"I believe the Royals can win it. I really do."
The Indian Premier League (IPL) arrives earlier than the 2018 tournament. The IPL 2019 cricket festival takes place in India between March 23 to May 12.
Despite so much international cricket happening, the IPL creates its own buzz around the world.
The loyalties of fans suddenly change as people support their favourite teams and players.
Similar to previous IPL event, the 12th edition is going to be yet another cracking carnival of cricket.
The event is unique this year as players will want to perform and be in the running for the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
With the mega event on the horizon, teams will have to manage the workload of the big players.
In late 2018, all the teams spent heavily during the IPL auction 2019. Leg-spinner Varun Chakravarthy was the highest bought player by Kings XI Punjab for staggering 8.4 crores (£940,000).
Defending champions Chennai Super Kings have a good a chance again in 2019. However, for any team consistency will be the key to lifting the trophy.
Let’s take a closer look at the eight competing sides who will fight it out during IPL 12.
Chennai Super Kings
Chennai Super Kings (CSK) also familiar as the ‘Yellow Army’ to some has had a major impact in the IPL. Every year they have got to the play-off stages – be it through luck or by marching on.
CSK have won 3 of the seven finals they have made.
Captain MS Dhoni (IND) certainly has the brain to get the best out of his players and win the IPL in 2019.
Fans can expect continuity from CSK. They are not a team who make wholesome changes.
The only change they have for 2019 is the return of Mohit Sharma (IND) as one of the main pace bowlers in the team.
South African fast bowler Lungi Ngidi is in the side. The team has a good mix of Indian players including Suresh Raina. Despite being one of the IPL greats, Raina has not played much cricket during 2018.
Skipper Dhoni is in good form with the bat, with some fine performances for Team India under his belt.
Opener Shane Watson (AUS) comes on the back of some good form during the 2019 Pakistan Super League (PSL). Watson is likely to open with South African star Faf du Plessis.
Good start at the top of the order allows the likes of Dwayne Bravo (WI) and Ravindra Jadeja (IND) to hit big towards the finish. The two are equally important across the bowling domain.
Dhoni who likes to keep his options open will want Watson to be available for bowling.
At the age of thirty-nine, leg-spinner Imran Tahir (RSA) can be a force for Dhoni too.
MS Dhoni (c,wk), Suresh Raina, Deepak Chahar, KM Asif, Karn Sharma, Dhruv Shorey, Faf du Plessis, M Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja, Sam Billings, Mitchell Santner, David Willey, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Imran Tahir, Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh, N Jagadeesan, Shardul Thakur, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Mohit Sharma and Ruturaj Gaikwad.
Fans of Delhi Capitals have not had much to enjoy. Optimistically they will want things to turn around for 2019.
They have the players but need to develop as a team. Hopefully, head coach Ricky Ponting (AUS) and advisor Sourav Ganguly (IND) can inspire the team to gel well together.
Hence they have enough people in the think tank to muster up a strategy. They have solid Indian batsmen in the team.
Investing in Shikhar Dhawan can potentially take them far. Young players such as Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant the complete perfect Indian batting quartet.
No other IPL team has four Indian batsmen like them. If one or two of them click, Delhi can get to a good start.
The Capitals also have some exciting overseas cricketers under their armoury. The team are banking on Colin Ingram to bring his Big Bash League (BBL) and PSL form into the IPL.
Colin Munro (NZL) has one of the fastest batting strike rates in the world. Ingram and Munro will fight it out possibly for the same batting slot.
It is good that Delhi has such options to select from.
In the bowling area, they have several players available. They have a mix of outstanding international fast bowlers.
Kagiso Rabada (RSA) will lead the fast bowling attack along with all-rounder Chris Morris (RSA).
Left-arm spinner Axar Patel (IND) who can bat also, gives the Capitals a lot of balance to the team.
Nepalese leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane is another star of many leagues from around the world.
Despite carrying a lot of baggage, Delhi Capitals can do some damage and are in contention to reach the last four. They need to use the flair that they have in their team to produce the results.
Formerly familiar as Delhi Daredevils, 2019 is like a fresh start for the Capitals.
Shreyas Iyer (C), Rishabh Pant (wk), Prithvi Shaw, Amit Mishra, Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel, Rahul Tewatia, Jayant Yadav, Manjot Kalra, Colin Munro, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Sandeep Lamichhane, Trent Boult, Hanuma Vihari, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Ankush Bains, Nathu Singh, Colin Ingram, Sherfane Rutherford, Keemo Paul, Jalaj Saxena, Bandaru Ayyappa, Shikhar Dhawan, Vijay Shankar and Shahbaz Nadeem.
Kings XI Punjab
When the IPl first began, Kings XI Punjab had a good team. In the augural edition, Kings finished in the top two.
With the likes of Virender Sehwag (IND) and George Bailey (AUS), they had a fantastic team in 2014, which got to the final.
From then on, the team has gone down a touch.
In Preity Zinta, the owner of Punjab, the team has the bubbliest mascot. For 2019, they have a chance to prove themselves back.
In 2018, they did start well, before taking the gas off the peddle. Kings will be hoping that opener KL Rahul (IND) can repeat his performances from 2018 in 2019. His sixes over extra cover were a delight to watch.
Besides Chris Gayle (WI) at the top, Punjab has had a weak middle order when it comes to the batting.
However, David Miller (RSA) and Mandeep Singh (IND) will have to step up the mark.
As they do not have a genuine all-rounder, it will be up to Sam Curran (ENG) to bat and bowl well at the death.
In the bowling department, there is the experience of captain Ravichandran Ashwin (IND). Mujeeb Ur Rahman (AFG) will bring another spin option. He has had fantastic figures in cricket.
Varun Chakravarthy (IND) has to play, as he is somewhat of a trump card. He has many variations, including the leg-break and googly.
Mohammed Shami (IND) is in the form of his life and can be lethal on any day. Ankit Rajput (IND) had a good 2018 and will support Shami.
The teams’ chances depend on how well they start and if they can consistently perform.
KL Rahul (wk), Chris Gayle, Andrew Tye, Mayank Agarwal, Ankit Rajpoot, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Karun Nair, David Miller and Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Moises Henriques, Nicholas Pooran, Varun Chakaravarthy, Sam Curran, Mohammad Shami, Sarfaraz Khan, Hardus Viljoen, Arshdeep Singh, Darshan Nalkande, Prabhsimran Singh, Agnivesh Ayachi, Harpreet Brar and Murugan Ashwin.
Kolkata Knight Riders
With Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) what strikes the most is the element of emotion. This stems from the time of Sourav Ganguly to the fabulous time between 2011-2014 under Gautam Gambhir (IND).
They won the IPL twice in 2012 and 2014. Barring a few times when they did not make the playoffs, KKR has been quite consistent.
Despite the team lacking in depth, they can still go the distance. This is because they normally go with a balanced team. Plus owner Shah Rukh Khan takes care of the players with his charming personality.
In return, certain players are very loyal to the side. Batsman Chris Lynn (AUS), all-rounder Sunil Narine (WI) and leggies Piyush Chawla (IND) have been with KKR for a long period.
It was a good decision to appoint wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik (IND) as captain in 2018. He knows when to hold himself back and also get the best out oF his cricketers.
Their original eleven can give any team a run for their money. They also have back up overseas players to rely on.
The Indian pace bowling may well be a stumbling block for KKR.
The spin department looks more appetising with the phenomenal Kuldeep Yadav (IND) and Chalwa who always performs well in the IPL.
The worry for KKR is if any of their players get injured, they will have a problem.
However, if they make it to the playoffs, anything is possible for KKR.
Dinesh Karthik (c, wk), Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Shivam Mavi, Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Carlos Brathwaite, Lockie Ferguson, Anrich Nortje, Nikhil Naik, Harry Gurney, Yarra Prithviraj, Joe Denly and Shrikant Mundhe
Mumbai Indians is a team, which always evokes a lot of passion amongst their fans.
They normally begin slowly and then up the tempo as the tournament goes along. They have had success, yet also fluctuating performances in the IPL.
The Indians won the tournament in 2013, 2015 and 2017. In between, it was a mixed bag of sneaking just through or not qualifying.
2019 may be the year for the Indians as per their harmonic pattern of victories.
They even have Yuvraj Singh to bolster the middle order. Though his form remains a question mark.
They have many standout bowlers, including Jason Behrendorff (AUS) and Jasprit Bumrah (IND).
Lasith Malinga (SL) who was a big player in the first few years is also back. As he is not the Malinga of the Past, he will not play a leading role.
In the spin department, they have Mayank Markande (IND) and Rahul Chahar (IND).
The only area of concern with them is if Bumrah injures himself, it will unsettle their teams’ balance.
Rohit Sharma (c), Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Krunal Pandya, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Mayank Markande, Rahul Chahar, Anukul Roy, Siddhesh Lad, Aditya Tare, Quinton de Kock (wk), Evin Lewis, Kieron Pollard, Ben Cutting, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Jason Behrendorff, Lasith Malinga, Anmolpreet Singh, Barinder Sran, Pankaj Jaiswal, Rasikh Salam and Yuvraj Singh.
For a very long time, Rajasthan Royals (RR) was the number two team of the IPL. Fans have had a soft spot for the Royals.
Rajasthan has paid money to lure big players. Spending means they have a number of match-winners in their side.
The Royals are ready for the 2019 IPL. They have some quality overseas competition who will all be vying for a place in the team.
These include batsman Steve Smith (AUS), fast bowler Oshane Thomas (WI), spinner Ish Sodhi (NZL), all-rounders Jofra Archer (ENG) and Ben Stokes (ENG), along with wicketkeeper hitter Jos Butler (ENG).
Butler is so good, that he would make it into any T20 side in the world.
From an Indian perspective, skipper Ajinkya Rahane will open the batting. He will need to anchor the innings and then smash some shots.
Jaydev Unadkat who has had a good domestic season may produce the goods in the IPL too.
Watch out for wicketkeeping batsman Sanju Samson. He may be a trump card for the Royals.
Rajasthan will start well, but it is difficult to predict where they will finish. But they certainly have a chance to make the playoffs at the very least.
If their international players stick around for some time, they will do even better.
Ajinkya Rahane (c), Krishnappa Gowtham, Sanju Samson, Shreyas Gopal, Aryaman Birla, S. Midhun, Prashant Chopra, Stuart Binny, Rahul Tripathi, Ben Stokes, Steve Smith, Jos Buttler (wk), Jofra Archer, Ish Sodhi, Dhawal Kulkarni, Mahipal Lomror, Jaydev Unadkat, Varun Aaron, Oshane Thomas, Shashank Singh, Liam Livingstone, Shubham Rajane, Manan Vohra, Ashton Turner and Riyan Parag.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
The fans of Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) polarise opinions. But their support does turn up in big numbers.
When one thinks of RCB, the likes of Virat Kohli (IND) and AB de Villiers (RSA) come to mind. There is always a sense of hope with RCB when a new season starts.
On a trade note wicketkeeping batsman, Quinton de Kock (RSA) has gone to Mumbai Indians, with all-rounder Marcus Stoinis (AUS) coming in.
Fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile (AUS) is still with the team and in pretty decent form.
The middle order with Kohli and de Villiers is the strength of the team.
Young batsman Shimron Hetmyer (WI) is a little inconsistent. But when he gets going, he can rip any side apart.
With no big Indian opener in the side, it is likely that Moeen Ali (ENG) will bat at the top of the order.
RCB has the useful young all-rounder Washington Sundar (IND) in their team. Besides being able to bowl spin, he is another option for opening the innings.
Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (IND) can be more than handy in the Indian friendly conditions.
Pace bowler Umesh Yadav (IND) had a very good season for RCB in 2018. Expectations once again will be high on him.
One advantage that RCB has over other teams is that some of their overseas players will not feature in the World Cup. Thus they will be available for the entire IPL.
The biggest challenge for RCB is to find a way of winning against the big sides. Kohli and de Villiers will need to have an extraordinary tournament for RCB.
Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Parthiv Patel (wk), Yuzvendra Chahal, Tim Southee, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Kulwant Khejroliya, Washington Sundar, Pawan Negi, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Moeen Ali, Mohammed Siraj, Colin de Grandhomme, Shimron Hetmyer, Devdutt Padikkal, Shivam Dube, Heinrich Klassen, Gurkeerat Singh, Himmat Singh, Prayas Ray Barman and Mandeep Singh.
Sunrisers Hyderabad is an IPL team to admire. As always they do pick a good selection at the IPL auction.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s (IND) experience and the youth of Khaleel Ahmed gives Hyderabad a potent pace attack.
Kumar has over 95 wickets in the IPL himself.
The leg-spin talent of Rashid Khan (AFG), along with the left-arm orthodox bowling of Shahbaz Nadeem (IND) provides Sunrisers with some Excellent
Excellent bowling averages and strike-rates indicates that the strength of Hyderabad lies in their bowling.
The IPL will welcome the big return of David Warner (AUS) following his ban. He is A very reliable player who scores a lot of runs. In Jonny Bairstow (ENG0 they have a good wicketkeeper-batsman.
Captain Kane Williamson (NZL) is another dependable batsman for the Sunrisers at the top of the order.
They even have the all-rounder slots covered. Players competing for a spot include Mohammad Nabi (AFG), Yusuf Pathan (IND) and Shakib Al Hasan (BAN).
Sunrisers have a good chance of making it to the final and possibly winning.
The only problem for them is with the World Cup looming, they will lose some of their big international stars midway through the tournament.
Teams will begin to recall international players from the start of May 2019.
Basil Thampi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Hooda, Manish Pandey, T Natarajan, Ricky Bhui, Sandeep Sharma, Siddarth Kaul, Shreevats Goswami, Khaleel Ahmed, Yusuf Pathan, Billy Stanlake, David Warner, Kane Williamson (c), Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Shakib Al Hasan, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Wriddhiman Saha and Martin Guptill.
Former Australia leg-spin legend Shane who is the Ambassador for the Rajasthan Royals believes his team is the favourite.
He also picks Sanju Samson (IND) as being the player of the tournament. Speaking to the media, Warne said:
“I believe the Royals can win it. I really do.” Look at the squad, the international players, the Indian talent. We’ve got so many big players.
“It’s the strongest Rajasthan squad we’ve put together. Anything less than the playoffs is a disappointment.
“You need a little bit luck to win the IPL.
“You need big star players to perform. For me, Sanju Samson will be the MVP.”
Watch IPL 2019 Promo here:
For television audiences, the IPL will be available to watch on all major TV and digital platforms. In the UK Star Gold will broadcast the matches LIVE.
Willow TV will air the games in the USA and on their website.
Premium Indian streaming service, Hotstar will transmit the matches also LIVE in India, USA and the UK.
Several other TV networks who have the rights for a particular country or region will also broadcast the matches LIVE.
The first game of the IPL is between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore on March 23, 2019
The IPL final will take at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, India on May 12, 2019.
With so much at stake ahead of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, IPL 2019 should be a thrilling tournament. Let the fun begin!