Less than a week on from hosting the climax of the World Twenty20, India will welcome the start of the world’s biggest domestic T20 competition. The ninth edition of the Indian Premier League will get underway on Saturday, with the Mumbai Indians hosting Rising Pune Super Giants.
The Pune side is one of two new franchises, along with the Gujarat Lions, to join the league in 2016, following the suspensions of the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals for gambling violations. Elsewhere, though, much remains the same, including an unparalleled collection of stars, many of whom have just lit up the World Cup of cricket’s most explosive format. Here’s a look at the eight teams that will be competing for one of the four playoff spots and ultimately the trophy at the end of May.
One of the IPL’s great underachievers in recent times, Daredevils have not reached the playoffs since 2012, even if last year represented a modest improvement. Changes have been made, with one South African, Gary Kirsten, being replaced by another, in Paddy Upton, as head coach and Rahul Dravid coming in as a mentor. There is a new captain, too, with veteran seamer Zaheer Khan taking over from JP Duminy. It remains to be seen whether the big money spent on young all-rounder Pawan Negi was justified, but the recruitment of Carlos Brathwaite, who hit four sixes in four balls to win the World T20 for the West Indies, could prove a coup.
While they may be beginning their IPL life, the Gujarat Lions have secured plenty of experience in their choice of captain. Suresh Raina was a member of the Chennai Super Kings since the league’s inception in 2008 and has scored more runs than anyone in IPL history. While he may not be in the best of form, personally, as shown at the World T20, Raina has a strong squad to lead. Certainly Australian Aaron
Finch and New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum should provide plenty of fireworks with the bat, while James Faulkner and Dwayne Bravo are very useful all-round options.
Kings XI Punjab
Kings XI suffered a dramatic fall from grace in 2015, when going from runner-up to finishing dead last in the table with just three victories from their 14 matches. Unsurprisingly, changes were made. Previous captain George Bailey is no longer a part of the team, having been replaced by David Miller, a South African batsman with precious little captaincy experience. Much will depend on Miller and Glenn Maxwell to provide the runs.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Twice champions in the past four years, Kolkata Knight Riders will be determined to get back to the playoffs after missing out on 2015. To try and achieve that aim, they have gone with an Indian-heavy batting lineup, led by the experienced Gautam Gambhir. Big-hitting New Zealander Colin Munro will add runs, while a strong bowling attack will be led by Morne Morkel, Andre Russell and Shakib Al Hasan.
Mumbai have been the dominant team of recent editions, reaching the playoffs in each of the last six seasons and winning two of the last three, including last year. And they will understandably start as one of the favorites to retain their title in 2016. There is quality in abundance, starting with captain Rohit Sharma, and including overseas players like Lendl Simmons, Corey Anderson and Jos Buttler, in additions to top young Indian talents Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah. The only blow is the absence of Sri Lankan bowler Lasith Malinga, who could miss the whole of the IPL because of a knee injury, according to coach Ricky Ponting.
Rising Pune Supergiants
Like fellow newcomers Gujarat Lions, Rising Pune Supergiants have managed to secure a leader who played a major role in the success of Chennai Super Kings. In having India’s limited-overs leader Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain, the Supergiants will also attract plenty of fan support. An impressive batting lineup also includes Australia captain Steve Smith, South African skipper Faf du Plessis as well as Kevin Pietersen. It remains to be seen if both the batting and the bowling have sufficient variety, however.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
After agonizingly falling short of reaching the final at the last hurdle a year ago, Royal Challengers Bangalore will again be aiming to break their duck with a lineup stacked with big names. Their talent starts at the top with captain Virat Kohli, who was named Player of the Tournament at the World T20 after a series of starring performances. Back to join Kohli are Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers, with support coming from Shane Watson and Stuart Binny. The questions come over the bowling, where Mitchell Starc will miss out because of a foot injury, while Samuel Badree’s participation is currently in doubt due to a shoulder problem suffered in the final of the World T20.
Heading into their fourth season in the IPL, Sunrisers Hyderabad will be aiming to build some early consistency, something that eluded them last year when losing seven and winning seven of their matches. David Warner is back as captain, and leads a batting lineup also including the skippers of England, Eoin Morgan, and New Zealand, Kane Williamson. Of the three, though, only Williamson impressed to any degree during the World T20. Veteran bowler Ashish Nehra had a much better time of things in the tournament and his signing a big plus, although fellow India international Yuvraj Singh is set to miss the opening two weeks of the IPL through injury.
