The 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is less than a month's away as a few franchises kickstart their preparatory camps ahead of IPL 2021. In the mini-auction held in the month of January, most teams acquired certain players to fill-in in the void in their respective IPL squads. All the teams in the IPL 2021 look strong on paper, especially with their squad composition and a hugely potent starting XI. However, in a long tournament such as an IPL, teams with quality back-up have often ended being in the top-4 after the league stage.
Based upon all IPL team squads and their strength and weaknesses on slated playing venues, we attempt to make IPL predictions for teams who can finish in the top-4 at the end of the league stage.
1. Mumbai Indians
The defending IPL champions, Mumbai Indians will yet again be favorites to win their record sixth IPL title in 2021. The Mumbai-based franchise has nearly all the bases covered. With a strong starting XI as any other team in the league, Mumbai has more than a few match-winners who could help the team win on their day. However, Mumbai Indians' bench strength and solid back-up players give them an edge over other teams in IPL 2021.
With a majority of Mumbai's matches scheduled in Chennai and Delhi, grounds which produce largely spin-friendly pitches, MI have strengthened their spin attack by the inclusion of Piyush Chawla as an experienced T20 spinner. If Mumbai's stroke-makers can churn out runs on slow pitches then with the available resources, it seems likely that Mumbai will yet again finish in the top-4.
2. Royal Challengers Bangalore
Virat Kohli-led RCB will have a great chance to make it finish in the top-4 in the IPL Points Table and ensure a repeat of their good show in IPL 2020. In the 2021 IPL auction, Bangalore made some valuable additions in the form of all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, veteran Dan Christian, and pacer Kyle Jamieson. The inclusion of Maxwell strengthens RCB's middle-order and will allow the likes of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers to play rather freely.
In all likelihood, the pair of Devdutt Paddikal and Mohammad Azharuddeen will open the batting for the Bangalore franchise which is expected to take a major share of the load off their middle-order. If RCB can address their death bowling woes, the team has a bankable spin trio of Yuzvendra Chahal, Adam Zampa, and Washington Sundar to rely upon in the middle overs. Also, playing on spin-friendly tracks in Chennai and Delhi will play in the hands of the franchise and their composition in the playing XI.
3. Delhi Capitals
Last year's finalist Delhi Capitals can be regarded as one of the early contenders to make it to the IPL Playoffs and finish in the top-4 of the IPL Points Table in 2021. Delhi has a quality Indian core of players with overseas players best suited to form a strong playing XI. Just like the defending champions, Delhi also has all based covered. In the 2021 IPL auction, the Iyer-led franchise ticked a few boxes as far as back-up players are concerned.
Delhi's bowling resources include the potent South African duo of Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada who had a memorable IPL last season. Along with them, the Indian spinners like Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Amit Mishra lend great variation to their attack. All-rounders like Marcus Stoinis, Chris Woakes, and Tom Curran complete their squad providing a great balance to the team. If Delhi can continue their merry way even in 2021, there's no reason why the 2020 IPL runners-up won't qualify for the last-4 spots in the Points Table.
4. Punjab Kings
Punjab Kings formerly, Kings XI Punjab narrowly missed out on a top-4 spot despite making a sensational comeback in the latter half of the last IPL in 2020. Their top-order scored the bulk of the runs in 2020 and the KL Rahul-led side will want them to continue their good work. Their main concern was the contribution from the lower middle-order which failed to give them a strong finish.
The Punjab-based franchise has added experienced T20 all-rounders such as Moises Henriques and Fabien Allen to fill the void left by Glenn Maxwell and James Neesham. To strengthen the bowling attack led by Chris Jordon, they have added the impressive Jhye Richardson and Australian rookie Riley Meredith. Punjab would hope that all three departments can contribute and help them secure an early lead going into the tournament.