Before it all kicks off between the Titans and the Chennai Super Kings on Friday, Flashscore editors, Josh Donaldson, Pat Dempsey and Tolga Akdeniz sat down to discuss the tournament, some new additions to teams as well as changes to the rules.
Joshua Donaldson: It’s Sweet 16 for the IPL! Many happy returns for a tournament that is taking over the world.
Pat Dempsey: Absolutely.
JD: The reigning champions are the Gujarat Titans who beat Rajasthan Royals by seven wickets in the final last May. They are captained by Hardik Pandya with the likes of Matt Wade and Rashid Khan supporting him.
This is the first home and away tournament with multiple venues since 2019 (if this is not the biggest caveat in a statistic that we're going to get today, then I don't know what is). Given the fact the opening game is in Ahmedabad, which holds around 132,000 people, we could break the record for the biggest cricket crowd ever on the 31st of March when Gujurat play Chennai Super Kings. So the big question to start with is - is everybody looking forward to it?
PD: Yeah. As always. I mean it's the biggest event in T20 cricket now, isn't it? In that, it's all the best players gathered together in one place. It pops off every time. Especially the beginning of the tournament.
It is home and away but they're not playing every team twice. The 10 teams are split into two groups of five. You play every team in the opposite five twice and the four in your five once.
JD: Yeah, I think the length of the tournament is an issue. It's again around two months with around 70 games in 60 days. So, It's a lot of cricket to pack in, but it's always good fun. Unfortunately, there are some big names missing.
PD: Jasprit Bumrah and Rishabh Pant are both notable absentees.
Tolga Akdeniz: Yeah, true.
JD: How about you Tolga? Do you get excited about the IPL?
TA: Yeah, of course I mean like Pat said, they bring all the best players together from all the cricketing countries - except for Pakistan, of course.
But it's great to see this mishmash of players in these sides. Looking at how the captains handle players from different nations. Yeah, it's great - honestly, it's the best T20 competition around.
JD: Also, the fact this is the only tournament with Indian players as well makes it even bigger.
It is quite something. The teams themselves are stacked full of talent. Pat, which team stands out to you?
PD: So many actually, it's pretty hard to pull the teams apart just based on their rosters. But I think a few teams have made some really interesting acquisitions. Punjab Kings, Chennai and Sunrisers Hyderabad all look stronger.
But, Rajasthan Royals stood out to me, specifically. I think they did pretty well in the off-season getting in guys like Jason Holder, Joe Root and Adam Zampa. They’ve lost Ben Stokes to Chennai but a couple of really key additions there.
JD: Ben Stokes has been suffering with a knee injury for the past couple of years. He hobbled through the Test Series with New Zealand and barely bowled a ball. Do you think he can make it through two months of IPL cricket for the Super Kings?
TA: Is he staying the whole time there? Didn’t he say he’d leave early?
JD: Until probably about mid-May, I would say, because he'll come back for the Ireland Test match in the English summer.
TA: Yeah, he'll find a way to play. Even if he's not bowling, they'll use him purely as a batter. And they'll put an extra bowler in there, as long as he’s somewhat fit. We've seen that for England before where he's in the side, purely batting and, he can't bowl. I mean he's just so good, you find a way to play him.
Whatever format no matter how he's playing, if you have this guy in your team, he can do something for you. Chennai, won't want to miss out on that.
JD: Absolutely. Yeah, let's quickly talk about Chennai who are playing in the opening game. Now, and it has been for a long time, they are very much like a dad's army team, with a lot of old boys hanging around the dressing room.
Still, the likes of MS Dhoni is going to be captaining the side once again at the age of about 64. That will be interesting to see how he gets on. Moeen Ali is in the squad - again, mid-30s. Ajinkya Rahane is there too.
You've got obviously Ben Stokes, I mean he's a little bit younger. Jadeja who's been around forever, as well. So a good level of experience in the side but I guess the question is - how much do you think that's relevant nowadays?
Given that a lot of these guys who are coming through - like Dewalt Brevis who's playing for Mumbai Indians - are 19 or 20 years old and they've played a lot of T20 cricket already.
So, how much do you think having someone like Dhoni captain the side and behind the stumps will have a positive impact on Chennai?
TA: I don't think Dhoni merits a place in the side based on his cricketing ability, to be honest. I think he's there because of his captaincy and because he's done it time and again.
