The 15th edition of the Indian Premier League that starts on March 26 will feature 10 teams and 70 league matches — including 12 double-headers — over 58 days. Much of the action will be at Mumbai’s three stadiums: Wankhede Stadium will host 20 games, while 15 will be played at the Brabourne Stadium, and DY Patil Stadium will be the venue for 20 games. Pune’s MCA International Stadium will play host for 15 games.
Here’s a look at what’s in store for IPL 2022 and our predictions.
IPL is in a league of its own
Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor
The Indian Premier League is back. The 2022 version of the world’s best Twenty20 cricket league comes with changes: two new teams, more matches and a new format. That should make the tournament that starts on March 26 more interesting.
The 10-team competition isn’t new. But the format is. It’s a tweaked version from 2011, with each team playing 14 games in the 70-match league phase ahead of the four-match play-offs. With matches restricted to four venues, as part of the COVID-19 precautions, there are no home and away games. That robs some of the fun and fan support, but not the allure and razzmatazz.
Glitz and glamour are in the DNA of the IPL. Yet the last two editions were comparatively tame since the pandemic has been raging around the world, putting the brakes on entertainment and sport. But IPL survived. It came alive in the stadiums of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
The stadiums were empty in 2020, but there was no shortage of excitement on the pitch. The partial return of spectators last year helped restore a semblance of normality. There was a buzz in the UAE stadiums as fans clad in the teams’ jerseys showed their support with full-throated cheers during the second phase of Season 14.
The decibel levels will spike as the tournament returns to India this year. Crowds will throng the grounds as life has returned near normal with the easing of COVID restrictions. The Maharashtra government has allowed 25 per cent of the seats to be occupied by fully vaccinated spectators. So the stadiums will throb, and IPL will feel like IPL again.
value of IPL, the fourth richest league behind NFL ($13 billion), MLB ($10 billion) and NBA ($7.4 billion), and ahead of the English Premier League ($5.3 billion).
When spectators return, Bollywood can’t be far behind. Celebs and film stars will show up because the IPL is where cricket meets Bollywood. The two are inextricably entwined.
Cricketers and actors are stars and celebrities, which gives way for cross-pollination. Tiger Pataudi may have been one of the first cricketers to marry a Bollywood actress, but Virat Kohli won’t be the last. Kohli may no longer be captain, but Anoushka Sharma will be there to cheer the Royal Challengers Bangalore. That adds to the IPL stardust.
While stars and stardust will add to the IPL lustre, caution still abounds. The coronavirus is still around, so the Indian cricket board is not taking any chances. Maharashtra will host all the matches in four stadiums in Pune and Mumbai. That will reduce the risk of exposure with less travel for the players.
Season 15 welcomes two new teams: the Ahmedabad-based Gujarat Titans and the Lucknow Super Giants. It’s not easy for newcomers to sustain the challenge against battle-hardened veterans. Even stalwarts melt in the intense heat of competition in the IPL cauldron.
Powerhouses Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings have failed to make the last four. There are no easy games. None of the teams are pushovers. No free points for the taking. Less fancied teams are often inspired to stage giant-killing acts. Little wonder title contenders are often wary of minnows.
IPL 15 comes after an upheaval wrought by the mega auction in Bengaluru. It has rearranged winning combinations and stability of teams. Most franchises have lost some of the stars to rivals. New captains and newer bowling attacks will take time to settle even if the core is intact. That would give rise to patchy performances in the early phase.
While teams will want to click into gear soon, no team seem to be in a position to do that. The Chennai Super Kings looked good until Mahendra Singh Dhoni stepped down from captaincy and ace fast bowler Deepak Chahar cried off with an injury. Injuries are not just a CSK problem; that’s the nature of the sport.
With or without their stars, teams will find ways to win. Defeat is not an option, especially when so much money is at stake. Not just the prize money, the price of players; salaries are paid depending on availability.
The lure and lucre of the IPL are unmatched. The IPL is the first T20 league that tapped the potential of the shortest format of cricket. There are copycat leagues worldwide, but none has the appeal of the IPL. That’s why cricketers prefer to play in the league rather than turn out for the national teams. The South African players are a recent example, opting to forgo the Bangladesh Tests in favour of the IPL. Money trumps pride.
You can’t argue with that. A cricketer’s career is short, and the risk of injury is high. Some injuries can end careers. So how can you blame the players for opting for a fat pay-cheque? IPL is life insurance for players who serve up their best to keep the cheques coming. That raises the intensity of contests. Spectators get their money’s worth.
Let the action begin.
I’m backing Delhi Capitals to win
Anis Sajan, Special to Gulf News
The biggest franchise cricket league, the IPL, begins on March 26 with a blockbuster game between everyone’s favourite team, defending champions Chennai Super Kings, and runners up Kolkata Knight Riders at the Wankhede Stadium.
The 15th edition has two new teams — Lucknow Super Giants and Gujarat Titans — added to the current eight franchises. So to pick a winner in an unpredictable format, which is played with high intensity, is like predicting the English weather in summer. Every year, I try to pick a winner, and I am proven wrong every time. But being a cricket aficionado, I can’t help but predict the winner of IPL 2022, which I believe will be the Delhi Capitals.
I am backing the Delhi Capitals because they are led by the dashing and street-smart captain Rishabh Pant. He has come of age as a player since India’s tour of Australia in 2020 and is steadily showing the world his capabilities.
This IPL will be Pant’s biggest test as captain since the new team is without regulars Shreyas Iyer, Shikhar Dhawan, Kagiso Rabada and Ravichandran Ashwin.
