The IPL begins on Saturday with three matches over the first weekend
Saturday 3.30pm GMT
Mumbai Indians v Chennai Super Kings
The Indians usually have a very strong looking group with big names aplenty but their dealings in this auction have left many scratching their heads. Why was Jos Buttler allowed to go? Why are there so few specialist spin options? Could they have done with a proven overseas top order batsman? Time will tell, of course, and they are the reigning champions but it seems quite difficult to know what their best XI is at the moment.
The iconic yellow shirt is back. After two long years in the cold it will be fascinating to see whether CSK are still one of the dominant powers in the IPL. They’ve gone with a few of the tried and trusted players that brought them success in the first eight tournaments which the owners will hope means they hit the ground running.
The concern is whether the squad is lacking a bit of youth and dynamism, and there seems to be a lack of power hitters down the order. However, over the years under MS Dhoni, the Super Kings have proved time and again they are canny operators and with their battery of spin options they will be very tough to beat in Chennai.
Odds for this game are Mumbai 8/11 CSK 5/4. For low stakes i would take a chance on CSK here at the price.
Sunday 11.30am GMT
Delhi Daredevils v Kings XI Punjab
In the last couple of years, the Daredevils have started to establish themselves as a young team capable of the occasional thrilling win.
They retained two of the most exciting Indian talents in Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer, and bringing back Gautam Gambhir is a shrewd move – the rest can bat around him. With a few explosive batsmen and some real pace they could be one of the best teams to watch. Consistency could be their problem.
After three very disappointing years with largely the same group of players, Kings XI needed to freshen things up and they’ve certainly done that. The owners have done extremely well in their recruitment of capped Indian players – KL Rahul, Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuvraj Singh and Karun Nair have all been brought in.
The first XI looks pretty strong even if the seam bowling could be quite reliant on AJ Tye. Chris Gayle was snapped up at the back end of the auction almost as an afterthought, which may mean he won’t get much game time in the early part of the tournament.
Odds here are 19/20 each of the two teams and my preference is for Daredevils.
Sunday 3.30pm GMT
KKR v Royal Challengers Bangalore
KKR were the least active side in the auction and go into the new season with just 19 players – they could have had 25. It means they have put most of their eggs in one basket, although in this case they are very good quality eggs.
Like Delhi, they have ultra-aggressive batting options and plenty of pace. I’m slightly surprised they didn’t make their money go further by spending a little less on star names. If injuries strike then they could be in trouble due to lack of cover
After years of being accused of having squads that lack balance, RCB have spread their resources more evenly this season. The batting is not as stacked as usual but if Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers are anywhere near top form does it need to be? The pitch at the Chinnaswamy last year was certainly conducive to pace off the ball and they have recognised that by purchasing a number of varied spin options. Could this finally be the Royal Challengers’ year?
Odds here are KKR 11/10, RCB 10/11, RCB are routinely over-bet (big name factor) and KKR are a tough outfit at home, KKR is the bet.