Now that each of the eight sides has played at least one game in IPL 9, it’s a good time to analyse those early matches and see how they are shaping up for the rest of the groups.
Men to beat?
We’ve always known that RCB have the most potent batting line up in the competition but somehow they always underachieve. The question is, could this finally be their year? Powered by Kohli and AB De Villiers, the men in red became the first side to blast beyond 200 this year but once again, their bowlers weren’t all that impressive as they allowed the Sunrisers to progress to 182 in reply.
Meanwhile, everyone has been impressed by the two new franchises – Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions who have come in to replace the suspended CSK and Rajasthan Royals. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised as both squads contain players from each of those suspended sides and these are men who are more than familiar with the demands of the IPL.
Pune’s batting is formidable with Ajinkya Rahane, Steve Smith and Kevin Pietersen at the top of the order and skipper MS Dhoni on hand to hit big in the later overs. For the Gujarat Lions however, it’s the bowling attack that really stands out.
Dwayne Bravo, James Faulkner and Dale Steyn are three of the best death bowlers in world cricket and if the selectors can find room for all of them, you can bank on this side to get across the line in games that go to the wire.
Defending Champions the Mumbai Indians are notoriously slow starters and they began that defence with another defeat. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised and naturally we won’t be ruling them out of the running but Rohit Sharma’s team need to start winning soon.
Kolkata Knight Riders won the IPL in 2012 and 2014 and Gautam Gambhir’s men eased to an early win over the Delhi Daredevils. KKR were barely tested however – cruising to a nine wicket victory while chasing just 98 – and we will know more about their credentials as these group stages progress.
Sunrisers Hyderabad won’t be the only team to concede big runs against RCB this season but their bowling will be a concern following that heavy defeat. Batting does look strong and with David Warner finding early form they will improve but it seems unlikely that the squad will be picking up their first IPL title this year.
From what we’ve seen so far, the two bottom teams from last season may well be occupying those places yet again. There really wasn’t anything nice to say about Delhi as they crumbled to a competent but not exactly potent KKR attack and they look set for a return to the very foot of the table.
Kings XI are a little harder to work out: Essentially they have the same side that got to the final two years ago before hitting rock bottom last time around. Which of those sides will we see as the tournament develops?
It’s still very early days for IPL9 but already we have seen some strong indicators. RCB’s bowling needs to improve but if the attack can get tighter, this should be the season that Kohli finally gets his hands on the trophy. The threat, based on the first round of ties, may well come from those two new franchises – Gujarat and Pune.