New Delhi: In part one of Cricketnext's look at how the nine IPL 6 franchises stack up: Chennai, Sunrisers, Punjab, Kolkata and Bangalore.
Name: Chennai Super Kings
Captain: MS Dhoni
Coach: Stephen Fleming
Owner: India Cements
Cost of team: $91 million
Key players: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Michael Hussey, Dwayne Bravo, Dirk Nannes, Ben Hilfenhaus. Such talent, spread out across the line-up and in all three departments, make CSK contenders each season.
Strengths: The fact that CSK did not bid for a single batsman at the 2013 auction shows where they believe their strengths lie. And they do have the numbers and success to back that. The addition of five bowlers, including Nannes, Chris Morris, Akila Dananjaya and Jason Holder, makes this an even stronger side.
Weaknesses: Despite a strong batting attack, the team often struggles to finish strongly. This was evident during the league stage last year, where CSK were very shoddy. With Faf du Plessis expected to miss at least nine matches, the team is without a handy batting option and brilliant fielder. Also, should Hussey not manage to tee off early enough, CSK often end up too reliant on Dhoni and Bravo. The lack of firepower in the pace attack has been a problem previously, but the new acquisitions could change that.
2012 Performance: They reached the final, losing to KKR in Chennai. Considering how poor CSK were in the league stage, a spot at the summit had appeared a long shot. But they rallied, and with some luck again made it into the last four.
2013 Prospects: Chennai were losing finalists last year, and even this season will be a firm favorite to make the IPL final. In a team boasting so much talent, and that to a proven Twent20 giant captained by Dhoni, the expectations are always high. A lot rides on Dhoni, Vijay, Raina and Ashwin. A good bet for finalists again.
Name: Sunrisers Hyderabad
Captain: To be announced
Coach: Tom Moody
Owner: Sun TV Network
Cost of team: $850.5 million
Key players: Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-batsman, remains the team's most valuable player. With Shikhar Dhawan injured, Sangakkara is even more important to Hyderabad's top order. Dale Steyn was the franchise's leading wicket-taker in 2012 and once again will be relied on to fire. The allrounders Thisara Perera and Darren Sammy are value additions this season, while Cameron White will eye another strong season.
Strengths: Steyn, who bowled some awesome spells in IPL 5, and Sangakkara, provided he does not repeat his ordinary fifth season form.
Weaknesses: A lack of quality bowlers to support Steyn and fire power in the middle order. The side has some stars, but if you scratch the surface, they are players more likely to have off days than memorable ones. Consistency is a big problem.
2012 Performance: Deccan finished second from last in the fifth edition of the league, winning four of their 11 completed matches. They came into IPL 5 as underdogs and finished eighth out of nine teams. The team's poor performance was attributed to very poor fielding and average bowling, in particular no support for Steyn. No Indian player made an impact, which hurt Deccan.
2013 Prospects: Injuries to Dhawan and JP Duminy are big blows, leaving Sunrisers looking inferior before the league gets underway. With few good specialists, the reliance is on the allrounders. As in 2011 and 2013, the Hyderabad franchise enters an IPL season as underdogs.
Name: Kings XI Punjab
Captain: To be announced
Coach: WV Raman
Owner: Preity Zinta, Ness Wadia, The Oberai Group, Mohit Burman and Karan Paul
Cost of team: $76 million
Key players: Adam Gilchrist's u-turn on his IPL career during the off season leaves him as the senior most player, apart from a potentially dynamic force with the bat. Azhar Mahmood, Shaun Marsh, David Hussey are major overseas players while domestically, Parwinder Awana and Mandeep Singh will be required to deliver consistently.
Strengths: Punjab have a strong middle order and capable bowling attack, but need to figure out the right balance. Awana and Praveen Kumar are capable pace bowlers and Piyush Chawla a proven IPL performer.
Weaknesses: Support for the big names. Too much rides on Sangakkara and Steyn. Also, Punjab rely too much on their batsmen to put up big scores.
2012 Performance: Punjab came in sixth with a 50-50 record which owed to a poor home record. They never managed to win more than two matches in a row, which left them struggling to make the play-offs. As in IPL 4 and 5, Punjab failed to make their must-win last league match in Dharamsala count.
2013 Prospects: If Punjab get more out of their domestic players and overcome consistency, they are genuine contenders for the knockouts. They have placed faith in pretty much the same squad as last year, bidding for just two players at the IPL auction and getting them: Australian batsman Luke Pomersbach and Indian medium-pacer Manpreet Gony.
Name: Kolkata Knight Riders
Captain: Gautam Gambhir
Coach: Trevor Bayliss
Owner: Red Chillies Entertainment
Cost of team: $79.09 million
Key players: Gautam Gambhir, Jacques Kallis, Brendon McCullum, Shakib Al Hasan, Brett Lee, Sunil Narine and L Balaji. Not all of them fired in IPL 5, but remain big-match players. If KKR can get Yusuf Pathan back to form, they will become an even tougher side.
Strengths: This is a side not short on flexibility or experience. Their attack is one that has plenty of experience bowling on sub-continental tracks, and there is much depth to the batting. The top order is strong, with Gambhir, Kallis, McCullum and Manvinder Bisla packing in. They also have a good crop of Indian bowlers with experience of bowling on sub-continental pitches. The acquisition of Sri Lankan spinner Sachithra Senanayake, for $625,000, gives them a stronger spin attack.
Weaknesses:Tough to pick considering they won the title in 2012, but the failure of Yusuf was a big letdown.
2012 Performance: KKR finished the league stage second to Delhi Daredevils by a single point, beat them in the first playoff to qualify for their maiden final and went on to beat CSK. Winning ten of their last 13 matches (one was washed out) was tantamount to KKR's run to the trophy.
2013 Prospects: If KKR get more out of McCullum, Lee and Yusuf they will remain play-off contenders. Now that they know what is required to win, the onus will be on KKR to repeat it. Bet on them making the knockouts.
Name: Bangalore Royal Challengers
Captain: Virat Kohli
Coach: Ray Jennings
Owner: UB Group
Cost of team: $111.6 Million
Key players: Chris Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers.
Strengths: A top four reading those aforementioned names.
Weaknesses: The bowling and a tendency to choke at the last stage. In IPL 5 the bowlers struggled to plug runs and took much less wickets than other teams; the management tried many options with the result being that, bar Muttiah Muralitharan, a five-man specialist attack was not very good. For all of Gayle's fireworks in the last two seasons, he has failed in the knock-out stages. Also, the lack of a quality allrounder hurts.
2012 Performance: Bangalore finished fifth, disappointing considering their batting might and the expectations. They failed to reach the play-offs due to a marginally inferior net run-rate after they lost their final match. Overall, RCB won eight and lost seven, with one washout.
2013 Prospects: Like always, a lot depends on how that top four does. Kohli did not deliver as desired in IPL 5 and will have to be much better to give RCB a better shot at the play-offs. Should Gayle turn in another massive season and be backed by Dilshan, de Villiers and Kohli the team should remain contenders, but the performances of the bowlers will have to far more. The addition of five pace-bowling options could make a difference.
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