The Indian Premier League (IPL) has witnessed multiple champions over the years. Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai Indians (MI) are by far the most successful franchise in the T20 league. Having won the title for the first time in 2013, they have gone on to capture the title on four more occasions - 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020.
Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are the second-most successful team in the IPL. MS Dhoni has inspired CSK to three title triumphs, doing so in 2010, 2011 and 2018. The 2018 win was special, as it came after CSK’s two-year suspension from the league.
Apart from MI and CSK, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have won the IPL twice - 2012 and 2014. Both times, Gautam Gambhir was their captain. No other franchise has won the IPL title more than once.
Rajasthan Royals won the inaugural IPL edition in 2008, while Sunrisers Hyderabad lifted the trophy in 2016, thanks to their skipper David Warner, who amassed 848 runs, leading from the front.
Could the IPL have a first-time winner in 2021?
From the current teams, three of them are yet to lay their hands on the IPL trophy - Delhi Capitals, Punjab Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore. Do they stand a chance this year? Here’s an analysis.
Delhi Capitals - Strong all-round but ruthless streak missing
Delhi Capitals (DC) have been a team on the rise under Shreyas Iyer. They will be missing their regular captain this year. But that has presented an opportunity for Rishabh Pant to showcase his captaincy skills.
DC have been impressive over the last couple of seasons. Opener Shikhar Dhawan posted 521 runs in 16 matches in IPL 2019 and 618 in 17 games in IPL 2020. Captain Iyer, too, has led DC from the front with the bat. He registered 463 runs in the 2019 season and 519 last year.
Meanwhile, after managing 488 runs in IPL 2019, Pant did not have a good time last year. He put on weight while in quarantine and managed average returns of 343 runs from 14 games. The left-hander’s confidence, though, will be at an altogether different level this time round.
Delhi Capitals’ bowling was a one-man show in IPL 2019, with Kagiso Rabada claiming 25 wickets in 12 games. The addition of fast bowler Anrich Nortje in IPL 2020 gave some much-needed teeth to the DC bowling. Apart from delivering the fastest ball in IPL history, Nortje also picked up 22 wickets in 16 games.
The one area where DC will need to improve significantly, though, is their ability to be ruthless in the big games. They made it to the Qualifiers in IPL 2019 but put up a below-par show, going down to CSK by six wickets. DC managed only 147 batting first, despite possessing a strong batting lineup.
The IPL 2020 final against Mumbai Indians was a repeat of sorts. Batting first, they made an unconvincing 156 for 7, which was never going to be enough. In other words, to emerge IPL champions, DC will need to stand up and deliver on the big day.
Punjab Kings - Too conservative, how about an all-or-nothing approach?
Punjab Kings have been highly consistent over the last few seasons, but not in a way they would be proud of. After finishing runner-up in 2014, they have ended in the bottom half of the points table in every subsequent IPL season.
Between IPL 2015 and IPL 2020, Punjab Kings’ best performance has been a fifth-place finish in the 2017 edition of the competition. Last year as well, they blew hot and cold and eventually ended nowhere, claiming the sixth position in the points table.
It’s not as if Punjab Kings are lacking in the talent department, definitely not. In fact, in KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran, they have one of the strongest batting lineups in the IPL.
Captain Rahul was the Orange Cap winner last season, amassing 670 runs in 14 games. Gayle hammered 288 runs in seven games at a strike rate of 137.14. While Agarwal scored 400-plus runs in 11 games, Pooran’s 353 runs in 14 games came at a strike rate of nearly 170. That is some firepower!
With such impressive individual batting numbers, it is surprising that Punjab Kings couldn’t finish in the top four in IPL 2020. One of the reasons for that was their bowling. Mohammed Shami pretty much played a lone hand, with 20 scalps in 14 games.
The young Ravi Bishnoi was their next best, picking up 12 wickets in 14 matches. The decision to go for Sheldon Cottrell at a humongous price proved to be an unmitigated massive disaster.
Meanwhile, Punjab Kings spent big at the IPL 2021 mini-auction to buy the Australian pace bowling duo of Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith.
On paper, the purchases look smart. However, more than ringing in player changes, what Punjab Kings need is a change in attitude. Last season, they continuously put themselves under pressure, despite being in dominant positions. That is an indicator of the lack of belief in their ability.
In IPL 2021, Punjab Kings will do well to go all out and express themselves to hope for a change in fortunes. But they need to get proactive first.
Royal Challengers Bangalore - Can’t be just the VK and ABD show
Heading into IPL 2021, a common question from previous seasons has been carried forward. Would Virat Kohli lead RCB to victory in the IPL this time?
The premise of the question itself is wrong. Herein also lies the answer to why RCB have not made much progress in the IPL over the years. RCB’s over-dependence on Kohli and AB de Villiers in the IPL has been as evident as Mumbai Indians’ dominance.
Devdutt Padikkal stood up with an amazing debut IPL season. That still makes it only three match-winners with the bat for RCB. And with Padikkal testing positive for COVID-19, there is uncertainty over his participation in IPL 2021.
RCB suffered in a big way last year because one of their key overseas recruits, Aaron Finch, had a miserable run at the top of the order. Owing to Finch’s constant failures, RCB started on the backfoot with the bat nine times out of ten in IPL 2020.
Kohli has sorted that out, on paper, by deciding to open the innings in IPL 2021, buoyed by his success in the final T20I against England. That is only part of the problem solved, though, if one can say so.
They'll need to find better support for Kohli and De Villiers this time. RCB did make the playoffs in IPL 2020. But they were heavily dependent on the South African legend to win them games from improbable situations.
If one looks at their squad for this season, they have taken a punt with the unpredictable Glenn Maxwell despite his horror show for Punjab Kings last season. There is also Mohammed Azharuddeen, who is an exciting talent.
Among the bowlers, the Indian quartet of Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar will have to stand up again. It remains to be seen how effective Kyle Jamieson would be as a pacer.
Over the years, RCB have faltered while going in for names with massive reputations, especially in the batting department. They seem to have done the same this year with Maxwell.
If the move pays off, it would be viewed as a masterstroke. However, if it doesn’t, it would be the same old story for RCB in the IPL