Moreover, the Delhi Capitals have made it to the playoffs in the last two seasons and had topped the league stage in 2021 with 10 wins from 14 games. They had retained four players, including captain Rishabh Pant. Prithvi Shaw can tear apart any bowling; Axar Patel is a steady all-rounder who bowls very tight overs; Anrich Nortje is a fast bowler who picks wickets whenever the team needs a breakthrough.
Delhi Capitals were smart in the auction, buying David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Mustafizur Rahman and Shardul Thakur, who have good IPL experience. They also picked Romvell Powell, who could be the next Andre Russell in the finisher’s role. I think Powell is the player to watch this season because his shots clear the ropes with ease. The smaller boundaries in the four stadiums will be to his advantage.
Sarfaraz Khan, who has been in the form of his life in 2022, is very dangerous in the slog overs. In the spin department, Delhi have the guile of Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav to support Axar Patel. Their shrewd head coach Ricky Ponting now has the services of Shane Watson as an assistant coach, along with Pravin Amre and Ajit Agarkar.
This IPL will be Pant’s biggest test as captain since the new team is without regulars Shreyas Iyer, Shikhar Dhawan, Kagiso Rabada and Ravichandran Ashwin. Can he pass the acid test and take Delhi to their first title? Only time will tell.
— Cricket enthusiast Anis Sajan is the Vice-Chairman of Danube Group.
Mumbai in Mumbai will be tough to beat
Gautam Bhattacharyya, Senior Associate Editor
The 10-team IPL 2022 wears an open look, unlike the past when the big two of Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings shared the spoils in turns since 2017.
Several factors make predictions hazardous. The squads have been completely rejigged, barring Chennai to some extent, while two under-performing franchises — Rajasthan Royals and Punjab Kings — have set their houses in order. The two new franchises — Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants — also add to the unpredictability.
Moreover, the new and complicated format is a pleasant departure from the previous one, which allowed two teams to safely perch atop the table halfway through the league games. That left the others in the mid-table to scrap for the third and four positions.
If the Mumbai Indians can set the early momentum, it may be difficult to stop them.
Despite considering all these factors, I will put my money on five-time champions, Mumbai Indians, who are playing at home and before their raucous fans. During Wednesday’s press conference, skipper Rohit Sharma tried to deflect the pressure saying there is no additional advantage of playing at home as 70 per cent of his players have never been to Mumbai.
Mumbai had to let go of Quinton de Kock, Trent Boult and the Pandya brothers. That still leaves them with a five-member core of Rohit, Jasprit Bumrah, Suryakumar Yadav, Kieron Pollard and Ishan Kishan.
What will hurt them most is the loss of Boult as Bumrah will lack a potent partner this season as the injured Jofra Archer will be available only from the next season. So there is a legitimate concern about the workload on Bumrah, who is likely to be accompanied by the left-arm pace bowler Tymal Mills of England and the experienced Jaydev Unadkat as the third seamer in the playing XI. Pollard will fill in the fifth bowler’s quota with his ability to take the pace off the ball in the middle overs.
Mumbai have invested in two such overseas recruits — Tim David, a Singapore batter who slaughtered attacks in the Pakistan Super League in the last two seasons, and South African Dewald Brevis, who is hailed as ‘Baby AB’ after his exploits in the Under-19 World Cup.
The team look thin on big names in slow bowling, but big names don’t win you titles; teams do.
In a long competition like this, there will be lots of ‘ifs and buts’, but if the Mumbai Indians can set the early momentum, it may be difficult to stop them. They are unlikely to squander the chance in front of the ‘Blue Wave’ that their fans will create across the three stadiums in Mumbai and Pune.
Why I’m rooting for Punjab Kings
Sahil Sajan, Special to Gulf News
This IPL season will be very exciting with the arrival of new players and reshuffled squads of franchises.
My focus is on Tim David, a player whom the Mumbai Indians bought for a hefty sum of 8.25 crore rupees (around Dh4 million). The Singaporean international has been in the news for being part of various franchises. The hard-hitting batter, who also bowls right-arm off-spin, has played 14 T20Is for Singapore, scoring 558 runs at an average of 46.5 and a staggering strike rate of 158.52.
David has vast experience in T20 franchise cricket, plying his trade in the Big Bash League, Pakistan Super League, the Hundred and Vitality T20 Blast in England, and the Caribbean Premier League.
I am also looking forward to watching the right-arm pacer from South Africa, Kagiso Rabada, a highly-rated fast bowler. Rabada’s variations make him dangerous, and his best IPL figures are 4/21. He can also be handy with the bat.
My focus is on Tim David, a player whom the Mumbai Indians bought for a hefty sum of 8.25 crore rupees (around Dh4 million).
The Punjab Kings are my favourite team. I feel they have done well for a change in the auction. However, I am slightly concerned about their captain. Mayank Agarwal is undoubtedly an outstanding batsman but does not have the experience of leading a franchise. It will be quite a test for him to handle the pressure since he will also be Punjab’s opening batsman.
I am rooting for the Punjab Kings because they have a well-balanced squad. The likes of Jonny Bairstow and Shikhar Dhawan add experience to the squad. Punjab also have the most expensive overseas player in Liam Livingstone, bought for a whopping 11.25 crore rupees (around Dh5.4 million).
Livingstone is great with the ball as well as the bat. This is his chance to prove that he is an asset to the team.
— Sahil Sajan is a cricket enthusiast based in Dubai.