Ahead of the 2021 IPL, we asked five Wisden writers to predict which team would, win the competition. When they all said Mumbai Indians, we instead asked which team would lose to MI in the final.
There’s a running joke that says seven teams participate in the IPL, only for one of them to lose to Mumbai Indians in the final. Such has been their monopoly over the last few years, that it won’t be surprising if the image of Rohit Sharma with the silverware will end up finding its way to this year’s post-IPL picture gallery.
That said, this year’s IPL auction saw plenty ins and outs, and the updated squads might just see franchises quickly bounce back from their performances last year and put on a much better showing. Which ones can give the Mumbai Indians a run for their money? Five writers give their picks.
Ben Gardner, Wisden.com managing editor
Winning a T20 competition with a lengthy league stage and a short, sharp play-off finale is often less about being the best team across the whole tournament and more about peaking at exactly the right time. If a side leads from the outset and effectively qualifies for the latter stages early on, it can be hard to maintain momentum. Rajasthan Royals, shorn of Jofra Archer for the early stages, shouldn’t have that issue, but if they can stay in the hunt, there’s every chance his return could see them put together a proper run.
With Ben Stokes available for the entirety of the competition and ensconced at the top of the order, his best position in T20s, Chris Morris filling the dual roles of death batter and bowler, and Sanju Samson desperate to put right his latest India snub, all the ingredients for something special are there.
Taha Hashim, Wisden.com features editor
Bhuvneshwar Kumar seriously looked the part against England and his return is a massive boost after he picked up a tournament-ending thigh injury early on in the last IPL. Then you’ve got a world-beater in Rashid Khan, a gun all-rounder in Jason Holder and a whole host of mouth-watering overseas top-order batting options to work with: David Warner, Kane Williamson, Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy.
Most importantly, this is a franchise that knows how to stretch out a season – they’ve made it to the playoffs five years on the bounce. I’d be surprised if they don’t make it six.
Aadya Sharma, Wisden India editor
Pardon the extremely unfair analogy, but the thought of newly-anointed skipper Rishabh Pant leading Delhi Capitals to the crown would be just as gratifying as rookie India captain MS Dhoni’s triumph in the 2007 T20 World Cup. A fearless young wicketkeeper is just what the IPL might need to break Mumbai’s stranglehold.
It isn’t just about Pant; Delhi proved last year that, with their star-powered domestic line-up (even without Shreyas Iyer this year) and explosive overseas options (particularly the duo of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje), they can assemble a team that’s a strong enough unit to bulldoze their way into the finals.
Rohit Sankar, Wisden India staff writer
Assuming Jofra Archer returns for the second half of the season, Rajasthan Royals have a realistic chance of troubling the best teams this season. The four overseas picks are a given once Archer gets back in. If they are to open with Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, as Eoin Morgan very casually revealed in the Sky Cricket Show, Rajasthan have firepower at the top and finishers in Chris Morris, Riyan Parag and Shivam Dube.
With a balanced bowling attack, RR are a strong side this time. That said, much of their fortunes hinge on Archer’s return from the freak fish tank accident. The flamboyant Sanju Samson at the helm could just inspire them to the finals where the Mumbai Indians might just prove to be too hot for them to handle.
Rupin Kale, Wisden India staff writer
Chennai Super Kings
Chennai Super Kings are likely to bounce back strongly this year. The Lions will be wounded after the group-stage finish last year, and many players in that side will have a point to prove. With the IPL moving back to India and Chennai getting major players back, they’re likely to return to their original ways. Suresh Raina’s return will undoubtedly be one of the biggest factors, so will be the balance and freshness that new recruits such as Moeen Ali bring to the table. It could be the IPL 2018 (or 2019) finale all over again.
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