennai at the top of the order, allowing the engine room of Sam Billings, MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja to prosper later in the innings. That depth in Chennai’s middle to lower order allowed them to score at more than 11 runs per over in last year’s competition, the second fastest of all teams in the IPL.

Versatile bowling attack

A measure of how remarkable Chennai’s 2018 success was the fact that they had built their squad around playing their home games at the Chepauk Stadium, only to have to relocate after one match to the more seam-friendly MCA Stadium in Gahunje. The Super Kings have the attack to cover all eventualities with the spin threat of Imran Tahir, Mitchell Santner and Ravindra Jadeja alongside David Willey’s left-arm swing, although they will be be without the raw pace of the injured Lungi Ngidi. Mohit Sharma has been resigned to supplement the local pace talent of Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar.

Weaknesses

Aging squad

13 of the 25 players on Chennai’s roster are the wrong side of 30. While it could be argued that having an experienced core is a positive – and it certainly did Chennai no harm last year – there is a suspicion that players such as MS Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo are on the decline and the squad lacks freshness with only a handful of young Indian talents emerging. As problems go, it’s far from the worst, but Chennai will have to start the 2019 season well if they are to avoid accusations of it being a season too far many of their stalwarts.

Death over bowling

For all the options Chennai have with the ball, the one player they seem to lack is a truly dependable death bowler. When bowling first last season, they only once restricted their opponents to less than 40 runs in the last five overs and only twice kept the overall score below 140. More often than not, they had the batting power to chase down big scores, only losing two games in which they batted second, but the fact remains that Chennai had the second highest economy rate during the last five overs. They will surely need to restrict teams on a more regular basis if they are to repeat last season’s success.

Key Player: Ravindra Jadeja

With bat, ball and in the field, Jadeja is effectively three players in one who balances Chennai’s team beautifully. In the middle overs, Jadeja was one of only four spinners to register an economy rate of less than seven runs per over in last year’s IPL and his tally of 11 catches was only bettered by Shikhar Dhawan’s 12, of non-wicketkeepers. Jadeja was rarely required with the bat but, when called upon, he scored at a healthy rate of 120.27. Chennai’s team is packed with stars, but Jadeja is arguably the hardest of all to find a replacement for.

Best XI

1) Shane Watson

2) Ambati Rayudu

3) Faf du Plessis

4) Suresh Raina

5) MS Dhoni*+

6) Kedar Jadhav

7) Ravindra Jadeja

8) Dwayne Bravo

9) Mohit Sharma

10) Deepak Chahar

11) Imran Tahir

Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz

IPL Season Preview: Kolkata Knight Riders

Patrick Noone previews Kolkata Knight Riders.

Last season: 3rd

Three wins in their last three matches propelled the Knight Riders into the top three, before defeating Rajasthan Royals in the first Qualifier. They fell short in the first Qualifier, losing to eventual runners-up Sunrisers Hyderabad. The aggressive opening pair of Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine ensured that KKR recorded a higher Powerplay run rate than all other teams (9.12) while Dinesh Karthik’s run rate of 10.50 at the death was second only to MS Dhoni, of players who faced 100+ balls at that phase.  

Personnel Changes

KKR have retained 13 players from their 2018 campaign, including the big-hitting overseas trio of Andre Russell, Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn with Kuldeep Yadav, Dinesh Karthik and rising star Shubman Gill among their key Indian retetions. At the auction, Carlos Brathwaite was their most expensive signing at Rs 500 lakh, Lockie Ferguson, Joe Denly and Harry Gurney were their other high profile overseas pick-ups. They replace Tom Curran, Mitchell Starc and the retired Mitchell Johnson who were all released by the franchise in the off-season.

