IPL 7 Preview: What to Expect From New Season as Teams Look to Shut Out Off-Field Issues
By Deepak Vikraman | April 15, 2014 7:08 PM EST
Entertain or perish, has pretty much been the petrol that IPL has run on over the last six years. Had it not been for the fantastic action on the field, provided by the likes of Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, MS Dhoni and more, this "domestic" T20 tournament would have been put to pasture a while back.
With issues off the field taking precedent over the last season or so, there really is only one way IPL can move on from the various spot-fixing scandals - by shutting out the outside noises completely, and putting on a show that only T20 cricket can provide to the masses.
This season of the IPL - the seventh edition - will be especially interesting due to the fact that there will be several new faces in pretty much all the teams, due to the three-year term coming to an end, and with it bringing about a new player's auction.
Whenever there is a fresh IPL auction, the action on the field that follows almost becomes an afterthought. The drama and excitement that catches hold of everyone with those paddles being raised furiously by the various franchises is unique.
That high has, of course, dissipated by now, and attention will turn towards the willow wielders, rib-breakers and bamboozlers with the on-field party beginning with the opening game of the season between the Mumbai Indians, the defending champions, and the Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday night.
"More than the playing conditions, what will be the key for most of the teams is how quickly every player gels with the other," Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma said. "After the auction, the teams have many new members and it will be a challenge for them to perform as a group.
"If the atmosphere in the dressing room is friendly and positive, then it is reflected on the field. Right combinations will be the key to success. These will be challenging two months ahead."
The fact that the first 20 matches of IPL 2014 will take place in the UAE, due to general elections in India, has also played a part in tempering the excitement a little bit; but once the white ball thuds into the bat or the stumps the first time, those pulses will go into overdrive yet again.
The onus will be on the Mumbai Indians to defend their title, the title they won so handsomely last season, beating the we-are-always-going-to-be-there-or-thereabouts Chennai Super Kings in the final.
One man, short in stature, but as big as they get in terms of value, will be missing, of course, and how the Mumbai Indians cope without Sachin Tendulkar will be an interesting subplot in the first few games of their season.
Tendulkar might not have been irreplaceable in the squad in terms of runs, but just the aura that the Little Master brings cannot be understated, with MI looking to offset that loss by making the batting legend an "Icon."
CSK will again be right there come the business end of the season, having retained their core, and added a few interesting match-winners. With MS Dhoni always presenting a calm demeanour on the field, it will be extra beneficial, because of all the hullabaloo that has existed with the team over the past few months.
"There's a lot going on, I won't lie," CSK coach Stephen Fleming said. "There are a lot of distractions. All we can do is try and be consistent again but yeah, it [controversy] is there, we acknowledge it."
Looking to upset the two favourites will be the six other teams, with Kings XI Punjab, particularly, making some brilliant buys at the IPL 7 auction. Led by the calm and capable George Bailey, Kings XI could very well be the dark horses for the title.
There were several eyebrows raised when RCB went a little paddle-crazy for Yuvraj Singh, who must still be reeling from that disappointing performance in the World T20 final. On paper, though, with Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers and Yuvraj in their lineup, RCB have a monstrous batting order, capable of running down any score.
"This time around we will hope to go few more steps ahead and actually get that trophy," said Kohli. "We have added a few more quality players in the side and I am sure we will come out with flying colours."
The Rajasthan Royals were their usual astute self during the auction, buying the most players for the least amount of money, and, despite being without Rahul Dravid and playing their home games in Ahmedabad rather than the fortress that is Jaipur, they will be one of the favourites to finish in the top four.
The Sunrisers Hyderabad will also look to further their progress after making the Playoffs last season, and having bought the likes of David Warner and Aaron Finch, they have a seriously potent batting lineup, while Dale Steyn will be expected to provide a few how-on-earth-does-he-do-that moments.
The Delhi Daredevils, who decided not to retain a single player before the auction, have a bunch of fresh faces, with the always-entertaining Kevin Pietersen leading out his troops. How they gel in their first season together will be interesting to see, while Pietersen's capabilities donning the captain's hat will also be under scrutiny.
Last, but most certainly not the least are the former champs the Kolkata Knight Riders, who while retaining only two - Gautam Gambhir and Sunil Narine - bought back quite a few of their former players to retain a similar core.
Narine will be the man the team banks on, and if the rest of the bowlers can provide the West Indian some much-needed support, KKR will be a force to be reckoned with.
The players have been bought, the strategies would have by now been zoned-in on, the talk outside the field will hopefully be kept to a minimum, and the volumes following the big tonk of the bat to send the ball out of the park turned up to the maximum as IPL 7 promises another few hundred memorable moments.
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