Rediff.com's Harish Kotian previews IPL-11.
The Indian Premier League is all set to kick off.
The hugely followed Chennai Super Kings are back in the fold along with inaugural champions Rajasthan Royals.
Some of the teams have completely overhauled their squads. Others have retained their core at the IPL Players Auction in January.
The Rajasthan Royals made their intentions clear with some big-money purchases. Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab also took an aggressive approach at the auction.
IMAGE: Mumbai Indians celebrate winning the IPL title last year. Photograph: BCCI
Defending champions Mumbai Indians had a relatively quiet time at this year's players auction.
Their costliest buy was Krunal Pandya, at Rs 8.8 crore (Rs 88 million) whom they retained using the Right to Match option. MI also paid a hefty Rs 6.2 crore (Rs 62 million) for young wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan.
MI's bowling attack will have a new look without their veterans Harbhajan Singh -- who was bought by the Chennai Super Kings -- and Lasith Malinga who went unsold at the auction before he came onboard as MI's bowling mentor.
Pacer Jasprit Bumrah will lead the attack which includes the in-form Australian Pat Cummins along with fellow Aussie Ben Cutting and Bangladesh's Mustafizur Rahman.
J P Duminy brings in some solidity in the middle order which includes explosive batting strength in Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya and Surya Kumar Yadav.
MI will miss Jos Buttler's big-hitting abilities at the death; the Englisman was surprisingly not retained.
Captain Rohit Sharma holds the key with the bat for Mumbai and he has a big-hitting opening partner in West Indian Evin Lewis.
Spin could be an area of concern for Mumbai. Krunal Pandya is the first pick among the spinners. Leg-spinner Rahul Chahar could also have a role along with Sri Lankan Akila Dananjaya.
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE
IMAGE: A B de Villiers, right, after reaching a half century with Virat Kohli during IPL-10. Photograph: BCCI
If their top four -- Virat Kohli, A B de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Brendon McCullum -- get going, there won't be any stopping the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal is expected to continue his recent international form with off-spinner Washington Sundar for company.
England pacer Chris Woakes has proved his pedigree in T20 cricket while Kiwi all-rounders Colin de Grandhomme and Corey Anderson bring in the firepower late in the order.
Selecting their four overseas players won't be an easy task for RCB especially given the lack of quality in their domestic bank.
The Indian fast bowlers don't look too inspiring, with Umesh Yadav not having done much of note in limited overs cricket. RCB's other pacers -- Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini and Kulwant Khejroliya -- are inexperienced.
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS
IMAGE: KKR Skipper Dinesh Karthik, centre, with Vice-Captain Robin Uthappa, right, and Andre Russell. Photograph: Kind courtesy Kolkata Knight Riders/Instagram
Kolkata Knight Riders were dealt a big blow ahead of the IPL when strike bowler Mitchell Starc was ruled out the tournament with an injury.
It was a bitter blow for KKR who were very quiet at the auction, as they went into the tournament with a squad of just 19 players.
Unlike previous years, KKR, led by Dinesh Karthik, is full of young players.
Karthik, Uthappa and Chris Lynn are expected to shoulder the batting responsibilities while Starc's absence increases the workload on veteran Mitchell Johnson.
KKR can be expected to produce spinning wickets looking at its spin troika of Kuldeep Yadav, Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla.
India's Under-19 star Shubman Gill will be the one to watch out for, but his Wolrd Cup-winning team-mates Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti may have to wait for their opportunities.
IMAGE: Delhi Daredevils Captain Gautam Gambhir, centre, with his team-mates. Photograph: Kind courtesy Delhi Daredevils/Instagram
Delhi Daredevils made some big purchases at the players auction as they look to win their first IPL title.
Gautam Gambhir is back in the Delhi side after seven years and the experienced left-hander was promptly named captain after Ricky Ponting took over as coach.