Squad Summary

  • Total players: 21
  • Number of overseas players: 8

Squad Composition

  • Openers (2): Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa
  • Middle order batsmen (3): Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh
  • Wicket-keepers (2): Dinesh Karthik, Nikhil Naik
  • All-rounders (4): Andre Russell, Joe Denly, Shrikant Mundhe, Carlos Brathwaite
  • Wrist spinners (3): Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, KC Cariappa
  • Finger spinners (1): Sunil Narine
  • Pace bowlers (6): Sandeep Warrier, Prasidh Krishna, Prithvi Raj, Harry Gurney, Anrich Nortje (injured), Lockie Ferguson

Strengths

Top order batting

A likely top three of Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine and Robin Uthappa gives an indication of the firepower KKR possess at the top of their batting lineup. The Knight Riders scored faster than every other team during the Powerplay and the firepower they have throughout the order means that they can afford to take greater risks while the fielding restrictions are in play; only Delhi Daredevils faced fewer balls per dismissal than KKR during the first six overs last season.

No World Cup call-ups

The composition of KKR’s squad is such that they are likely to have a settled roster throughout the tournament, unaffected by World Cup callups. Chris Lynn is the only potential absentee and there is a chance that even he will miss out on Australia’s 15-man squad. Whether that factor is by accident or by design, it is a huge advantage for KKR in a season where other teams could lose several players to their respective national teams.

Spin attack

In last year’s IPL, KKR bowled more overs of spin (167.3) than any other team and the 53 wickets they took was 12 more than the next most prolific team (Sunrisers Hyderabad). The trio of Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav and Sunil Narine provides the Knight Riders with a versatile collection of spinners, each capable of turning the ball both ways. With Eden Gardens likely to be one of the most spin-friendly venues in the competition, it will be no surprise if the triumvirate replicate their performances from last year, when all finished in the top six wicket takers in terms of spinners.

Weaknesses

Powerplay bowling

For all the quality on show in KKR’s spin attack, question marks remain over their potency with the ball during the first six overs. Last year, KKR had the highest SR in that phase and only Delhi Daredevils (9.63) recorded a higher economy rate during the Powerplay than the Knight Riders’ 9.26. Their pace attack struggled to exert control throughout, conceding runs at 10.18 runs per over. Of course, there has been a shake-up in personnel, but Harry Gurney and Lockie Ferguson do their best work during the death overs. South African quick Anrich Nortje could make a difference – his T20 Powerplay economy rate is 5.61 – but he is inexperienced and will be playing his first IPL. Therefore, it remains one of the few areas where KKR appear to be lacking depth.

Indian all-rounders

On the face of it, KKR have a good pool of all-rounders to call upon with Carlos Brathwaite, Andre Russell and Joe Denly on their books but, with Narine and Lynn guaranteed to be in the XI, and one of Ferguson, Nortje or Gurney likely to fill one of the pace bowlers’ spots, KKR could do with a local player in the lower middle order to prevent a long tail and ease the pressure on the overseas players.

Injuries to fast bowlers

KKR’s preparations have been rocked by injuries to their young Indian quicks, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi, while Anrich Nortje has also been ruled out of the competition. At the time of writing, the Knight Riders are yet to name a replacement for Nortje, while right-arm quick Sandeep Warrier and leg-spinner KC Cariappa have taken the place of the youngsters. It’s far from a lost cause for KKR, who have the promising Prasidh Krishna as well as their overseas options, but it is an area in which they are a little lighter than they had bargained for.

Key Player: Sunil Narine

Having reinvented himself as a pinch-hitting all-rounder, Sunil Narine is indispensable with both bat and ball. No player to face 100 balls or more in last year’s IPL scored at a quicker rate than Narine’s 189.89. That explosiveness with the bat is matched by his excellence with the ball – in the middle overs, his economy rate was just 6.60, the third best of spinners to have bowled 150+ balls at that stage.

Best XI

1) Chris Lynn

2) Sunil Narine

3) Robin Uthappa

4) Nitish Rana

5) Shubman Gill

6) Dinesh Karthik*+

7) Andre Russell

8) Prasidh Krishna

9) Kuldeep Yadav

10) Piyush Chawla

11) Harry Gurney

Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.

