International cricket’s biggest stars will be on show in the subcontinent when the 12th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) gets under way on March 23.
There will no shortage of star power – both Indian and overseas – as the eight franchises get ready to battle it out for the top prize. As is the case always, the domestic talent pool will be crucial to each side’s ambitions.
Here, we take a look at the one key India player in each of the eight teams.
SUNRISERS HYDERABAD – SIDDARTH KAUL
With Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s workload set to be managed carefully in the lead up to the World Cup, Siddarth Kaul’s role for Sunrisers Hyderabad has become even more significant.
The medium-pacer was excellent for the 2018 IPL finalists and picked up 21 wickets at a strike-rate of less than 19. Those displays saw Kaul even earn an India call up and the bowler has since featured sporadically at the international level.
Another successful campaign for Kaul could see him sneak into the World Cup squad as a reserve pacer and he will be determined to stake his claim for the same. Watch out for the ‘knuckle-ball’ slower deliveries that were a big hit for him last season.
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS – MS DHONI
Having led Chennai Super Kings to their third IPL title last year in what was an emotional return for the competition after suspension for the franchise, Dhoni will look to make it number four in the upcoming edition.
The veteran wicketkeeper was in excellent form with the bat last year where he had his most prolific individual campaign since the 2013 edition. Dhoni scored 455 runs at a staggering average of 75.83 while maintaining a strike-rate of over 150.
The IPL will be the perfect opportunity for the Chennai skipper to sharpen up for the World Cup which is expected to be his India swansong.
DELHI CAPITALS – RISHABH PANT
The 21-year-old has quickly become a household name after a breakout year in international cricket which saw him become the first India wicketkeeper to register Test tons on English and Australian soil.
Such have been his displays at the international level that it is easy to forget Pant had a brilliant season with the Delhi franchise last year. The youngster amassed 684 runs from 14 innings at an average of 52.61 while registering a high score of 128. All this, while batting at a sensational strike-rate of nearly 174.
With a year of international cricket under his belt, Pant will be determined to go even further in the upcoming edition and Delhi fans can expect plenty of fireworks.
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS – KULDEEP YADAV
Over the past two years or so, the youngster has quickly gone on to establish himself as one of the top limited-overs bowlers in the world. With the World Cup coming up in England, Kuldeep will want to get into good rhythm while also testing himself against the world’s best batsmen.
The 24-year-old played a key role in Kolkata Knight Riders’ march to the play-off last year by picking up 17 wickets and he looks poised to have his best IPL campaign yet following the improvement he has shown at the international level.
KINGS XI PUNJAB – KL RAHUL
It has not been the best of years for KL Rahul at the international level with the top-order batsman squandering opportunity after opportunity to cement a place in the India side.
Rahul’s mercurial displays for India over the past few months are all the more baffling given the stupendous IPL campaign he had last season with Kings XI. The right-hander scored 659 runs in 14 matches at an average of over 54 and nearly dragged the franchise to the play-off single-handedly.
He was expected to kick on for India post those displays but that hasn’t really happened. With a berth in the World Cup squad still up for grabs, expect Rahul to come out in the IPL with a big point to prove.
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE – VIRAT KOHLI
What Dhoni is to Chennai, Virat Kohli has been for Royal Challengers Bangalore minus the IPL titles. The India skipper has been with the franchise since the inception of the IPL in 2008 but his wait for a maiden title continues.
Kohli has led Bangalore from the front more often than not but his individual displays have not been able to translate into success for the side. With the frustration of RCB’s title drought building with each passing edition, the pressure will be on Kohli to deliver in 2019.
Bangalore fans will be hoping the Kohli of 2016 makes a return when the skipper notched up four centuries in a single edition then.
MUMBAI INDIANS – HARDIK PANDYA
There is no shortage of match-winners for the three-time champions with India stalwarts Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah within their ranks. However, it is Hardik Pandya who is arguably the biggest game-changer.
The India all-rounder initially created waves playing in the IPL for Mumbai but is yet to truly convince at the international level with some inconsistent displays.
Having missed India’s clashes with Australia due to a stiff back, Pandya will be determined to use the IPL as a preparatory board for the World Cup where he will play a key role.
RAJASTHAN ROYALS – SANJU SAMSON
While the strength of their overseas contingent is second to none, Rajasthan Royals are a little light on the domestic department going into the IPL. The 2008 champions will be heavily reliant on Sanju Samson who has long been heralded as a future India star but has failed to do justice to his talents.
The Kerala youngster has been with Rajasthan for some time now and enjoyed his best-ever IPL campaign last year where he scored a total of 441 runs with the help of three half-centuries.
Inconsistency has let Samson down time and time again and his campaign last year ran out of steam towards the latter stages. Now 24, Samson is not just a promising youngster anymore and he will need to seize his opportunity in the upcoming edition. If he gets going, Rajasthan could go far in the competition.