Stokes could inspire Pune IPL bid
England all-rounder joins exciting Supergiants’ squad
The Indian Premier League returns for its tenth season and the Twenty20 jamboree will feature some familiar faces for English cricket fans.
Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, Chris Jordan, Sam Billings, Chris Woakes, Jason Roy and Tymal Mills were snapped up along with Ben Stokes, who has become the most expensive foreign player in IPL history.
The explosive all-rounder has signed for Pune Supergiants and his arrival is a statement of intent from a team in only their second season of IPL cricket.
Five wins and nine defeats was a modest return in 2016 but the Supergiants had terrible luck with injuries in their debut season so there is scope for major improvement.
Stokes will be playing under the captaincy of Steve Smith, fresh from a superb Test series for Australia in India, with MS Dhoni and Faf du Plessis also natural leaders of men.
Imran Tahir and Adam Zampa are excellent overseas spinners, making up for the absence of injured Ravichandran Ashwin, while batsman Ajinkya Rahane (480 runs) and fast bowler Ashok Dinda (11 wickets) were the pick of the Indian contingent last term.
At 7-1, the Supergiants look overpriced given the nous and experience of Smith, Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming.
Kolkata Knight Riders are not the most glamorous side but their solid brand of cricket took them to the title in 2012 and 2014 and they reached the playoffs last season.
Openers Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa are part of a dependable Indian core and Woakes, Trent Boult and Umesh Yadav – when fit – form a decent pace attack.
Spin looks an even more potent weapon for Kolkata, with Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav and star Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan on the roster.
Chris Lynn, outstanding in the Big Bash, and West Indian youngster Rovman Powell are big-hitting options who could jazz up the batting but the Knight Riders tend to be more than the sum of their parts.
They won eight of their 14 league games last season, doing the double over champions Hyderabad and winning away at powerhouses Bangalore, and Gambhir, who led from the front with 501 runs in 2016, could galvanise his team once again.
Bangalore’s long wait for an IPL title continued after their defeat in last year’s final and injuries could scupper the favourites again with fitness doubts over Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. Lokesh Rahul, their third-highest runscorer last term, is out for the season.
Champions Hyderabad were hugely dependent on opening batsmen David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan, neither of whom are in great form, and experienced Mumbai men Rohit Sharma, Mitchell Johnson and Lasith Malinga have had little cricket leading up to this tournament.
Gujarat flopped in the playoffs after finishing top of the league in their debut season and bookmakers are right to respect the Lions with England’s Jason Roy bolstering an already powerful top order.
Expectations are lower for Delhi, whose preparation has been disrupted by the withdrawals of South African pair Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy.
De Kock and Duminy’s compatriot David Miller lost the captaincy of Kings XI Punjab midway through their dismal 2016 campaign and this year’s skipper Glenn Maxwell has a tough job on his hands to rouse the IPL outsiders.
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Kolkata Knight Riders
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Guide to the IPL
Bangalore Royal Challengers
Captain Virat Kohli (India)
Key overseas players AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, Samuel Badree, Travis Head, Tymal Mills
Key Indian players Kedar Jadhav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Sarfaraz Khan, Stuart Binny, Sachin Baby
Captain Zaheer Khan (India)
Key overseas players Chris Morris, Angelo Mathews, Kagiso Rabada,
Pat Cummins, Carlos Brathwaite, Sam Billings
Key Indian players Sanju Samson, Karun Nair, Jayant Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Amit Mishra
Captain Suresh Raina (India)
Key overseas players Jason Roy, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch
Key Indian players Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar, Shivil Kaushik
Captain David Warner (Australia)
Key overseas players Ben Cutting, Mustafizur Rahman, Chris Jordan, Moises Henriques, Kane Williamson, Ben Laughlin
Key Indian players Yuvraj Singh, Shikhar Dhawan, Deepak Hooda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra
Kings XI Punjab
Captain Glenn Maxwell (Australia)
Key overseas players Shaun Marsh, David Miller, Darren Sammy, Marcus Stoinis, Hashim Amla, Eoin Morgan
Key Indian players Murali Vijay, Manan Vohra, Wriddiman Saha, Axar Patel, Mohit Sharma
Kolkata Knight Riders
Captain Gautam Gambhir (India)
Key overseas players Trent Boult, Shakib Al Hasan, Chris Lynn,
Sunil Narine, Darren Bravo, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Woakes
Key Indian players Robin Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Umesh Yadav, Suryakumar Yadav
Captain Rohit Sharma (India)
Key overseas players Jos Buttler, Kieron Pollard, Mitchell Johnson, Lasith Malinga, Lendl Simmons, Tim Southee
Key Indian players Parthiv Patel, Hardik Pandya, Harbhajan Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Krunal Pandya
Captain Steve Smith (Australia)
Key overseas players Imran Tahir, Faf du Plessis, Adam Zampa,
Dan Christian, Usman Khawaja, Ben Stokes
Key Indian players Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni, Manoj Tiwary, Rajat Bhatia, Ashok Dinda
Teams can pick a maximum of four overseas players in each game