The 12th edition of the Indian Premier League begins in a little over 10 days. The Pakistan Super League ends in a week. A decent chunk of international players in PSL will be fighting it out in the IPL.
Needless to say, there will be some spillover from the PSL into the IPL. Batsmen and bowlers in reasonably good form in the UAE and Pakistan can be expected to extend that run in India.
So which players are likely to perform well over the next two months? We take a look at five names.
The Australian opener hit a title winning hundred in the final for Chennai Super Kings against Sunrisers Hyderabad last year. The 37-year-old has continued his love affair with Asian conditions by leading the run-scoring chart for Quetta Gladiators in the PSL in the league stage.
What has been impressive about Watson is that he has looked in control in UAE conditions where bowlers were dictating terms. On flatter pitches in India, Watson will look to go one better than last year in the IPL where he amassed 555 runs from 15 matches.
The Nepal leg-spinner started the PSL on a disastrous note, conceding 46 runs in his opening clash. But once he settled down, the Lahore Qalandars leggie showed what he is capable of by picking up 11 wickets in his first six games. What has been even more impressive is his bowling in the powerplay overs, in which his economy rate was less than two an over before the Pakistan leg of PSL began.
Last year, Lamichhane was given game time by the Delhi franchise right at the end of their campaign and he showed that the management had erred by benching him, picking up five wickets in three games. This year, Delhi Capitals – Daredevils earlier – should have him in the playing XI straightaway and let him do his thing.
AB de VILLIERS
The South African star batsman had a decent even if unspectacular PSL where he was even handed the Qalandars captaincy duties once Mohammad Hafeez got injured. The Proteas star pulled out of the final stretch of the PSL due to back issues but should be raring to go for Royal Challengers Bangalore. His partnership with Virat Kohli at RCB has been sensational without delivering the title to the team.
With Kohli certain to sit a few games out as he manages his workload in the lead-up to the World Cup, the form for De Villiers will be even more critical for Bangalore. Plus the tough wickets in UAE would mean ABD will look to make it count in India.
The West Indian all-rounder played a couple of breath-taking lower order cameos for Peshawar Zalmi. At one stage in the PSL, out of 106 balls faced, Pollard had cracked 16 sixes. That’s a telling stat in a tournament dominated by bowlers. Mumbai Indians will be hoping Pollard can be even more explosive in India, where he can clear some short boundaries.
Bowling is not the strong suit of Pollard anymore, but he can still be relied to bowl a few quiet overs once the powerplay overs are done with.
The Englishman has been a revelation in PSL 2019. The Karachi Kings batsman hit three fifties in his first eight games and held Karachi’s innings together following the loss of form of key batsman Babar Azam. Livingstone will be playing for Rajasthan Royals in IPL and he might struggle to even get game time as the franchise have a world-class foreign contingent – Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Steve Smith, Jofra Archer and Ish Sodhi.
But, as and when he does get a chance, and he should as England players are set to return early to prepare for the World Cup, Livingstone should be able to showcase his hitting power.
The cricketing world will come to a standstill for nearly two months when top stars travel to India for their annual T20 jamboree. It’s the Indian Premier League season after all, so everything else simply has to wait.
The tournament begins on March 23 in the IPL stronghold of Chennai. The yellow of Chennai Super Kings will be on screens across the world and in the minds of cricket fans of all nationalities. Maybe it’s the presence of top players, or the high-scoring games, or the annoying jingle or all of the above; the IPL simply draws you in.
However, this year it won’t be the prize at the end that will be foremost in the minds of the top players. It is what lies just beyond the IPL that will have a huge bearing on the 12th season of the tournament. You see, the IPL will end some time in May – the dates for the latter part of the tournament are not out as of yet due to delay in announcement of Indian elections. That same month, the 2019 World Cup begins. And therein lies the problem.
New Zealand players have been allowed by their board to play the entire duration of the league. West Indies stars will also be available for the tournament. But that’s not the case with others.
Bangladesh left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman has not been given clearance by his board to play in the IPL as they want to preserve him for the World Cup. Australian players have reportedly been asked by Cricket Australia to return for a preparatory camp by May 2. English players need to be back home by April 25, while South African players have a deadline of May 10, Bangladesh of April 15 and Sri Lanka of May 6.