CricViz Analysis: The IPL’s English Contingent

The 2019 Indian Premier League season is playing host to an entire team’s worth of England-qualified players. Ben Jones casts his eye over the 11 Englishmen about to take to the stage.

JOS BUTTLER – Rajasthan Royals

Has an Englishman ever had a better IPL than Jos Buttler did in 2018? Even when Ben Stokes was voted Most Valuable Player in 2017, he arguably had less of an impact than Buttler did for Rajasthan Royals, almost single-handedly dragging them into the play-offs following a transformative move to the top of the order. Only twice in IPL history has an opener scored more runs than Buttler did last year whilst maintaining a higher scoring rate. As shown below, he’s in decent company.

Heading back to Rajasthan this year, he’s nailed on to slot back into that opening berth, having established himself as one of the premier openers in T20 cricket. Since Buttler was promoted to open, he’s made 908 runs in that position. Only six other men have made more, and only one (Aaron Finch) has done so whilst scoring more quickly.

Chance of playing: 10/10

Chance of success 9/10

JOFRA ARCHER – Rajasthan Royals

Of all the English-qualified players at the IPL, Jofra Archer has arguably the most intriguing campaign ahead of him. The debate around him has been tainted by numerous issues, longstanding and deep-rooted, relating both to ideas of national identity and to the concept of “earning your spot”. This debate has, more often than is ideal, been conducted by critics who have not watched quite as much of Archer’s T20 career as some others, and as such the arguments have been painted in broad, unhelpful strokes. Amidst this, it is easy to lose the fundamental point here – that Archer is brilliant.

Since he made his T20 in July 2016, playing for Sussex against Hampshire, only eight men in world cricket have taken more T20 wickets. Some will decry the hype around Archer’s potential World Cup inclusion as a passing fad, but his longevity is underrated. Sustaining his level of success for two-and-a-half years is not easy. Plenty of players arrive en vogue for six months, but fail under the pressure. Archer has not done that.

Yet this IPL, there will be plenty of English eyes on Archer’s performances. For Rajasthan, Archer plays that crucial double-role, one which echoes what he’d be asked to do in the England team – take wickets up front, and dominate the death. In 2018 he took more powerplay wickets than any other RR seamer, and had comfortably the best economy rate of their regular death bowlers. Given the lack of real change to their squad, Rajasthan are likely to use him in a similar way in 2019; whilst a slightly disappointing BBL08 will have dampened expectation, Archer is still a classy performer capable of having a real impact on this IPL.

Chance of playing 8/10

Chance of success 8/10

BEN STOKES – Rajasthan Royals

After his MVP exploits in 2017, Ben Stokes had a quieter IPL season last year. With the bat, he passed 40 only once and struggled to hit top gear; with the ball, he went wicketless in eight of his thirteen matches. While Stokes is player who rarely goes long stretches without contributing in the some manner, given his fielding and leadership qualities, his value as a player is still largely determined by the runs and wickets he provides. He will be eager to improve. Stokes’ batting struggles in 2018 were primarily against spin. He was dismissed every 11 balls he faced from the slower bowlers, unsustainable in a tournament with so many quality spinners. If he’s to succeed this year, he’ll need to address that.

As a bowler, Stokes has evolved into more of a middle-overs merchant than he had been; 45% of his deliveries since the start of 2017 have come in Overs 7-15. That shift is reflected in his economy rate of 7.71rpo in that time, indicative of him not bowling at the business ends of the innings, but even so – that is an excellent economy rate. Given the make-up of the RR squad, one would expect the pitch to help seamers, and that could benefit Stokes.

Chance of playing 9/10

Chance of success 7/10

JOE DENLY – Kolkata Knight Riders

Kent veteran Joe Denly has enjoyed something of a career revival in the last few seasons. After a period of solid success on the T20 domestic circuit, beginning in the 2017 BPL, Denly has began to force his way into the thoughts of both major T20 leagues and the England set-up. At the 2019 auction KKR secured his services, banking on his mixture of batting nous and canny leg-spin.

