The much-awaited 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is just a few hours away.
Defending champions Mumbai Indians will lock horns with Royal Challengers Bangalore in the season opener at the MA Chidambaram Stadium at the Chepauk in Chennai on Friday.
Playing in the blockbuster league in itself is a high-pressure job, but captaining an IPL team is a more daunting proposition. If a team does not do well, it is often the captain who bears the brunt of fans and management alike. Conversely, captains also receive a lot of laurels if their team fares well in the IPL.
While some players enjoy the added responsibility of captaincy and thrive, some tend to get bogged down by the burden of expectations, which hampers their performances as a player.
IPL 2021 will feature a few surprise captaincy picks by franchises, which includes a few first-time captains in the competition. On that note, let's take a look at all the eight captains in IPL 2021 and predict how their respective sides could fare under their helm.
Click here for the full list of all IPL 2021 captains.
#8 IPL 2021 Captain: Sanju Samson (Rajasthan Royals)
Sanju Samson will captain the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL this season. After finishing with the wooden spoon in IPL 2020, the Royals' management have pinned their hopes on the Kerala player to change the fortunes of the team.
Samson does have some experience as a captain, having led in the Ranji Trophy in the 2015-16 season. The 26-year-old has been a part of the Royals since 2018. He also featured for them from 2013–15 before briefly moving to Delhi Daredevils (now called Delhi Capitals) for a couple of seasons.
Having spent so many years in the Royals camp, Samson is conversant with the RR system.
Performance-wise, he has been a vital cog for the Men in Pink. Samson was their top run-getter in IPL 2020, scoring 375 runs in 14 matches at an average of 28.84 and an impressive strike rate of 158.89. Overall, Sanju Samson has scored 2584 runs in 107 IPL games.
Samson has been given a golden opportunity by the Royals to lead the side. If he can make the most of it, it could bode well for him during a World Twenty20 year, bolstering his chances of making a national team comeback.
#7 IPL 2021 Captain: Rishabh Pant (Delhi Capitals)
The left-hander has enjoyed a fabulous last few months across formats and would look to rise up to the challenge of leading a team with aplomb. However, many felt that Pant is a little inexperienced for the role.
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Nevertheless, the DC management went for the 23-year-old, ahead of more experienced campaigners like Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin.
There is no denying that Rishabh Pant has been in tremendous form lately.
He smashed a six-laden 77 off 40 deliveries in the second ODI and 78 of 62 in the third ODI in the recently-concluded bilateral series against England.
The Uttarakhand-born player also boasts a stellar IPL record. Pant has amassed 2079 runs in 68 IPL games at an average of 35.23 and a phenomenal strike rate of 151.97.
After a runner-up finish in IPL 2020, Ricky Ponting and co. would look to go all the way this year.
Rishabh Pant is known for his fearless batting. As long as the added responsibility of captaincy does not affect his naturally attacking game, it is a move that could pay rich dividends for DC in IPL 2021.
#6 IPL 2021 Captain: KL Rahul (Punjab Kings)
The Punjab Kings (previously called Kings XI Punjab) won five, lost seven and tied two of their 14 matches under Rahul. While they won the second Super Over against Mumbai Indians, they lost to Delhi Capitals in one of the tied matches, ending the season in sixth place, with six wins and eight losses. That translates to a win percentage of 42.85 for Rahul.
While Punjab had a miserable start to their IPL 2020 campaign, they won five of their last seven games to almost make the playoffs. This time around, they would look to start well from the get-go and reach the business end of the tournament without too many hiccups.
On a personal front, KL Rahul enjoyed a fabulous IPL 2020 campaign, winning the Orange Cap for scoring a tournament-leading 670 runs in 14 matches at an average of 55.83 and strike rate of 129.34.
The right-hander struggled for form earlier this season but seemed to have rediscovered his mojo with an unbeaten 62* off 43 deliveries and a fabulous 108 off 114 in the first two ODIs against England last month.
The Punjab Kings captain may have found form at just the right time. The 28-year-old, who has been with the Punjab-based franchise since 2018, would look to lead his team from the front once again.
There have been some interesting additions to the team like Dawid Malan, Jhye Richardson and Moises Henriques. Nevertheless, it could be a tricky proposition for Anil Kumble and KL Rahul to get their playing XI right and open their IPL 2021 campaign on a winning note.
#5 IPL 2021 Captain: Eoin Morgan (Kolkata Knight Riders)
England’s only World Cup-winning captain transitioned to the post naturally, but KKR only won three of seven matches under his leadership to miss out on the playoffs.
Morgan may be new to IPL captaincy, but he has led England in more than 50 T20I matches, winning more than 30 of them.
The experienced Englishman is set to take charge of KKR for the entire IPL season this time around. Morgan is not someone who shies away from responsibility and actually prospers under pressure.
The left-hander is coming off his best outing last year. He scored 418 runs in 14 matches, doing so at a commendable average of 41.8 and a brisk scoring rate of 138.41.
Two-time champions KKR have failed to make the IPL playoffs in the last two years. So it would be interesting to see what Morgan can conjure to return the Kolkata-based franchise to the playoffs and possibly win their first IPL title in seven years.