A new Indian Premier League season is coming, and it’s taking many different forms. In August, the tournament revealed the brand new look for its logo with the hashtag #Dream11IPL. It’s not just the logo, however, with new players coming into the league, a new setting, and a new time of year for the biggest domestic competition in cricket.
IPL 2020 was initially slated to take place on 29 March in India, but it will now be going forward on 19 September, running until 10 November, with the whole competition taking place in the United Arab Emirates. Matches will be battled in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, per the Hindustan Times.
The offseason created a lot of hype, as it often does, with IPL teams throwing around substantial sums of money to reel in some of the biggest talents in short-form cricket. On 19 December 2019, it was the Kolkata Knight Riders who stole the headlines. ICC Cricket reports that the INR 15.5 crore bid for Pat Cummins marked the most expensive overseas buy in the IPL’s history.
Every team boasts at least one international-grade star, with most having several at their disposal. However, according to the experts, there are three teams in a dead heat to win the IPL in 2020.
A three-horse race between the usual suspects
The IPL is overflowing with top-class athletes. Sometimes, however, even otherworldly talents can’t pull a team to the top. This is most evident with the Royal Challengers Bangalore and captain Virat Kohli. The team was bolstered in the 2020 auction, but it seems unlikely that RCB will be among the contenders after finishing 8th, 6th, and 8th in 2017, 2018, and 2019, respectively.
Squad depth will, as always, be key, but getting to grips with the grounds of the UAE will be just as important. The IPL may sway more towards batsmen this year, with Glenn Maxwell warning bowlers of the pitch’s benefits. The Kings XI Punjab all-rounder, who played in the IPL in 2014 when the UAE previously hosted some IPL matches, says that there’s not much bounce in the pitch and that there are plenty of open spaces.
In the eyes of the experts, the teams that are best suited to the tournament this year have converged from a slight favourite into a neck-and-neck race between three. As shown in the calculations by The Cricketer on 11 March, the Mumbai Indians had a slightly better chance to win it all in 2020. Now, as of 20 August, Mumbai is joined by two other top-class contenders. All at 9/2 with Betway, Mumbai, Chennai, and Hyderabad are level-pegging as the joint-favourites to win the IPL this year.
The odds suggest that there’s nothing between the Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, and Sunrisers Hyderabad, so let’s examine the three leading contenders.
Super Kings vs Indians vs Sunrisers
The 2019 final offered one of the most dramatic conclusions to the IPL that’s ever been seen. It saw the Mumbai Indians meet the Chennai Super Kings in Hyderabad, resulting in a one-run victory for the Indians. With scores of 149/8 from 20 overs to 148/7 from 20 overs, there was barely anything between the victors and the Super Kings.
In 2020, the Super Kings look well-built to mount a challenge for the trophy again, attempting to reclaim the title they won in 2018. Driving them forward is superstar captain MS Dhoni, but the team’s strength comes in its depth and experience. As relayed by Times Now News, Chennai is filled with natural leaders, such as Faf du Plessis, Dhoni, and Dwayne Bravo, making them a clear-headed and structured unit.
The Mumbai Indians were set to weigh-in as the reigning champions anyway, but they’re so much more now. Roar reports that the Indians now boast a team that has a bench strong enough to compete in the IPL on its own. They added Nathan Coulter-Nile for 8 crore, Chris Lynn for 2 crore, Saurabh Tiwary, Balwant Rai Singh, Mohsin Khan, and Digvijay Deshmukh, while retaining the likes of Quinton de Kock, Lasith Malinga, Rohit Sharma, and Hardik Pandya.
Rounding out the top contending trio are the 2016 champions and hosts of the 2019 final, Sunrisers Hyderabad. The team has earned notoriety as a top-class bowling side, and shall do so again this year with the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Billy Stanlake, Rashid Khan, Shahbaz Nadeem, and Mohammad Nabi giving a glimpse of the variety at Hyderabad’s disposal. They also boast a mighty top order, with David Warner reinstated as team captain, per the Indian Express, and being joined by Kane Williamson and Jonny Bairstow.
The new grounds will have a say in the outcome of the 2020 IPL, perhaps even send an underdog to the final. Entering the tournament, however, it’s the Indians, Super Kings, and Sunrisers who look the best-equipped to run for the trophy.