Updated: Apr 7
In our massive 2021 IPL preview, you can find all you need to know about this year's edition of the biggest t20 league in the world. We cover all eight sides, including a key player and a possible XI, along with the England players signed up, and the key dates...
Reigning champions for the past two years, Mumbai Indians will likely be the side to beat again this year, having kept a similar squad as last year.
While their auction pickups of quicks Nathan Coulter-Nile and Adam Milne, leggie Piyush Chawla and all-rounders Jimmy Neesham and Marco Jansen were unspectacular, their core players from last year ought to be enough for them to have another very good year.
Given how difficult they were to beat last year, and with a similar XI likely to play throughout the tournament, the Mumbai Indians will continue to be a t20 dynasty in 2021.
Mumbai have lots of good players, with no real weak link in the squad. But for me, Rahul Chahar will be vital to their success. They lack real spin support, given Chawla's mediocrity, so the performance of Chahar will be vital.
He is just 21, and has 30 IPL wickets in 31 games, at an average of 26.63, with an economy of just 7.46. He is no way near the biggest name in the side, but he is a key cog.
Quinton de Kock (wk)
Rohit Sharma (c)
Quinton de Kock (South Africa); Chris Lynn (Australia); Kieron Pollard (West Indies); Jimmy Neesham (New Zealand); Marco Jansen (South Africa); Nathan Coulter-Nile (Australia); Trent Boult (New Zealand); Adam Milne (New Zealand).
On paper, the best XI, and having proved their winning quality, I can't see how Mumbai don't win again. When they get it right, and they often do, they are so good.
Mumbai Indians- 1st.
The 2021 IPL sees a change of name for thE Punjab Kings, formally, the Kings XI Punjab. They'll be hoping they see an unpturn in fortunes with the name change, having finished sixth last year.
The core of the squad is similar, with the powerful top four of KL Rahul, Agarwal, Gayle and Pooran. And while Jhye Richardson and Fabian Allen prove useful bowling all-round options, they still lack quality middle-order hitters, and extra bowling options.
While Richardson and Allen were good buys, and Dawid Malan is a helpful back-up, Riley Meredith and especially Moises Henriques were rather odd signings. Indian wise, Shahrukh Khan is a decent extra batter
A lot will rest on the form of KL Rahul for the Punjab Kings. Will it be the Rahul from the 2018 IPL, who averaged 54.91 at a strike-rate of 158.41, or the Rahul from the 2020 IPL, who still averaged 55.83, but with a strike-rate of just 129.34, after saying that "strike-rates are very, very overrated". Err, what!
I discussed this on this piece on Malan from a few weeks back, and while Malan may struggle to get into this side, a lot will depend on the top order scoring rate, given Gayle and Pooan are formidable overseas top-order batters. But, Rahul and Gayle can both be slow starters, but should Rahul get back into nick, it would mean the Punjab Kings could make the most of their aggressive top four. This is why Rahul is the key man for 2021
KL Rahul (wk) (c)
Chris Gayle (West Indies); Nicholas Pooran (West Indies); Dawid Malan (England); Moises Henriques (Australia); Fabian Allen (West Indies); Jhye Richardson (Australia); Chris Jordan (England); Riley Meredith (Australia).
While they have lots of great players, the Kings lack Indian talent, and may struggle to find the right balance for their side. They will certainly win some games, but I think they'll miss out on the playoffs.
Punjab Kings- 5th.
The Capitals were an impressive runner-up last year, and have retained a similar squad for 2021. They pose a strong middle-order, and some impressive bowlers, with an impressive Indian core.
While the auction pick-ups of Steve Smith and Tom Curran were poor, Sam Billings and Umesh Yadav offer useful back-up options. However, there is no major pick that would add key star quality.
However, the injury to Shreyas Iyer is a massive blow. While Iyer isn't the perfect t20 batter, he is a key part of the DC line-up, and the lack of a quality Indian batter as back-up will hurt them.
With Iyer injured, Rishabh Pant is an even more crucial member of this side, as demonstrated by his appointment as captain. Pant has had a brilliant 2021 so far, dominating against Australia down under, and then v England in both tests and white-ball formats.
While Pant struggled in the 2020 IPL, if he gets near his 2018 form, where he averaged 52.61 at a 173.6 strike-rate, he could drag the Capitals further forward, something they will need, given the hole that Iyer leaves.
Rishabh Pant (wk) (c)
Shimron Hetmyer (West Indies); Steve Smith (Australia); Sam Billings (England); Marcus Stoinis (Australia); Chris Woakes (England); Tom Curran (England); Anrich Nortje (South Africa); Kagiso Rabada (South Africa).
Had Iyer been available, I think the Capitals could have been a serious challenger for the title, but the batting looks a lot more fragile now. They will either have to go for the experienced but slow Ajinkya Rahane, or re-jig their side to get Sam Billings or Steve Smith in the side, or risk an inexperienced Indian.
Delhi Capitals- 3rd.
Royal Challengers Bangalore:
Once again, RCB possess an exciting batting line-up, but lack the quality in bowling to make up for it. While Saini, Washington and Chahal are good Indian bowlers, they have no death options, an issue exaggerated by the weak overseas bowling options and weak overseas bowling options.
The auction buys further confused this, with Kyle Jamieson the only overseas bowler picked up, who is talented, but has a limited record so far. Glenn Maxwell and Dan Christian were the other overseas picked up, with young New Zealand talent Finn Allen a late addition as a replacement for Josh Phillipe.
RCB could be vulnerable to slow starts, as Paddikal is a slow starter, Kohli will look to anchor, and Sachin Baby is relatively inexperienced at IPL level. However, should they get off to a reasonable start, the power-hitting middle order should enable them to get big scores. Whether their bowling attack will be able to defend them is another matter.
While the form of Kohli, Maxwell and De Villiers will be crucial, as the RCB bowling line-up will struggle to defend any total, Dan Christian will be a key player for RCB. While RCB may play Daniel Sams ahead of him, I think they need Christian's batting at six.
Christian can struggle starting against spin, but has successfully scored quick runs at the death for both Notts Outlaws in the Blast, and for first Melbourne Renegades and then Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash. His lower-order runs should allow RCB to attack more in the middle, a recent weakness, and he also provides a useful extra bowling option.
Virat Kohli (c)
AB de Villiers (wk)
Glenn Maxwell (Australia); Finn Allen (New Zealand); AB de Villiers (South Africa); Dan Christian (Australia); Daniel Sams (Australia); Kyle Jamieson (New Zealand); Kane Richardson (Australia); Adam Zampa (Australia).
Once again, RCB lack in many an area, but I think they have enough, should their stars fire, to finish in the play-off spots, although I doubt they'll go much further than that, when faced with the best in the final stages.
Royal Challengers Bangalore- 4th.
Sunrisers finished the 2020 season strongly, finishing third overall once they found a settled team with good balance. Finding that balance will be key again in 2021 as they look to go a step further and appear in the final. Jason Roy is a late addition to the squad after Mitchell Marsh pulled out of the 2021 edition. Any thoughts of a Roy/Bairstow opening partnership will be short-lived with David Warner in the team.
As usual with Sunrisers, there are plenty of overseas options to choose from and picking just four may prove difficult on a game-by-game basis. The signing of Kedar Jadhav won't scare anyone, but a bowling attack that will likely include Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jason Holder and Rashid Khan will do plenty of damage.
The purchase of Mujeeb Ur Rahman is an interesting piece of business but how often he plays remains to be seen. I expect the 2021 season to look a lot like 2020 and if their batsmen fire they're always in with a chance.
Sunrisers tend to go as well as David Warner goes. It was a down year for the Australian last year with his average and strike rate plummeting, with both being below his IPL career averages. Is this the start of the decline for Warner or is it just a small blip on the radar?
If David Warner can return to his 2019 form of a 69.20 average and 143.86 strike rate then the top-order of Sunrisers will beat a lot of teams. 2020 was the first year as captain for Warner, so maybe that played on his mind, but he'll be looking for a bounce-back campaign.
David Warner (c)
Wriddhiman Saha (wk)
David Warner (Australia), Jason Roy (England), Jonny Bairstow (England), Kane Williamson (New Zealand), Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan), Jason Holder (West Indies), Rashid Khan (Afghanistan), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Afghanistan)
A lot rests on the shoulders of David Warner and if his slide continues in 2021, then I think Sunrisers may struggle. Getting the balance of the team right is going to a weekly problem they'll need to solve, they have plenty of potential but there is something missing for me.
Sunrisers Hyderabad- 6th
Chennai Super Kings:
2020 was a disappointing year for MS Dhoni and the Chennai Super Kings with the team in yellow failing to make the playoffs for the first time ever. The loss of Watson to retirement will be a huge loss for Chennai and they never found a balance throughout the season.
There were two big gaps for Chennai with their middle-order batting and the lack of spin options. Their hoping to catch lightning in a bottle and fill both holes with the purchase of Moeen Ali. The much-maligned England star still has a lot to give to franchise cricket and he'll be expecting to play significant games over the course of the season.
Gaikwad had an impressive first season averaging 50 with the bat, but if he wants to open he'll need to increase that strike rate. I expect to see plenty of Gaikwad opening with Faf this year.
I don't understand all the auction signings with the Super Kings opting to sign Cheteshwar Pujara, who I can't see playing too much of a role in 2021. Chennai will be hoping the South African trio of Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir and Lungi Ngidi will propel them back to the playoffs in 2021.