Not the ideal scenario for the biggest show in cricket. Forget about foreign players, even top Indian names have been directed by captain Virat Kohli to make sure that they take care of their fitness and avoid burnout. Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar hinted at managing his workload in the second half of the tournament. Reports suggest the Indian team is particularly worried about the workload of Jasprit Bumrah and now fellow quick Mohammed Shami, along with Kohli. Keeping them fighting fit for the World Cup is their top priority.
But try telling that to the franchises. Team owners who have spent millions are now facing the prospect of not only having the best international players unavailable during the business end of the tournament but even the main Indian names requiring careful handling.
Mumbai Indians – for example – are captained by Rohit Sharma and have Bumrah and Hardik Pandya in their line-up; basically the spine of the World Cup team. Can the Indian management expect Mumbai to forego their IPL ambitions, or even keep it aside for a while? Does this mean teams without main World Cup players will be better off?
The player exodus is expected around May. But there is a month and a bit to go until that time. At least a couple of teams should be out of contention by then, so there will be enough on the line throughout.
As is the case whenever they are part of the proceedings, CSK will be the team to beat. The Yellow Brigade made an emotional return to the league last year following a two-year suspension in the spot fixing and betting scandal. It culminated in the thumping win for Chennai in the final against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
It was an overwhelming win for Chennai and skipper MS Dhoni, who batted like a man possessed, amassing 455 runs from 16 games. He hadn’t played with such freedom for a long time and hasn’t since.
This season will be even more special as it is most likely to see the finale of Dhoni’s international career at the 2019 World Cup.
Delhi Daredevils are now the Delhi Capitals after a change in ownership and leadership. Royal Challengers Bangalore will once again hope India skipper Kohli manages what hasn’t materialised over 11 seasons – a title win.
This season could see the IPL swansong of some stalwarts of the game. Icons like Imran Tahir (39) and Yuvraj Singh (37) and even Lasith Malinga (35) are teetering towards the end of their T20 use-by date. It looked like Chris Gayle didn’t have it in him anymore but his tremendous ODI performances against England show he still has a few T20 years left in him. The Jamaican great will be keen to have one final flourish, if this year does turn out to be the last one for him.
While franchises will want to make it all about the trophy at the end of the nearly two-month long league, the focus of many fans would have already shifted to the World Cup by the time the final arrives. Whoever wins the title this year will barely have a week or so to pack all the celebrations in before the bigger games begin.
All the matches of the 2019 IPL will be held on Indian soil despite the upcoming general elections. With the dates of the elections yet to be announced, the BCCI has only released a two-week schedule for the IPL so far.
The remainder of the IPL schedule shall be released once the dates for India’s general elections have been confirmed.
Fans in the UAE can catch all the IPL action on beIN Sports.
2019 IPL SCHEDULE (UAE TIME)
Saturday, March 23
18:30 Chennai Super Kings v Royal Challengers Bangalore, Chennai
Sunday, March 24
14:30 Kolkata Knight Riders v Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kolkata
18:30 Mumbai Indians v Delhi Capitals, Mumbai
Monday, March 25
18:30 Rajasthan Royals v Kings XI Punjab, Jaipur
Tuesday, March 26
18:30 Delhi Capitals v Chennai Super Kings, Delhi
Wednesday, March 27
18:30 Kolkata Knight Riders v Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata
Thursday, March 28
18:30 Royal Challengers Bangalore v Mumbai Indians, Bengaluru
Friday, March 29
18:30 Sunrisers Hyderabad v Rajasthan Royals, Hyderabad
Saturday, March 30
14:30 Kings XI Punjab v Mumbai Indians, Mohali
18:30 Delhi Capitals v Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi
Sunday, March 31
14:30 Sunrisers Hyderabad v Royal Challengers Bangalore, Hyderabad
18:30 Chennai Super Kings v Rajasthan Royals, Chennai
Monday, April 1
18:30 Kings XI Punjab v Delhi Capitals, Mohali
Tuesday, April 2
18:30 Rajasthan Royals v Royal Challengers Bangalore, Jaipur
Wednesday, April 3
18:30 Mumbai Indians v Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai
Thursday, April 4
18:30 Delhi Capitals v Sunrisers Hyderabad, Delhi
Friday, April 5
18:30 Royal Challengers Bangalore v Kolkata Knight Riders, Bengaluru