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IPL 2024: How the 10 teams stack up for the new season

The first weekend of the new Indian Premier League season exposes each team’s strengths and weaknesses

Royal Challengers Bengaluru's Virat Kohli.
Royal Challengers Bengaluru's Virat Kohli. (AFP)

The first weekend of double-headers after Friday’s opening of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 gave us a look at this season’s 10 teams on the field. Two close finishes spiced up the fare, while Rajasthan Royals (RR) registered an emphatic win by 20 runs over Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) on Sunday. Here are the first impressions of how the 10 teams stack up.

Rajasthan Royals: RR appear to have all bases covered. The only question mark in a power-packed batting lineup is Riyan Parag at No.4, slotted above proven hitters Shimron Hetmyer and Dhruv Jurel. He delivered on Sunday afternoon in Jaipur, scoring 43 in 29 balls against LSG, but it remains to be seen how this goes.

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Skipper Sanju Samson played a captain’s knock of 82 in 52 balls. For a strokemaker like Samson, who has raised hopes earlier too with such sparklers, it’s odd that he has never crossed 500 runs in an IPL season. RR fans will hope he takes it deep this time as he leads a team with potential to win the title.

Ruturaj Gaikwad and M.S. Dhoni of Chennai Super Kings.
Ruturaj Gaikwad and M.S. Dhoni of Chennai Super Kings. (PTI)

Chennai Super Kings: The talking point before the season opener on Friday was M.S. Dhoni handing over the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) captaincy to Ruturaj Gaikwad. Expert commentators felt Gaikwad would be overawed with the legend still on the field, but he made a calm, calculated start, much like his mentor.

Timely bowling changes and clever field placements tripped up Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) after a flying start by Faf du Plessis. An early introduction of Mustafizur Rahman’s off-cutters turned the game. Bringing the third man up to push the sweeper out accounted for du Plessis. It was like savouring old wine in a new bottle. The defending champions’ only weakness is their pace bowling unit.

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Gujarat Titans: Hardik Pandya, who switched to Mumbai Indians (MI) after leading Gujarat Titans (GT) to two finals, was reminded on Sunday night of his former franchise’s propensity to pull rabbits out of the hat. First it was Rahul Tewatia boosting the GT score with his usual impetuosity. Then the usual suspect, Mohit Sharma, stole MI’s thunder with slower balls.

Seeing Shubman Gill lead the defence of a lowly 168 against a fancied opponent bodes well for GT continuing to punch above their weight. Pandya’s switch and the absence of injured strike bowler Mohammed Shami are hard to overcome, but GT possess the nous to do so.

Punjab Kings: Punjab Kings (PBKS) were party-poopers on Saturday in Mullanpur at the much-awaited comeback game of Delhi Capitals (DC) captain Rishabh Pant. The seasoned PBKS captain, Shikhar Dhawan, kept his focus to restrict DC to 174. The chase went into the last over but two Englishmen, Sam Curran and Liam Livingstone, saw them through.

It was a reversal in their away game in Bengaluru against RCB on Monday, when PBKS failed to defend 176. The third Englishman in their lineup, Jonny Bairstow, has to click at the top for Punjab Kings to progress. Also the lack of pace and overreliance on slower balls of Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh, and Sam Curran is getting predictable and vulnerable.

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Royal Challengers Bangalore: RCB met their nemesis at the season opener in Chennai, a venue where they haven’t won since 2008. As usual, lack of investment in spinners proved their undoing. Captain Faf du Plessis’s blunder in deploying only 5 overs of spin compounded it, with left-arm spinner Mayank Dagar getting just two overs despite conceding only 6 runs.

Spin will be RCB’s Achilles’ Heel on tacky tracks. They fared better against PBKS at home where their strength in pace kicks in. Two vintage batting performances sealed RCB’s win. Master chaser Virat Kohli set it up with 77 in 49 balls, and ageless finisher Dinesh Karthik closed it with 28 in 10 balls. If RCB make better use of their limited spin resources, they have the power to break into the playoffs.

Kolkata Knight Riders: Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) opened their account with a 4-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in a high-scoring game at the Eden Gardens on Saturday. But it was a pyrrhic victory that exposed weaknesses. Debutant Phil Salt’s 54 and a Dre Russ special of 64 in 25 balls papered over the failure of the middle order comprising Shreyas Iyer, Venkatesh Iyer, and Nitish Rana.

Despite 208 on the scoreboard, KKR let SRH get into a winning position from 133/4, with 76 needed in the last four overs. IPL’s highest paid player, Mitchell Starc, went for 26 in the 19th over. That Harshit Rana was able to stop the SRH run with off-pace deliveries in the final over was a jail-break for KKR.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: That SRH fell only four runs short of KKR’s target of 208 was due to Heinrich Klaasen’s 63 in 29 balls a la Dre Russ. But how they ended up chasing such a tall target is a question the new SRH captain, Pat Cummins, will be mulling. His inability to rein in Andre Russell was partly due to poor bowling tactics—too many balls in his legside arc and not enough bouncers.

The SRH bowling overall was weak, but it’s too early to write them off. After all, Cummins has shown that he is capable of learning on the job at the highest level: he lost the first game with Australia at the ODI World Cup last year, but went on to win the title.

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Mumbai Indians: MI have two challenges this season. The first is to cope with low-rung spin bowling resources. The second one is a change of leadership.

Hardik Pandya’s handling of the bowlers came under attack after the loss to GT. But MI still restricted GT to a below par 168. The bigger issue was a failure to reach that target after being well-placed, with Tilak Verma’s risk-averse approach and Tim David’s discomfort against spin derailing the chase. The skipper came out to bat too late, in the last over, to make any difference.

Pandya led from the front with both bat and ball to take GT to two finals in 2022 and 2023. The extent to which he can do that at MI will influence the outcome this season.

Delhi Capitals: The absence of Anrich Nortje and Jhye Richardson, who are recovering from injuries, weakened the DC pace unit. This was exacerbated by Lungi Ngidi having to be replaced and Ishant Sharma twisting his ankle in the first game.

The best news was the return to fitness of skipper Rishabh Pant, although it will take time for him to find his old flourish. DC continue to waste the batting of Axar Patel at No.7. Surely he can bat above Ricky Bhui considering how many good knocks he has under his belt.

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Lucknow Super Giants: The pace bowling lacked firepower. The spinners lacked penetration. So it was up to LSG’s vaunted batting to shine against RR.But skipper K.L. Rahul’s 58 in 44 balls continued his trend, since 2019, of registering a strike rate below 140, compared to nearly 160 earlier. In a run chase of 194, requiring nearly 10 an over, his strike rate of 8 an over was just not good enough for a batsman of his class.

That self-preservation mindset has to change for LSG to become title contenders. And they may have to sacrifice all-rounder Marcus Stoinis to bring in the latest Caribbean speed sensation, Shamar Joseph, who caused havoc in Australia recently with 150-kmph thunderbolts.

Sumit Chakraberty is a writer based in Bengaluru.

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