MS Dhoni is a god in India and in particular Chennai, but even his most ardent supporters will appreciate that he's well on his way out of cricket. His 25 average and 116 strike rate in 2020 show that he's declined significantly below his IPL career averages of 40.99 with a 136 strike rate.
Dhoni will have a lot of decisions to make on the set-up of the team and its here where he might be most useful, heading back to India for 2021 instead of the UEA may help vault his average back up.
Faf du Plessis
MS Dhoni (wk) (c)
Faf du Plessis (South Africa), Dwayne Bravo (West Indies), Moeen Ali (England), Mitchell Santner (New Zealand), Sam Curran (England), Imran Tahir (South Africa), Lungi Ndidi (South Africa)
I like what Chennai have tried to do, but I'm not sure they have enough in the tank to trouble the best teams in the league. If they're relying heavily on Moeen, that's a big risk. A lot will depend on that top order, and I personally just don't like the look of it to be consistent throughout the season.
Chennai Super Kings- 7th
Kolkata Knight Riders:
2020 was a disappointing season for Kolkata, which led to them making a move at captain midway through the season. Eoin Morgan was the standout performer for the Knight Riders scoring 418 runs at a strike rate of 138.
On paper, the Knight Riders look like one of the favourites again in 2021, and they'll be hoping to see even more from Pat Cummins this year after the Australian took 12 wickets in 2020. Varun Chakravarthy is back after bursting onto the scene in 2020 with 17 wickets at an economy rate below 7.
Andre Russell and Sunil Narine both disappointed in 2020 scoring a combined 238 runs despite striking at a high rate. Kolkata brought in some big names at the auction in Harbhajan Singh, Shakib Al Hasan and promising Indian all-rounder Venkatesh Iyer.
Kolkata have good depth in their overseas positions with the signing of Ben Cutting and it's only a matter of time before Lockie Ferguson gets a look in.
Pat Cummins had a good first year in Kolkata, but I think for the price they'll be hoping he takes more scalps in the powerplay and death overs in 2021. I think most expected him to lead the wicket-taking column in 2020, but it didn't quite work that way. Cummins wasn't expensive, but if he can really fire in 2021 in partnership with Varun Chakravarthy then Kolkata should have enough to make the playoffs. It's a big if though.
Eoin Morgan (c)
Shakib Al Hasan
Dinesh Karthik (wk)
Eoin Morgan (England), Ben Cutting (Australia), Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh), Andre Russell (West Indies), Tim Seifert (New Zealand), Sunil Narine (West Indies), Lockie Ferguson (New Zealand), Pat Cummins (Australia)
Once again the Knight Riders look good on paper but because of the depth they've achieved this year, I'm backing them to challenge for the title. In Cummins and Chakravarthy they have two outstanding bowlers, and the signing of Shakib Al Hasan just adds an extra element to the team.
Kolkata Knight Riders- 2nd
The problem for Rajasthan recently has been a lot of star international power who haven't necessarily performed up to their price tag, but it was also their senior Indian players who failed to perform in 2020 leading to the Royals finishing dead last and missing the play-offs for the second straight year.
The Royals tried their hardest to find a winning formula, chopping and changing the lineup throughout, but that just unsettled the squad. To be in with a chance in 2021, the boys in pink will need to find a settled lineup early.
The Royals made some big decisions and a huge splash in the auction. First they decided to part ways with Australian captain Steve Smith, a fine player but a player who's weakest format is T20. They then signed a host of names like Shivam Dube, Liam Livingstone and flexed their financial muscles by signing Chris Morris to the richest contract in the IPL.
The hope was that they would pair Chris Morris with Jofra Archer to create one of the best bowling duo's in the league. However Archer is set to miss part of the IPL after undergoing surgery on his hand, his return date is up in the air at the moment.
Taking over the captaincy from Steve Smith, Indian Sanju Samson had a fine 2020 season, finishing the year as the Royals top scorer with 375 runs. Samson has shown flashes of brilliance and he finally started to find some consistency last year. The hope is that the captaincy lifts his game. If it starts to weight heavy and impact his performances, could we see an in-season switch to Jos Buttler? It's a situation worth monitoring.
Sanju Samson (c) (wk)
(We have excluded Archer from this list as he will almost certainly miss the first weeks of the season and potentially more)
David Miller (South Africa), Liam Livingstone (England), Chris Morris (South Africa), Ben Stokes (England), Jos Buttler (England), Andrew Tye (Australia), Jofra Archer (England), Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh)
Had Archer been fit from the start then I think we would have placed them a little higher. The Royals have all the individual tools, but can they put it all together. I think Rajasthan are a bit of an unknown this year and a lot could rest on the likes of Dube and Livingstone to support Buttler, Samson and Stokes.