DD have a balanced squad boasting some world class attacking batsmen in Glenn Maxwell, Jason Roy, Colin Munro plus young India stars Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Prithvi Shaw.
The fast bowling attack comprising Kagiso Rabada, Trent Boult, Mohammed Shami and Chris Morris will be the envy of other teams.
Spin could be their weak point and veteran Amit Mishra will have to bring all his experience into play. Domestic cricket veteran Shahbaz Nadeem and Jayant Yadav are the other two spinners in the DD team.
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS
IMAGE: CSK's Murli Vijay, Dwayne Bravo, Karn Sharma, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Shane Watson and Shardul Thakur. Photograph: Kind courtesy Chennai Super Kings/Instagram
Back in the IPL after two years, CSK played it safe at the auction.
After retaining their top three players -- Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja -- CSK used the Right to Match to retain Faf du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo.
Kiwi spinner Mitchell Santner's injury pull out could hurt CSK, but they have enough spin resources in the experienced Harbhajan Singh, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma and Jadeja to make the most of the slow Chennai pitches.
CSK's fast bowling attack has Mark Wood, Lungi Ngidi and India pacer Shardul Thakur.
Having taken a conservative approach at the auction, CSK may not have enough quality bench strength.
IMAGE: Rajasthan Royals players at a training session in Jaipur. Photograph: PTI
The returning Rajasthan Royals suffered a big jolt when batting superstar and skipper Steve Smith was barred from the IPL following the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
Ajinkya Rahane has taken over as captain and will be expected to lead the way with the bat as he has done in the past.
Rajasthan's aggressive tactics at the auction meant the Royals paid a record Rs 12.5 crore (Rs 125 million) for English all-rounder Ben Stokes and Rs 11.5 crore (Rs 115 million) for left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadka.
The big-hitting Jos Buttler will be the one to watch out for though Smith's absence leaves a big hole in the batting line-up.
For the Royals to progress through the league, Australian D'Arcy Short and Indians Sanju Samson and Rahul Tripathi will need to come good with the bat.
Rajasthan's other problem area is spin with the Karnataka duo K Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal the only two specialist spinners along with left-arm spin all-rounder Ankit Sharma.
With Shane Warne back as the Royals' mentor, the spinners will look forward to a world class crash course from the master himself.
KINGS XI PUNJAB
IMAGE: Kings XI Punjab Captain Ravichandran Ashwin, left, with team mentor Virender Sehwag, centre, and Yuvraj Singh. Photograph: Kind courtesy, Kings XI Punjab/Instagram
Kings XI Punjab, who only retained Axar Patel, went in for a completely new squad this time.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who was picked at the auction, takes over as captain. He is the only bowler leading a team in this year's IPL.
David Miller, Marcus Stoinis and Mohit Sharma were retained using the Right To Match option. Punjab went all out for K L Rahul, pocketing him for Rs 11 crore (Rs 110 million).
Aaron Finch and Karun Nair are good additions in the side, but question marks remain over veteran stars Yuvraj Singh and Chris Gayle.
Kings' fast bowling line-up looks weak with Andrew Tye, Mohit Sharma and Barinder Sran the noteable picks.
IMAGE: Sunrisers Hyderabad fast bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar celebrates a wicket. Photograph: BCCI
Just like Rajasthan, Sunrisers Hyderabad were also dealt a solid blow when captain David Warner was banned from this year's IPL.
Kane Williamson has taken over as skipper and along with Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey and Deepak Hooda, will form a solid batting line-up for the Sunrisers.
The dangerous Yusuf Pathan is a handy option lower down the order while Shakib Al Hasan and Carlos Brathwaite would joust for the all-rounder's slot.
Sunrisers boast an impressive bowling line-u, led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and includes the world's No 1 spinner Rashid Khan who has highlighted his prowess in T20 leagues around the world.
Sunrisers also have in the line-up domestic pacers Sandeep Sharma, Basil Thampi, Siddarth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed and T Natarajan.