IPL 2021 is set to begin in a few days. It promises a lot of fun and excitement amid the pandemic. Although it would be held without the crowd, IPL 2021 promises to entertain all cricket fans. Cricwizz takes a look at each team's chances in the tournament, and who are likely to qualify for play-offs?
Mumbai Indians have won two consecutive IPL trophies and would be eyeing their third on the trot. They eked out a 1-run win against Chennai Super Kings in 2019 final, but they had it easy against Delhi Capitals in the 2020 final, winning it by 5 wickets.
Mumbai have retained the core group and hired a few all-rounders in Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jimmy Neesham, and a veteran spinner in Piyush Chawla, among the few buys they made in the auction.
They again look like a well-oiled unit, with all the men being in top form. With Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav firing on T20I debut, and Kieron Pollard hitting six sixes in an over in T20I recently, and in-form Rohit Sharma as opener-cum-captain, Mumbai have their batting sorted out.
Their bowling will be led by Trent Boult again, along with Jasprit Bumrah. With Chawla in the squad, they have a mix of experienced spinners along with the flair of Rahul Chahar and Jayant Yadav.
Overall, Mumbai have the best squad this season, and it would be a shame if they don’t make it to the play-offs. But they are good again to lift the trophy for the third time in a row.
Play-offs chances: Favorites for play-offs, and title again
Last year’s finalist Delhi Capitals will miss the services of their regular captain Shreyas Iyer due to an injury. But they will be now led by the in-form Rishabh Pant, and that could mean Delhi would play attacking cricket throughout.
Their core of the squad is the same as last season, but they have hired new recruits in Australian Steve Smith, who may be called into the XI to add solidity to the middle-order in absence of Iyer. If that happens, Shimron Hetmyer may have to sit down.
Overall, if Delhi could cover the absence of Iyer and Pant leads from the front, they are favorites for the play-offs.
Play-offs chances: Contender for a last-four berth
Chennai Super Kings
CSK had a forgettable season last time, as they failed to make it to the playoffs for the first time in the last 13 seasons. They have discarded liabilities in Kedar Jadhav and Murali Vijay and hired England all-rounder Moeen Ali, and ex-Rajasthan Royals player Krishnappa Gowthan.
They also sprung a surprise by buying Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara in the hope he could lend solidity to the middle-order by tackling the spinners on Indian pitches.
At home, CSK would be a force to reckon with. They will be boosted by the return of Suresh Raina, and the in-form Sam Curran. Overall, if Dhoni’s bat fires, it would be difficult to stop them and a playoff berth should be a formality for them then.
Play-offs chances: A lot depends on Dhoni's form and leadership, except a top 4 finish.
Lack of quality middle-order had hurt Punjab last season. But they have hired No 1 T20I batsman Dawid Malan at his base price and would hope the England star would solve their middle-order woes.
They also got a quality Aussie pacer in Jhye Richardson to back up their pace bowling unit. They have covered their loopholes, but it would need more of a team’s effort for Punjab to move into play-offs or it would be the same story again – KL Rahul leading the batting charts while Punjab languishes at the bottom.
Play-offs chances: It could be the same story all over again - missing playoffs by a whisker
Kolkata Knight Riders
An injured Andre Russell and a change of captaincy mid-way last season marred KKK’s campaign. But with Eoin Morgan getting full control for the whole season, the England skipper could inspire KKR to greater heights.
KKR would be boosted by the return of Shakib Al Hasan to their fold, and he could be an important part of the team’s strategy this season. They also have an exciting local talent in Shubman Gill, Prasidh Krishna, and Dinesh Karthik.
If KKR plays as a team and Russell fires, they could pose a serious threat to Mumbai’s dominance. Otherwise, it could be the same story again as in previous seasons.
Play-offs chances: A strong contender if it plays as a team
Royal Challengers Bangalore
RCB released quite a few important overseas stars in Chris Morris and Moeen Ali and hired IPL 2020 flop Glenn Maxwell for a record price. Their strategy on team composition is always questionable as players released from their squad have made an immediate impact on other teams.
They could miss Morris’ services, but they would hope new recruits Daniel Christian would do the job for them. Another interesting recruit in New Zealand’s Kyle Jamieson.
But once again, the batting rests heavily on Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. They are also quite unpredictable. A playoff berth cannot be ruled out if Kohli-ABD fires in unison. But the chances are highly unlikely.
Play-offs chances: Better luck next time
They look like the most settled team in the tournament with in-form batsmen and bowlers. They have match-winners in Jonny Bairstow, David Warner, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rashid Khan. But they have not been able to match it up with consistency. Also, it is a bit over-reliant on their star players. If SRH could work out these flaws, they could be hard to beat this season. They have a strong chance of securing a playoff berth this season.
Play-offs chances: Another favorite for a playoff berth
They had released Steve Smith and given leadership duties to Sanju Samson, and hope their fortunes would turn around this season. They have been under-performers and under-achievers since they won the inaugural IPL season. But they have a few exciting T20 stars in Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler who are treated to watch.
They would be boosted by the hiring of Chris Morris, but the absence of Jofra Archer for the first half of the tournament could hurt them. Under a new leader Samson, the Royals would have to quickly get their combination right, and fire as a team to stay in contention for playoffs.
Play-offs chances: Chances to finish in the top 4 looks slim.
Favorites for play-offs: MI, DC, KKR, SRH
Cover image courtesy: IPL Facebook page