Rajasthan Royals- 8th
There are thirteen English stars contracted to sides for this IPL. The Rajasthan Royals have four from the UK, with Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler, Liam Livingstone and Ben Stokes contracted. There are two Englishmen at Chennai Super Kings, in Moeen Ali and Sam Curran, with the Delhi Captials having three, in Tom Curran, Sam Billings and Chris Woakes. The Punjab Kings also have two, in Dawid Malan and Chris Jordan, with the Sunrises Hyderabad having Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy, and the Kolkata Knight Riders Eoin Morgan.
The Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore do not have any Englishmen.
What they can expect-
Having not played a game all winter, Chris Woakes will be hoping to break into the Delhi Capitals line-up. While Woakes isn't as good a t20 player as he is in tests and ODIs, given England's bowling issues, a good IPL could put him on Morgan's radar.
However, Delhi have Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada as quicks, which will make it difficult for Woakes to get a game as anything other than back-up.
It'll be a similar issue for Tom Curran, as while he'll be desperate to prove his t20 form given his recent struggles, getting past Nortje and Rabada will prove difficult.
Sam Billings is also at Delhi, and while he had a brilliant ODI 2020, he may struggle to get into England's T20I side. While he is one of Dehli's best overseas options, they do not lack in batting, and the big hitting power of Shimron Hetmyer and Marcus Stoinis may keep him out the XI.
While it is likely he'll be opening, not in his England lower order role, after an underwhelming series v India, Ben Stokes will be looking to prove he is as good in t20s as he is in everything else he does.
Along with Jos Buttler, the pair can expect regular game time, and will be key to the Royals' success.
Also at the Royals is Liam Livingstone. He offers lower order hitting that the Royals desperately need, but whether there are enough overseas slots is another matter.
The fourth Englishman at the Royals is Jofra Archer, but after recent surgery, his availability for the tournament is still in doubt, and while he'll be a key man if he returns, nobody really knows when that'll be.
Despite playing all five games, Sam Curran had no real impact on England's T20I series with India. However, under the stewardship of MS Dhoni, Curran could show his worth, to CSK, and England.
Also at CSK is Moeen Ali. Despite his boundary hitting ability, Moeen has been poorly managed by England this winter, and not played a white-ball game for Morgan since the summer. He'll want a World Cup spot, and some form.
Although he may struggle to break into the Punjab Kings XI, Dawid Malan will be hoping to show he is as good as the ICC rankings suggest. Malan's spot in the England T20I side is much debated, but runs in the IPL would silence his critics.
Similar to Malan, Chris Jordan will also struggle for game time, but after recent struggles at the death, will be hoping to prove he is still one of England's best death bowlers, should he get a spot in the Punjab Kings line-up.
At the Sunrisers, England's ODI openers of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow could have great tournaments, having been in good form recently. The Sunrisers could play both, and drop the slower scoring Kane Williamson and Jason Holder, but whether they'll take that risk remains to be seen.
Eoin Morgan doesn't really fit into the KKR line-up, as he is a lower order hitter, and in Andre Russell and Dinesh Karthik, they already have two! However, as skipper, he'll be playing throughout, and will hope to show that his under-par performances in the recent series v India were but a blip, as he aims to drive England to World t20 glory.
If you're just getting into the IPL this year, the orange cap is a prize awarded to the player who scores the most runs across the entire tournament. Throughout the tournament the player who's top of the run-scoring charts wears the orange cap in the field and then at the end of the season the top run-scorer earns the actual orange cap and a prize of 10L (£10k).
Last year KL Rahul of the Kings XI took home the prize scoring 670 runs despite only appearing in 14 games as opposed to Shikhar Dhawan who scored 618 runs over 17 matches.
The Orange cap has been awarded every year since 2008 with 4 Indian batsmen winning the award and 9 overseas players taking the others.
KL Rahul is favourite once again to take home the crown, but he'll face stiff competition from the likes of Virat Kohli, Dhawan and Agarwal. An English player has never won the orange cap, but maybe Jonny Bairstow or Jos Buttler can change that in 2021.
The purple cap is the bowling equivalent of the orange cap, awarded to the player who takes the most wickets during the IPL season.
Last year the award was taken home by South African seamer Kagiso Rabada, who took 3o wickets for the Delhi Capitals in 17 matches. It's the second year in a row that the award has been won by a South African after Imran Tahir took home the honours in 2019.
Rabada's 30 wickets was the 2nd highest total for a Purple Cap winner, trailing only West Indian Dwayne Bravo who won the Purple Cap in 2013 with 32 wickets for Chennai.
Looking ahead to 2021, it would be unwise to bet against Rabada repeating. With Archer now set to miss time, his closest challenger may be Indian seamer Jasprit Bumrah or New Zealander Trent Boult.