Will IPL-7 be an exciting tournament? The answer is an emphatic 'Yes'. Are there any runaway favorites to win this edition? Well, no.
Delhi Daredevils bought wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik for Rs 12.5 crore
The answer to the second question explains the first answer, for this is the first time in the IPL's history that all teams are looking equally strong. In the past, there has been a clear divide between the Haves and Have Nots, with richer teams automatically becoming a lot stronger.
But this year's auctions have changed the dynamics completely. While bigger teams chose to retain their key players, the smaller teams chose to enter the auctions with most part of their purse intact.
Retaining players is a tricky proposition, for 'officially' you lose a certain amount of money from your purse but 'unofficially' you end up spending far more. That explains bigger teams being in a better position to retain players.
Lacking bench strength
But having even the 'uncapped' players in the auction helped the teams as more money was available to them on the auction day. Picture this — Mumbai Indians retained five players and lost Rs 38 crore out of the Rs 60 crore available. Now, they needed to buy another 20 odd players for 22 crore, which wasn't that easy as the top domestic players also demanded in tune of Rs 2-3 crore.
That's why they, like Chennai Super Kings, ended up with a formidable 13-14 member squad but lack the bench strength, if needed. Remember IPL is a long drawn tournament and teams might look for options on the bench as the tournament progresses.
Lack of bench strength isn't the only issue, for most teams have ended up with at least one hole to be plugged during the tournament. Lack of quality Indian batsmen in the market meant that most teams would struggle to find the sixth batsman and the ones who don't have such problems (like Delhi Daredevils and the Kolkata Knight Riders) are slightly light in the bowling department.
Then there's one team that spent so much on acquiring T20 match-winners that they forgot that cricket, in the end, is a team sport. I'm talking about the Royal Challengers Bangalore, for they have 4-5 proven game-changers in their ranks but are likely to struggle in finding players to fill the 9th, 10th and 11th slot.
Lastly, taking the first half of the IPL to the UAE has also thrown the spanner in the works for a couple of teams, for their strategy was built around playing eight home games on certain kind of pitches.
The team in question here is the Kings XI Punjab, for they hired a plethora of fast bowlers keeping the Mohali pitch in mind but as luck would have it, they're playing only three games in Mohali in the new schedule.
All this is just adding new twists to an already closely contested league and that must keep us hooked for the next six weeks.