As IPL-7 gets underway in UAE tomorrow, mid-day profiles the teams and the men who matter in India's mega T20 carnival
The defending champions will go into IPL-7 with a lot of belief, as the core group has not changed much. It's still a team that depends a lot on Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Kieron Pollard with the bat, and on the likes of Lasith Malinga,
Mumbai Indians' pacer Lasith Malinga
Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha with the ball. They have added a genuine match-winner to the squad in Michael Hussey, and with Rohit, he could form one of the best opening pairs in the competition.
Kiwi all-rounder Corey Anderson is someone that the entire world would be waiting to watch explode.
The only thing lacking is the sting in the pace department, perhaps. On Malinga's off day, they don't have anybody to fall upon, not a 35-year-old Zaheer for sure.
MI celebrate their IPL-6 title at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on May 26, 2013. Pics/midday archives
Star performers: Rohit Sharma, Lasith Malinga, Kieron Pollard, Harbhajan Singh, Corey Anderson
Royal Challengers Bangalore
They possess the most destructive batting line-up in the competition. Chris Gayle at the top, followed by Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Yuvraj Singh and Albie Morkel; so no total is safe here. One of the best T20 players as opener, followed by world's two best batsmen in any format, one can't ask for anything better.
Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli
They have got the pace of Ravi Rampaul and Mitchell Starc as well as Varun Aaron and Ashoke Dinda. A team can't have everything though, and the spin department is not the strongest, despite Muttiah Muralitharan's presence. But then with that batting line-up, one would say, who cares!
Star performers: Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, M Muralitharan
Kings XI Punjab
A batting unit with tremendous firepower, that's what strikes the most about the Kings XI Punjab. With Viender Sehwag, David Miller, Glen Maxwell, George Bailey, Shaun Marsh and Thisara Perera in their ranks, it's a unit that can chase any total on a given day.
KXIP's Shaun Marsh
It's a batting line-up that can give opponents many a nightmare. The pace department is headed by Mitchell Johnson, with L Balaji, Parwinder Awana & Co for company. What KXIP lack is quality spinners with the exception of Murali Kartik. And that can really hurt in UAE as well as in India. Probably they prepared the squad expecting the IPL to shift to South Africa.
Star performers: Glen Maxwell, George Bailey, Murali Kartik, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh
Another batting-heavy unit, with skipper Kevin Pietersen fresh and raring to go. He is undoubtedly a destructive T20 player, and with Ross Taylor, JP Duminy, Dinesh Kartik and Murali Vijay for company, he can make any total look vulnerable.
DD skipper Kevin Pietersen
India's premier pace bowler Mohammed Shami will lead the pace attack that has the variations of Wayne Parnell, the all-round skills of Coulter-Nile and the experience of Jaydev Unadkat.
A lot of people feel the spin department is their weakness, but Rahul Sharma and Shahbaz Nadeem are not the worst T20 spinners around!
Star performers: Kevin Pietersen, JP Duminy, Mohammed Shami, Dinesh Karthik
Lile MI, RR is another team that has managed to maintain its shape after the auction, with the big guns retaining their places. The likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Shane Watson, Sanju Samson, Brad Hodge have all achieved some exceptional things in IPL for the Royals in the past.
Rajasthan Royals' Ajinkya Rahane
They have added an exceptionally committed T20 cricketer like Steve Smith, whose fielding alone can earn him a spot in a T20 team. Dhawal Kulkarni, Kevin Cooper, Stuart Binny & Co give their bowling the much needed depth.
Pravin Tambe proved many people wrong with his left-arm spin last season and would have Iqbal Abdullah for company. One thing the Royals will miss the most is the wicket at Jaipur. It's not the Royals' den anymore, and it would be interesting to see how they cope with a new home.
Star performers: Ajinkya Rahane, Shane Watson, Sanju Samson, Pravin Tambe
Chennai Super Kings
Their off-field controversies notwithstanding, Chennai Super Kings go into IPL-7 as one of the strong title contenders. It's a unit that has got most bases covered, be it batting firepower, Indian bigwigs, spin department or all-rounders.
Chennai Super Kings captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni
The departure of Michael Hussey and Murali Vijay means a new opening pair, which could include Brendon McCullum. Lack of proven Indian openers could force the side to play two foreign openers, reducing the remaining foreigners' slots to just two.
With Dwayne Bravo certain to occupy one of them, it would be interesting to see which non-Indian bowler gets the nod. If anything, selecting the best XI could be a sweet headache for MSD & Co.
Star performers: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja
Kolkata Knight Riders
It's a team that has lot of good batsmen, but not too many guys who can single-handedly win T20 games. Yes, there is Gautam Gambhir, there is Jacques Kallis, there is the often under-performing Yusuf Pathan and Robin Uthappa; all quality players in their own right. But will they win matches purely with their batting? One would have to wait and see.
KKR spinner Sunil Narine
Their bowling is in good shape though, with Morne Morkel, the ever committed Vinay Kumar and Umesh Yadav in the pace department. The spin is department is well covered too with the mystery of Sunil Narine who will be helped by the leg-spin of Piyush Chawla. It's a team that will need a lot of team effort to do well in the event.
Star performers: Jacques Kallis, Sunil Narine, Gautam Gambhir, Piyush Chawla
A team that can win games more with it's bowling than batting. With Dale Steyn and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar sharing the new ball, and the leg-spin of Amit Mishra, this is a difficult attack to deal with on most tracks on offer.
SRH's speedster Dale Steyn
Then they have their own little stars in Ashish Reddy and Karan Sharma. The batting is not exactly world class, but the likes of Aaron Finch, David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan and Darren Sammy can stun quite a few teams in this tournament. It's a team that surprised many last season, and would be hoping to continue doing that this season.
Star performers: Amit Mishra, Dale Steyn, Aron Finch, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar