The auction for the 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) took place on the 18th of February and each franchise sought to plug the holes in their teams and fill up the gaps. At the end of the day, each side seemed satisfied with the work that they had done as, as many as 298 players went under the hammer and a frantic day of paddles being raised and bids being escalated ensued.
Mumbai Indians (MI) are the defending champions and all the other teams will be out to stop them. However, MI will go in as favorites yet again thanks to the near-perfect squad that they have. Further, there have been reports that the IPL could take place in and around Mumbai throughout (with the exception of knockout games which would take place in Ahmedabad) and if that is the case, MI would have yet another advantage.
With the IPL not too far away now, we rank each team based on the strength of the squad they have (and not the likelihood of winning the IPL). There is not a lot to separate between the sides but some squads stand out above the rest.
Punjab Kings had the most amount of money going into the auction and although they made quite a few promising signings, none of them have proven themselves in the IPL. Further, the side seems too top-heavy with the likes of KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Dawid Malan and Nicholas Pooran. With regard to their middle-order, there is still an element of brittleness. Shahrukh Khan was signed to don the finisher role but it remains to be seen how the uncapped player will go about his job.
The bowling attack doesn’t seem too strong as well. Their spin department consists of uncapped duo Ravi Bishnoi and Murugan Ashwin. Their fast bowling was bolstered with the arrival of Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith but the two are new to the IPL and might take time to adapt. Despite there still being some weaknesses, Punjab have a plethora of match-winners in their team and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they make the playoffs.
Chennai Super Kings
Chennai Super Kings (CSK) had a below-par season last year as they finished outside the playoff spots for the first time ever in their history. This time around, they’ve signed the likes of Robin Uthappa, Moeen Ali, K Gowtham and Cheteshwar Pujara but the same problems that plagued them last season continue to remain.
Their middle-order consisting of former Indian internationals Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu and MS Dhoni will have to come together as one in order for the team to make the playoff this time around. Lack of explosive batsmen at the top of the order would also be a concern as will a leader in the bowling attack.
Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) had an excellent season last year as they finished 3rd after a poor start. This year, at the auction, SRH were the quietest team as they made just 3 signings and none of them were big money ones as well. They acquired Mujeeb Ur Rahman and J Suchith as back-up options in the spin department while signing Kedar Jadhav to strengthen the middle-order.
Despite the strong finish last season and the seasons before that, SRH have always been a side who have punched above their weight. They don’t tend to usually have the strongest squad and yet they perform strongly. Their bowling attack is always top notch and among the best in the tournament however.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Kolkata Knight Riders (KRR) narrowly missed out on qualifying for the playoffs last year and will be out to rectify it this year. However, with regard to the strength of their squad, KKR still seem to not have the ‘fear’ factor that they once had. The likes of Andre Russell and Sunil Narine haven’t been in the best of touches.
The uncapped Indian batsmen like Rahul Tripathi and Nitish Rana have delivered in a few matches but haven’t been very consistent. The addition of Shakib Al Hasan will be a big boost as he will offer another excellent spin option to go with the already excellent attack that they have.
Rajasthan Royals (RR) finished with the wooden spoon last year but this year, they’ve taken a lot of brave decisions as they bid to win their second IPL title. They released their captain Steve Smith and elevated Sanju Samson as captain of the side. They also have Kumar Sangakkara as their Director of Cricket for the next season.
At the auction, RR made a lot of terrific buys. They acquired Chris Morris to strengthen both the bowling attack and the lower order. Shivam Dube‘s arrival would rectify the need they felt last year for a good Indian finisher to go with Rahul Tewatia. With the likes of Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, RR could be a very strong team this year.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) are a side who have always had among the most strongest teams in the IPL. However, their lower-middle order and death bowling have let them down more often than not. To rectify that, RCB have made excellent buys at the auction. Kyle Jamieson and Glenn Maxwell are among the best all-rounders in the world and add the ‘fear’ factor to the RCB team.
Their batting led by AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli looks sorted when coupled with the new signings as well as the reliable opener in Devdutt Padikkal. Their spin attack looks good as well, as does the pace attack.
Delhi Capitals (DC) had a superb season last year as they finished as runners-up. This year as well, they look like they could go all the way with the side that they have. The arrival of Steve Smith for such a low price (2.2 crores) would be a welcome boost even if he doesn’t feature in all games. The return of Chris Woakes would offer an excellent all-rounder option as well.
The likes of Rishabh Pant and Prithvi Shaw weren’t in form last year but if they find their touch this year, DC would be difficult to stop. Their pace attack led by Kagiso Rabada and the spin attack led by Ravichandran Ashwin is among the best in the tournament and it won’t be a surprise if DC end up winning the tournament this season.
Mumbai Indians (MI) have the strongest side in the tournament without an iota of doubt. The already near-perfect team has now been strengthened even more with some smart buys at the auction. The side looks the most settled of the lot and there won’t be much to think about or ponder over for the management apart from just letting their team go out there and win matches.
With a strong top-order, middle-order and finishers, the batting line-up is near perfect. The bowling attack which now has the likes of Adam Milne and Piyush Chawla looks even better. MI might as well go all the way yet again in the IPL.