Typically batting at the top of the order, Denly is extremely unlikely to dislodge either Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine from the opening partnership. Equally, since that 2017 BPL season, Denly’s batting has been extremely secure, dismissed every 30 balls against pace and every 26 balls against spin. That is slightly at odds with KKR’s traditional gameplan of charging out of the blocks, but it does make Denly ideally suited to the rebuilding in the middle overs that will inevitably be required. KKR could well use him as a safety net middle-order option, particularly on turning tracks where his leg-spin becomes a greater weapon.

Chance of playing 6/10

Chance of success 6/10

JONNY BAIRSTOW – Sunrisers Hyderabad

A recognised international star now, and with a serious claim on being the best ODI opener in the world, Jonny Bairstow is in a peculiar position at Sunrisers. Given the nature of the overseas players in the Sunrisers squad, he’s unlikely to get a game, competing with established SRH stars David Warner and Kane Williamson for a place in that top order.

Equally, his strong record has largely been based around dominating pace, rather than spin. In and of itself that is not a flaw, but it may limit his effectiveness on the Sunrisers home surface, the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium. In the last two seasons, only the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur has seen a lower economy for spin bowlers – Bairstow will be working against his home conditions. Given his all-format commitments with England, Bairstow has had little experience of T20 cricket in recent times; indeed, he’s only played 16 T20 matches in the last 24 months.

All that comes with the caveat that Bairstow is a man who undoubtedly prides himself on proving people wrong, and may be spurred on by the challenge. Given a full season in Hyderabad, you wouldn’t bet against him dislodging some more established names, but on this occasion the curtailed opportunities from World Cup commitments may limit him.

Chances of playing 5 /10

Chance of success 7/10

HARRY GURNEY – Kolkata Knight Riders

Off the back of a very successful BBL campaign, where he helped guide the Melbourne Renegades to an inaugural title, left-arm seamer Harry Gurney’s stock rose even higher when Kolkata snapped him up at the IPL auction. His canny collection of slower balls and variations has been honed over years of white ball cricket and, as it stands, sees him placed as one of the leading death bowlers in the world.

Gurney has the double-edged benefit of not being in World Cup contention, meaning he can focus on applying himself to KKR’s cause for the whole campaign. He will be competing with Lockie Ferguson for the overseas bowler spot, an interesting contest given how different they are as bowlers; Ferguson’s raw pace is a fascinating contrast with Gurney’s change-ups, a contrast that should allow the KKR coaching staff to opt for either bowler according to conditions or opposition match-ups. Smart recruitment, and giving Gurney a strong likelihood of playing.

Chance of playing 7/10

Chance of success 8/10

MOEEN ALI – Royal Challengers Bangalore

Mixed in with England’s bounty of white ball stars, Moeen Ali can often be an afterthought. Whilst his bowling has become more appreciated (largely by association with Adil Rashid’s improved form), his batting is routinely relegated to the out-and-out slogging of the last few balls. Without question, this is an underuse of his talents. Since the start of 2017, Moeen Ali has faced 260 deliveries in T20 cricket, and 381 other players have faced as many; only three have scored more quickly – RCB will be eager to make the most of Moeen’s hitting ability.

Given the undoubted presence of AB de Villiers as one of the overseas spots, the probable inclusion of Shimron Hetmyer and the likely need to include Nathan Coulter-Nile as an overseas seamer, Moeen will be fighting with Colin de Grandhomme and Marcus Stoinis for the overseas all-rounder spot. The clear differentiating factor that Moeen has from those two is that he is a spin option, which could be necessary if Washington Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal need more support on helpful surfaces. While perhaps less valuable in a dressing room full of international stars, Moeen’s cricketing brain is an asset that could prove useful; his performance as Worcestershire skipper in the 2018 Blast semi-finals and final was a masterclass in calm thinking in a pressurised environment. With some hot-headed characters in that RCB squad, Moeen’s calm could offer important balance.

