The IPL is set to get underway on April 4th and everybody is bringing out their crystal balls to make predictions. With 76 games ahead of us and the T20 format to contend with, it's safe to expect the unexpected. Here we look at all nine IPL franchises and some of the players to watch out for.
Chennai Super Kings will be chasing a hat-trick of titles in the Indian Premier League (IPL) that starts Wednesday. But the other eight franchises too can spring a surprise. The following is an analysis of all the nine teams taking part in the fifth IPL:
After a successful Champions League campaign, Harbhajan Singh (right) will now lead the Mumbai Indians in this year's IPL.
They look the most complete team and will be keen on winning their maiden IPL trophy. Sachin Tendulkar has been declared fit for the tournament and will bolster an already formidable batting line-up of Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Kieron Pollard, and latest T20 sensation Richard Levi.
Sri Lanka speedster Lasith Malinga and Australian Mitchell Johnson will be the bowlers to look out for besides the familiar Munaf Patel and Rudra Pratap Singh. Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha will lead the spin attack. Mumbai reached the finals in 2010 and came fourth in the last edition.
Delhi Daredevils will be looking to their skipper Virender Sehwag to give them explosive starts.
Things can only better for the side, which finished last in 2011. The Virender Sehwag-led unit is stronger with the inclusion of batting stars in Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene, Englishman Kevin Pietersen and Ross Taylor from New Zealand.
Sehwag's opening partner David Warner, who is on national duty in the Windies, will only be available at the end of the month. The bowling will be led by Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron and Irfan Pathan. The main concern for Delhi lies in the spin area.
Rahul Sharma's was the breakthrough performance in IPL IV for Pune Warriors.
They will be determined to make a mark after having been in the news for off-field reasons, which at one point saw them pulling out of the tournament. Australia captain Michael Clarke has been brought in as a replacement for Yuvraj Singh. Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal was signed recently. Sourav Ganguly will lead a batting line-up that has Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Jesse Ryder (New Zealand) and Angelo Matthews (Sri Lanka).
Bowling looks balanced with multiple spin and pace options. Leggie Rahul Sharma will be expected to deliver the goods again along with other experienced spinner Murali Karthik. Ashish Nehra is also in the squad but has fitness issues to deal with. Pune finished ninth in 2011.
Amit Mishra (left) will have to be on song for Deccan Chargers to mount a title challenge.
The 2009 champions look one of the weaker teams. Former Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara has the challenge of bringing out the best from the young-looking team. Bowling remains their strength despite the withdrawal of fast bowler Ishant Sharma due to ankle injury. South African pacer Dale Steyn will be the one to look out for.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra will hope to carry on his good form of 2011. Australia's Daniel Christian and Cameron White are the all-round options. Chargers came sixth in 2011.
MS Dhoni will be hoping his team can retain the title.
The most successful team in IPL starts as the favourite again. Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be spoilt for choice in both the batting and bowling departments.
Chennai have brought in all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and Australian pacer Ben Hilfenhaus. Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay and Subramaniam Badrinath form the batting chunk. Michael Hussey will be available after the Caribbean trip. Hilfenhaus joins compatriot Doug Bollinger in bowling with Ravichandran Ashwin being the leading spinner.
Daniel Vettori (left) will have a great bating line-up to back up his bowlers.
Last year's runners-up can hope to go the distance with the presence of the explosive West Indian batsman Chris Gayle and the in form Virat Kohli. These two should get ample support from South Africa's AB de Villiers and Sri Lankan Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Zaheer Khan and R. Vinay Kumar will be the key in the fast bowling department. Champions spinners in Daniel Vettori and Muttiah Muralitharan certainly make Royal Challengers a force to reckon with.
Paul Valthaty would be hoping to recreate his magic in IPL V too.
Captain and coach Adam Gilchrist will have the task of making the best use of the limited resources. The team does not boast of many big names. Australians David Hussey and Shaun Marsh are the prominent names in batting. Praveen Kumar, Ryan Harris and Piyush Chawla will have to do the job with the ball.
Skipper Gautam Gambhir with KKR's bowling coach Wasim Akram.
Gautam Gambhir and his men have enough fire-power to build on their fourth place finish in 2011. The Australian fast bowling duo of Brett Lee and James Pattinson can trouble most batsmen.
The team also boasts of top-all rounders - Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan and South Africa legend Jacques Kallis. West Indies off-spinner Sunil Narine and Iqbal Abdulla are likely to be the regular spinners. Other batsmen include Brendon McCullum, Eoin Morgan and big hitter Yusuf Pathan.
Two pillars of Rajasthan Royals: Shane Watson (left) and skipper Rahul Dravid.
Rajasthan Royals will be without Shane Warne, their talismanic leader in their previous campaigns. It remains to be seen how Rahul Dravid handles the job of grooming and bringing the best out a bunch of youngsters. The team will miss the services of Shane Watson in the early stages of the tournament. But once the Australian all-rounder joins the team, the Royals will have a formidable line-up. The shrewdest pick of the season for the team was bringing in Sri Lankan wunderkid Dinesh Chandimal who could be the trump card for the Royals.
Johan Botha and Brad Hogg's experience will also come in handy, in the bowling department. The new ball resposibilities will be shared by the volatile duo of Shaun Tait and Sreesanth.