Betting odds (via Oddschecker)
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 3/1
Rising Pune Supergiants: 9/2
Mumbai Indians: 5/1
Gujarat Lions: 7/1
Kolkata Knight Riders: 7/1
Kings XI Punjab: 8/1
Hyderabad Sunrisers: 9/1
Delhi Daredevils: 11/1
IPL 2016 schedule (all times 10:30 a.m. EDT unless stated)
Saturday, April 9: Mumbai Indians vs. Rising Pune Supergiants
Sunday, April 10: Kolkata Knight Riders vs. Delhi Daredevils
Monday, April 11: Kings XI Punjab vs. Gujarat Lions
Tuesday, April 12: Royal Challengers Bangalore vs. Sunrisers Hyderabad
Wednesday, April 13: Kolkata Knight Riders vs. Mumbai Indians
Thursday, April 14: Gujarat Lions vs. Rising Pune Supergiants
Friday, April 15: Delhi Daredevils vs. Kings XI Punjab
Saturday, April 16 (6:30 a.m.): Sunrisers Hyderabad vs. Kolkata Knight Riders
Saturday, April 16: Mumbai Indians vs. Gujarat Lions
Sunday, April 17 (6:30 a.m.): Kings XI Punjab vs. Rising Pune Supergiants
Monday, April 18: Sunrisers Hyderabad vs. Mumbai Indians
Tuesday, April 19: Kings XI Punjab vs. Kolkata Knight Riders
Wednesday, April 20: Mumbai Indians vs. Royal Challengers Bangalore
Thursday, April 21: Gujarat Lions vs. Sunrisers Hyderabad
Friday, April 22: Rising Pune Supergiants vs. Royal Challengers Bangalore
Saturday, April 23 (6:30 a.m.): Delhi Daredevils vs. Mumbai Indians
Saturday, April 23: Sunrisers Hyderabad vs. Kings XI Punjab
Sunday, April 24 (6:30 a.m.): Gujarat Lions vs. Royal Challengers Bangalore
Sunday, April 24: Rising Pune Supergiants vs. Kolkata Knight Riders
Monday, April 25: Kings XI Punjab vs. Mumbai Indians
Tuesday, April 26: Sunrisers Hyderabad vs. Rising Pune Supergiants
Wednesday, April 27: Delhi Daredevils vs. Gujarat Lions
Thursday, April 28: Mumbai Indians vs. Kolkata Knight Riders
Friday, April 29: Rising Pune Supergiants vs. Gujarat Lions
Saturday, April 30 (6:30 a.m.): Delhi Daredevils vs. Kolkata Knight Riders
Saturday, April 30: Sunrisers Hyderabad vs. Royal Challengers Bangalore
Sunday, May 1 (6:30 a.m.): Gujarat Lions vs. Kings XI Punjab
Sunday, May 1: Rising Pune Supergiants vs. Mumbai Indians
Monday, May 2: Royal Challengers Bangalore vs. Kolkata Knight Riders
Tuesday, May 3: Gujarat Lions vs. Delhi Daredevils
Wednesday, May 4: Kolkata Knight Riders vs. Kings XI Punjab
Thursday, May 5: Delhi Daredevils vs. Rising Pune Supergiants
Friday, May 6: Sunrisers Hyderabad vs. Gujarat Lions
Saturday, May 7 (6:30 a.m.): Royal Challengers Bangalore vs. Rising Pune Supergiants
Saturday, May 7: Kings XI Punjab vs. Delhi Daredevils
Sunday, May 8 (6:30 a.m.): Mumbai Indians vs. Sunrisers Hyderabad
Sunday, May 8: Kolkata Knight Riders vs. Gujarat Lions
Monday, May 9: Kings XI Punjab vs. Royal Challengers Bangalore
Tuesday, May 10: Rising Pune Supergiants vs. Sunrisers Hyderabad
Wednesday, May 11: Royal Challengers Bangalore vs. Mumbai Indians
Thursday, May 12: Sunrisers Hyderabad vs. Delhi Daredevils
Friday, May 13: Mumbai Indians vs. Kings XI Punjab
Saturday, May 14 (6:30 a.m.): Royal Challengers Bangalore vs. Gujarat Lions
Saturday, May 14: Kolkata Knight Riders vs. Rising Pune Supergiants
Sunday, May 15 (6:30 a.m.): Mumbai Indians vs. Delhi Daredevils
Sunday, May 15: Kings XI Punjab vs. Sunrisers Hyderabad
Monday, May 16: Kolkata Knight Riders vs. Royal Challengers Bangalore
Tuesday, May 17: Rising Pune Supergiants vs. Delhi Daredevils
Wednesday, May 18: Royal Challengers Bangalore vs. Kings XI Punjab
Thursday, May 19: Gujarat Lions vs. Kolkata Knight Riders
Friday, May 20: Delhi Daredevils vs. Sunrisers Hyderabad
Saturday, May 21 (6:30 a.m.): Rising Pune Supergiants vs. Kings XI Punjab
Saturday, May 21: Gujarat Lions vs. Mumbai Indians
Sunday, May 22 (6:30 a.m.): Kolkata Knight Riders vs. Sunrisers Hyderabad
Sunday, May 22: Delhi Daredevils vs. Royal Challengers Bangalore
Tuesday, May 24: Qualifier 1
Wednesday, May 25: Eliminator
Friday, May 27: Qualifier 2
Sunday, May 29: Final
TV coverage: Viewers in the USA can watch the 2016 IPL on ESPN pay per view through DISH, Verizon FiOS, Hotwire Communications, Mediacom and RCN.
Live stream: Live streaming coverage will be available via a subscription to ESPN’s Cricket Pass.