Chance of playing 7/10

Chance of success 8/10

SAM CURRAN – Kings XI Punjab

In T20, Sam Curran’s value is still largely in his potential. Here is a man who has played T20 cricket for only two teams (Surrey and Auckland), never for his country, and is generally regarded by those who know him best as a red ball specialist. A talented and rounded cricketer, but not yet a proven talent against top-class performers. Despite this, he has been made the flagship signing by a team in desperate need of inspiration, in desperate need of a hero. It’s hard to ignore the amplifying effect that Curran’s superb performance in the Test series between England and India will have had. India’s entire cricketing culture watched Curran repeatedly take his side from the point of defeat to the point of victory. Regardless of his pedigree as a T20 cricketer, one can understand why an Indian side are willing to thrust their hopes into his hands.

As a batsman, Curran is less than explosive, with a career scoring rate of 6.31rpo in Surrey colours, though his work in Test cricket shows that he has hitting ability. However, his role/performance with the ball is more clarified; 48% of his career bowling has been in the Powerplay, establishing himself as a new ball specialist. His strike rate and economy in that period are both better than the average for games he’s been involved in, suggesting he is performing reasonably.

Equally, you have to commend Kings XI for being astute in which young player they have targeted – Curran definitely won’t be going to the World Cup, which improves his availability and his opportunity to improve over a season, an investment for the 2020 IPL.

Chance of playing 8/10

Chance of success 6/10

LIAM LIVINGSTONE – Rajasthan Royals

Livingstone has garnered a serious reputation as a dangerous white-ball hitter, and while his opportunities to prove it on the highest stage have been limited, it is a reputation he deserves. He has scored faster than almost everyone in domestic T20 cricket over the last 12 months – indeed, everyone with a better record than him is an established star. Still – he is unlikely to feature for the Royals, certainly before the World Cup exodus begins. The overseas-heavy leanings of the RR squad does dictate that Livingstone’s opportunities will be small, but as a team they are lacking in late innings firepower. With his career scoring rate of 9.4rpo in the last five overs, Livingstone could be well placed to come into the side once that problem has been established in practice, not just in theory.

Chance of playing 4/10

Chance of success 7/10

DAVID WILLEY – Chennai Super Kings

Since the start of 2017, 58% of Willey’s bowling has been in the Powerplay. That is his role. His own economy in that period is almost exactly the same as the average for the games he’s played in, and his strike rate slightly better than the average – he’s a decent option, but for a man who is almost exclusively used in this role, it’s not ideal.

For Chennai, he sits behind Imran Tahir and Lungi Ngidi in the overseas bowler spot, and has a 50/50 chance of leaving the competition midway through to head to the World Cup. As a result, it will be tough for him to get a game. However compared to those two options he has a few key differentiating features. He offers a left-arm variation, which is valuable for strategic planning, and his batting is substantially better than either of the South Africans, as is his fielding. An opener for the Blast-winning Northamptonshire side, and latterly for Yorkshire, Willey has always been a mercurial hitter, but he has serious power with the bat that is probably still underutilised outside of the English domestic game. He scores at 12.13rpo through the legside – none of the English representatives at this IPL can boast a faster scoring rate through that zone.

Chance of playing 4/10

Chance of success 5/10

SAM BILLINGS – Chennai Super Kings

Abundantly talented and under-exposed, Sam Billings has suffered for being born in a generation of wonderful English batsmen. In particular, his career has been in the shadow of Buttler’s, both being audacious wicket-keeper batsmen, with huge potential, born within 12 months of each other. The consequence of being squeezed out of international recognition is that he has gained considerable T20 experience; of the 11 English players at the IPL, only Jos Buttler has played more matches in this form of the game. Equally, he’s had a boost in public profile following his superb 87 (47) against Windies in St Kitts and Nevis, and all signs suggest he’s in excellent form. His batting against spin is excellent, scoring at 8rpo since 2016 and dismissed only every 21 balls, making him an excellent option against spin-dominated attacks likes Sunrisers Hyderabad, used as more of a horses-for-courses selection.

Chance of playing 5/10

Chance of success 6/10

Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.