Even back in the day when he was playing T20 cricket, he always looked to get in and he looked to finish a game. It doesn't work like that anymore. Especially at his age, he can't.
But obviously, his impact is as a captain. I mean, he's a genius, his stumpings, for example, his glove work and things like that. And people go there to watch only him, you know?
PD: He’s a huge brand still. But Chennai actually did pretty poorly last year.
TA: They started really poorly, but then they made a few changes. If I remember, they started bringing a few younger players in. They started making a few changes and they just slowly started getting better towards the end, but it was way too late.
PD: Too little, too late.
TA: Mumbai as well. Both of those two big-name sides really struggled last year, if I remember correctly.
PD: Yeah, I'm just looking at last year's table. They both finished at the bottom. With just four wins.
JD: Yeah absolutely. For me, Mumbai are a very interesting side. They are known as a team who have taken a different approach over the last few years and have been pretty much the top T20 side, probably, for the last decade.
The fact they struggled so much last year is a running pattern with them over the last 10 years or so, where they've either won the tournament or had a shocker. So given the fact they did have a shocker last year, I wouldn't be surprised to see them back up there around the top this year.
They've still got Rohit Sharma up top who will be consistent and Ishan Kishan will probably open with him and then you've got some incredible all-round talent in Cameron Green, who is yet to play in the IPL.
He's probably one of the most exciting names that we'll see this year. Given the fact that when he played in India he opened for Australia back in October and just smashed it to all parts. It suggests that he could make a real impact.
It'll be interesting to see whether he opens though. I think that'll be quite a big task. What do you think Pat? Do you think Green will have the tournament that we're expecting?
PD: Look, my heart says, yes, and my head says, no. He's the most expensive Australian in the IPL ever. I want him to, as you said, smash the ball everywhere, be the top run scorer and be the leading wicket-taker, but he's relatively unproven at this level of T20 cricket. That's the fact of the matter. I wish him the best, of course, but it’s hard to know how good he really is yet.
Mumbai love signing that type of player. They like big names and they want to unearth the next big superstar. That's their model of recruitment. Personally, I don't think they're going to click this year but let’s see. Either way, Green will play a big role.
JD: Okay, let's move on a bit, what are you guys looking forward to the most this year?
TA: In terms of players, Adil Rashid is paying for Sunrisers this year and I don't think he ever plays in the IPL. I think he's played one match or something. He is one of the best leg spinners in the world.
In T20 and 50-over cricket, easily in the top three leg spinners in the world. But because, in India, they have so many leg spinners, they rarely pick up overseas spinners. But Sunrisers have been desperate for one for years.
They went for Rashid and I'm really interested to see how he goes because he’s a brilliant player. I think he could have a big IPL.
JD: Yeah, I think he's been overdue a contract in the IPL for some time now. Given that he's probably at the top of his game for what? Six or seven years really.
It will be very interesting to see how he goes. Pat, how about you? What's something that you're looking forward to?
PD: Actually, weird bowlers. That's kind of the thing I love about T20 cricket. It's a showcase for slightly different skill sets and one guy specifically I've got an eye on is Matheesha Pathirana at Chennai.
PD: He's a slingy Malinga-type bowler from Sri Lanka. They had actually had him last year.
I think he played a couple of games without making much of an impact, but he's got that sort of X Factor thanks to his completely bizarre side-sling action. And yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing how he goes because he's really young at 20. He's played one T20 international only and he's one of those diamonds in the rough, I feel.
JD: Yeah, there's always some bowler, who, you know, comes out of the woodwork, especially Indians - there's such a massive pool of talent. There will be names we haven't heard of that by the end of May, they'll be household names.
Harry Brook is someone that stands out to me. He's the most expensive player that is on the Sunrisers Hyderabad team. They bought him for 13.25 Crore, which translates to a lot of money.
The fact that he's another one who's yet to play in the tournament, but has been ripping it up in all formats for the past couple of years.
His test record is phenomenal. I think he averages nearly a hundred so far, which is pretty insane for a guy who has only really been playing the form for the last year or so.
I'm very excited to see how he goes. Obviously, he'll play given the fact that he costs so much to the team. I think he has to play. He's probably the most in-form batter in the world at the moment I would say.
At T20 and the limited-overs game, I think he did very well. If I remember rightly for the Northern Superchargers in The Hundred. So it will be interesting to see if, you know, some of that form crosses over. I mean, there's a reason why they spent so much on him. They obviously rate him really highly.
