Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals' return adds spice to IPL 11; Virat Kohli eyes elusive crown

Both Super Kings and Royals are back after serving two-year bans for their role in the spot-fixing scandal but their fans have remained as loyal as ever.

Published: 06th April 2018 02:58 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th April 2018 10:46 AM   |  A+A-

Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli during a practice session ahead of IPL 2018 at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. | PTI

Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli during a practice session ahead of IPL 2018 at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. | PTI


NEW DELHI: The Indian Premier League keeps getting bigger with each passing edition and the return of MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings and Shane Warne-coached Rajasthan Royals for the 11th edition only adds to the cult of the most popular Twenty20 league in the world.

Both Super Kings and Royals are back after serving two-year bans for their role in the spot-fixing scandal but their fans have remained as loyal as ever, especially the ones supporting the men in yellow.

The wait to see Dhoni and Co back playing for the Chennai side only made them desperate, as it was evident during a warm-up game at Chepauk where fans turned up in huge numbers.

They would be expecting nothing less than a third trophy from the Super Kings and Royals would be hoping that Warne inspires them to another triumph after 10 long years.

However, if anyone has unfinished business over a decade of IPL, it is India captain Virat Kohli.

He made his intent amply clear earlier this week.

"More than the fans I want to win the cup," said the champion batsman.

In Kohli and AB de Villiers' presence, batting was never an issue for RCB and this time the last season's wooden spooners seem to have enough firepower in the bowling department.

The Yuzvendra Chahal-led spin attack has been bolstered by the entry of Washington Sundar.

The management still has faith in left-arm spinner Pawan Negi, for whom they used the Right To Match card at the auction.

They have a top-quality Indian pacer in Umesh Yadav who will be supported by Delhi's Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj, who made his international debut in November.

Also holding key to their chances would be England all-rounder Chris Woakes, the most expensive player RCB bought at the auction.

While there is never a shortage of star players in the lucrative league but injuries and the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa have robbed the tournament of at least four world-class players.

CSK players Dwayne Bravo and MS Dhoni. | PTI

Mitchell Starc and Kagiso Rabida will miss the IPL due to injuries while Steven Smith and David Warner, who both were named captains of Royals and Sunrisers respectively, were barred from the competition after Cricket Australia banned them for one year for their role in the infamous ball-tampering incident in Cape Town.

Both Royals and Sunrisers will undoubtedly miss the services of their star players but at the same would be determined to put the setback behind under new captains Ajinkya Rahane and Kane Williamson.

Contrary to their reputation of spending frugally, Royals went all out at the auction time spending big money on the likes of Ben Stokes (Rs 12.5 crore) and Jaydev Unadkat (Rs 11.5 crore), who ended up as season's costliest buys.

They went big even after uncapped players like Sussex all-rounder Jofra Archer (Rs 7.2 crore) and Karnataka offie K Gowtham (Rs 6.2 crore).

They also have BBL star batsman D'Arcy Short and Smith's replacement Heinrich Klaasen of South Africa.

The management has spent the big bucks this time and all they would be hoping is for a decent return on investment.

For the 2016 champions, Warner's absence has left a huge void at the top of the order though Alex Hales is capable of doing the opening job alonside Shikhar Dhawan.

They managed to retain a chunk of the players from the last season and that certainly is a big positive for them going into a new season.

They have brought in Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan to boost the middle order while their bowling line-up is one of the strongest this season.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Sandeep Sharma will do the bulk of work in pace department while Afghanistan leggie Rashid Khan and Bangladesh star Shakib Al Hasan form a potent spin duo.

While Sunrisers will have to deal with Warner's loss, their southern neighbours Super Kings will have the pressure of soaring fans' expectations.

The Dhoni-led side has plenty of experience with 11 of their players over 30.

All eyes will be on Dhoni who will be expected to finish off games like he has done for the better part of his career.

Of late, he has not been at his destructive best and IPL will be an ideal platform for him to get his mojo back.

The other crucial players for Super Kings would be Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo.

Another team to watch out for will be KKR as they try to move on from the Gautam Gambhir-era.

The franchise and former India opener parted ways after a seven-year association, giving the leadership opportunity to Dinesh Karthik, who would be aiming to replicate his recent run in the India jersey.

It is a side thin on resources and any further injury issues may really cost them dear in the almost two-month long event.

Besides choosing a fresh captain, KKR have showed a lot of faith in India's U-19 stars Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shubman Gill and Shivam Mavi.

Another side high on U-19 talent is Delhi Daredevils who is eyeing a change of fortunes under new captain Gambhir and charismatic head coach Ricky Ponting.

Despite Rabada's loss due to injury, they have formed a solid squad on paper and now all they have to do is perform to their potential.

Abhishek Sharma, Manjot Kalra and Prithivi Shaw are the U-19 stars in the team.

They open their campaign against Kings XI Punjab, a revamped team full of superstars.

The biggest challenge for them would be how to get the best out of Chris Gayle and Yuvraj Singh, who were bought for their base price of Rs 2 crore.

R Ashwin will be under pressure to perform both as captain and the lead spinner, having lost his place in the India limited overs squad.

Their batting looks powerful in the presence of Aaron Finch, Gayle, Yuvraj, K L Rahul and David Miller.

Last but not the least, vying for a record fourth crown will be Mumbai Indians, the most successful franchise in the IPL.

Like teams of the past, the current Mumbai squad looks formidable and if there is any weak link it is in the spin department after they let go of veteran Harbhajan Singh.

Key players for them would be captain Rohit Sharma, Pandya brothers, Kieron Pollard and Jasprit Bumrah.


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