And I'd be very surprised if he doesn't have a great tournament and they'll probably need him as well. You go through the batting line-up for Sunrises it's not it's not as full of talent as it used to be.
I mean, they used to open with David Warner and Johnny Bairstow for a couple of years and they used to just wipe the floor with teams if those two got away. And there doesn't seem to be as much of that talent as there used to be.
So he will need to play a really big part and the fact that he, you know, he's got Rashid in the same side as well as Tolga’s favourite player Glenn Phillips.
PD: Who's pretty handy!
JD: Of other things to definitely look out for, there's obviously the new subs rule this year which is very different to how other leagues have done it. I know the Big Bash League have had a similar thing for a while. I'll just read this bit out.
The IPL confirmed that the impact substitute must come from a list of four players as confirmed before the toss.
Substitutions can be made either before the start of an innings, at the end of the over, at the fall of the wicket, or when one of the batters retires.
So, it's more like a football substitution or a rugby substitution.
PD: And just one thing that's left out in that little spiel there is that you can only make one change.
JD: Someone like Glenn Phillips is an absolute gun player for this rule. Someone who can do absolutely everything and given the state of the game could really change something. What do you guys think about it because we've not really seen this in cricket before?
PD: I think it's really exciting just because it's a novelty. I'm not sure if it's going to maybe skew the role of the toss a little bit as the tournament develops as teams batting second might end up having an extra batter and that sort of upper hand - but it's cool. It's something different and it's another captaincy tactic that will add nuance to the game.
JD: Yeah, absolutely. How about you Tolga?
TA: I think at first, I was hesitant that it wouldn't work in Australia when they introduced it. I was hesitant, but I quite enjoyed it. I thought it did work in the end there.
PD: It's really going to bring in squad depth as a key facet, obviously. I'm just thinking scenarios - for example, if you're bowling second and the pitch is turning. If you've got another spinner in your subs list, you might think - get him on for two or three overs of spin. It could completely change the innings.
JD: Someone like - I'm just looking at squad lists in front of me - let's take Punjab Kings for example, they will probably start Sam Curran over Nathan Ellis, let's say. But Ellis is probably one of the best death bowlers in the world.
If you bring him in in the let's say 14th over, you know you can get three good overs out of him.
There are some very interesting scenarios where this is really going to work and it will be so interesting to see and also with the harmony in a squad.
This is much better for the IPL than probably in any other tournament because you've got such a depth of quality.
I'm trying to think of another good example... there was Tim David last year. A player who we know is superb on his day, probably one of the world-class finishers in the game.
He barely got a look in last year for Mumbai, if I'm right.
PD: Yeah, they didn't really introduce him to the team until the end.
JD: He barely got a touch in two months. But with this role, you might send him in with four overs to go chasing 50. And it will change the game.
JD: I do think it gives players more opportunity to shine and I do like it, I think it will be interesting to see how it goes. It'll be interesting to see how they use it straight away because obviously, the teams themselves are getting used to it.
PD: There's that poker aspect of not wanting to use your sub too early because you know, it could put you in a position that you don't want to be in.
But let's say you're batting first, you're getting skittled and you're like five for 90 - do you sub a batter in? In the first innings knowing that you might be a bowler down later trying to win the game?
JD: It's a real thought process.
PD: That'll be fun to watch.
JD: Okay, so we all agree. It's a good thing!
I guess the next biggest thing for this tournament, which is something we mentioned at the start, is the fact that it's a return to home and away games again, for the first time since 2019.
We're going to get, I would assume, some of the best atmospheres we've ever had in the IPL and they're already pretty good. You know, Indian fans aren't quiet when it comes to their cricket teams.
TA: Yeah, the home advantage will be a massive thing this year. And with the absence of the fans since 2019, they're gonna be even more up for it as well. As I said, the last few years haven't been in front of crowds.
I haven't really analysed it so much in terms of the advantages and disadvantages but this year there will probably be a disparity between home and away form, things like that.
PD: The grounds are different shapes, the pitches are different. These franchises build their rosters around their home pitch and they haven't been able to play on them. So now we might get that diversity and different types of games as well.
JD: I think the tournament needs that. I mean, it's all well and good to have 230 runs plays 220 every game but the variety the Indian pitches can provide in the T20 games will and should lead to a very good tournament and we've seen that before.
We saw that in the Test Match Series between India and Australia recently where you've got some spinning ragers, where teams are getting bowled out for under 100 and then in the last test, it was just a flat deck and you know, the teams were getting 400-500 runs.
PD: There are also a couple of grounds being used just for like two games as well. I know they're playing two of Punjab's games at Dharamshala.
JD: The best cricket ground in the world!
PD: The one up in the mountains. Yeah, so something a bit different and Rajasthan is playing a couple in Guwahati.
JD: I couldn't tell you how many test venues India has, or let's say premier grounds, but there's more there than in any other country. And the fact that more people get to see the IPL is great.
I think we've seen that with other big franchise sports competitions around the world, especially American ones, where they have taken it into other venues and it's always a success. It does add another bit of variety to it all.
And it keeps it fresh. It keeps the tournament interesting because I think, as we've seen with other T20 competitions, a two-month competition is very long for cricket.
JD: Like the Big Bash has had its problems with length. Not only because it's fighting another tournament at the same time, for example. But the IPL does have its own window
We'll see how it goes. I know, personally, I get quite tired of watching two months of T20 cricket.
PD: Yeah, it's funny. It's like there's obviously a vested interest to grow the tournament for broadcast reasons, but it does get stale. And it happened last year a bit as well. There's that lull about two-thirds of the way through. Like, ‘oh, It's still going? Okay.’
JD: We'll see how that goes. So, let's skip forward to May 28th and the IPL final. Who have we got winning?
TA: Well, I like the look of Delhi Capitals. I think the last few years they were thereabouts. Three years ago, they came second. Two years ago, they came third. And last year, they just missed out on the playoffs and they've now created a young team because they were really poor.
I mean, they were one of the worst teams in the IPL for years so then they changed their name and everything. They tried to change their style and it has worked and they have come close since then.
They don't have Rishabh Pant this year, which I actually don't think is a huge loss. I think if you look at his T20 record, it's not actually that great. It might actually serve them quite well, and then obviously, they have lots of young players.
And they have David Warner at the top of the order. It's interesting to see how he goes as well, with everything that's been going on with him. Rovman Powell in the middle order, he's really exciting. Mitch Marsh is in brilliant form. In the bowling line-up, they have got great bowlers like Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje, too.
JD: Yeah, and Ishant Sharma.
TA: Yeah, Sharma. And Axar Patel who's one of the best spinners around!
JD: He could even open the batting.
TA: So I like the look of them.
PD: I think Phil Salt is a pretty good signing for them, as well.
JD: How much he will play is up in the air really. The fact he can keep probably might see him play but that's a position that if you want to free up one of your four overseas spots, you're not gonna pick a 'keeper.
How about you Pat - who have you got winning the final?
PD: It's really tough - even the teams we have all spoken about, listening to you talk about them, it's like, 'Oh, maybe they'll win?'
I'm going to say Rajasthan, though. I thought last year they'd do it and they got beat in the final obviously, but I think they've added some strength, as I said earlier, in Root and Zampa - they are pretty handy signings.
Even though they've already got Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravichandran Ashwin, Zampa could play a role as a sub.
I think Jason Holder is really underrated in general and obviously Jos Buttler, who's arguably one of the greatest T20 players of all time. They're going to be strong. I think they’ll go one better this year.
JD: Well, let's see how they get on.
For me, I find it very hard to look past Mumbai. I know they're missing Bumrah, which is a huge loss for the balance of their bowling attack.
Having him in there is pretty much saving 10 runs a game but I like the look of the side, you know. Despite that loss, the batting is stacked with some great talent and I think they picked up some brilliant players, like Tristan Stubbs.
In every department, they've got someone who specialises in a field really well, and if everybody brings in the skills that they're after every game, then I think they're going to be really tough to beat. Their top three or four are very good.
Even someone like Jason Behrendorff will do a great job bowling up top. If anyone's going to get any swing in the opening overs, he'll be the guy. I do really like them.
PD: And obviously Suryakumar Yadav (SKY), we should mention.
JD: Of course yeah. How can I forget? I mean, that's what I'm saying with their batting lineup, you've got Sharma, Kishan and SKY!
PD: Yeah, huge.
JD: They also have Tim David and Cameron Green. If one of them gets going, it's going to be carnage. And that's not even including Brevis but we don’t know how much he'll play or not.
The fact he has signed up with pretty much every Mumbai franchise in the world suggests they really like him. I think he’ll play quite a bit and he was very good in the SA20 this year.