The stakes continue to rise with each and every edition of the Indian Premier League. This year is no different, and the blockbuster trade of Hardik Pandya to Mumbai Indians and the big money signings of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins have already set the tone for an explosive tournament.

The 2024 IPL will act as a bridge competition ahead of the 2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in the United States and the West Indies later this year, so in addition to the usual bragging rights, there’s a spot in the national team at stake for Indian and overseas players alike.

The political landscape of the country will also play a part as the IPL is forced to navigate scheduling limitations, put in place due to the general elections set to be held concurrently with the tournament.

With potential tight turnarounds between games, increased double headers and possibly fewer home games for some sides, IPL 2024 is here to enthral and entertain. But who will prevail this time around? Here are our IPL picks.

The Favourites

Mumbai Indians

Mumbai Indians will be led by a returning Hardik Pandya in IPL 2024 in one of the biggest shakeups in the competition’s history. The five-time champions also added firepower to their bowling department during the auction with the additions of South African speedster Gerald Coetzee and Sri Lankan spearhead Dilshan Madushanka, while the arrival of Mohammad Nabi adds balance and another spin option for MI this year.

Suryakumar Yadav finished IPL 2023 as MI’s top run scorer with 605 runs from 16 innings. The 33-year-old has been a talismanic figure for India since and will be expected to contribute heavily with the bat this year as well.

Suryakumar Yadav performances post IPL 2023

Since the end of IPL 2023, only Sikandar Raza (595), Yashasvi Jaiswal (502) and Finn Allen (490) have scored more runs in men’s T20Is than Surya (466).

He has five scores of 50+ in the format in this span, the joint second highest (tied with Jaiswal) by any batter from a full member side in men’s T20Is.

Australian middle order batter Tim David has also been in excellent touch post-IPL. David has scored 322 runs at an average of 46 with a strike rate of 174.1 in men’s T20Is since the end of IPL 2023. Only Rinku Singh (23.8%), Daryl Mitchell (24.7%) and Phil Salt (25.3%) have a lower dot-ball percentage than David (28.6%) in men’s T20I in this period (min. 150 balls faced).

The 28-year-old along with new captain Pandya will be key finishers for MI in 2024.

In the absence of strike bowler Jasprit Bumrah, Mumbai Indians struggled to take wickets in the powerplay phase last year. They took just 19 wickets in that phase across their 16 games at an average of 41.4, which was the third worst among all sides last season.

The addition of Madushanka and the return of Bumrah will make them a much more threatening prospect this season. Coetzee provides them with a middle-overs threat this campaign while Nabi addresses the issue of a lack of spin options beyond Piyush Chawla.

Mumbai Indians, a perennial contender in the IPL, have addressed several key problem areas from last season and ruling them out of the title race would be a mistake. With the returns of Bumrah and Pandya, along with important foreign additions, they will be gunning for that prestigious trophy once again.

Chennai Super Kings

Chennai Super Kings come into the 2024 edition of the IPL with a handful of injuries to key players in Devon Conway, Matheesha Pathirana and Mustafizur Rahman.

However, MS Dhoni and bowling coach Dwayne Bravo have bowling options aplenty in Shardul Thakur, Mukesh Choudhary and Tushar Deshpande.

Super Kings skipper Dhoni has never shied away from experimenting, and so even the likes of Daryl Mitchell and Rajvardhan Hangargekar could be called upon to contribute with the ball.  

In the batting department the Super Kings started exceptionally last year, with only Gujarat Titans’ (44.4) top order (No. 1-3) posting a better collective batting average than CSK’s 43.6.

Rachin Ravindra will provide a new look to the lineup, possibly opening alongside Ruturaj Gaikwad in the absence of Conway, and Ajinkya Rahane will aim to continue being the explosive batter that he was in 2023 – registering his best strike rate in an IPL season (172.5 in 2023).

CSK turned a lot of heads at the recent auctions after going hard in the pursuit of Sameer Rizvi. The 20-year-old impressed at the 2023 UP T20 League, scoring 455 runs over 10 matches, including two tons. The youngster could slot in as a replacement for Ambati Rayudu in the ‘Impact Player’ role, providing a boost as and when required, while he gains experience in the most enviable of situations – under the leadership of Dhoni.

Thakur has been excellent with the ball for the Super Kings in previous editions, and was the franchise’s leading wicket-taker in both his title-winning seasons (16 in 2018 & 21 in 2021).

His last two campaigns have given him a chance to showcase his skill with the bat. Thakur scored 100+ runs in both 2022 (120 with Delhi Capitals) and 2023 (113 with Kolkata Knight Riders), adding to CSK’s pool of all-rounders that contains the likes of Shivam Dube, Moeen Ali and Ravindra Jadeja.

That depth is what has given the Super Kings the edge in the past, and it is exactly what they will be banking on in their quest for a sixth title.

Rajasthan Royals

Rajasthan Royals missed securing a play-off spot by just one position in the previous season of the IPL.

The Royals might not be the obvious favourites this season, with teams like Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings dominating the limelight, but they do possess extreme firepower and under the leadership of Sanju Samson the team exudes confidence – something that’s only been bolstered by retaining the core of their playing XI from 2023.

RR’s batting lineup is a force to be reckoned with. The explosive trio of Jos Buttler, Samson, and Yashasvi Jaiswal lead the charge at the top of the order, and heavily contributed to the Royals’ boundary rate in 2023. They scored a boundary once every 4.8 balls last season, with only Mumbai Indians bettering that rate (4.6).

With Jaiswal’s incredible recent form, Buttler’s match-winning abilities, and Samson’s astute leadership, the top order is poised to wreak havoc on opposition bowlers. They’ve also got Shimron Hetmyer, Donovan Ferreira, and Rovman Powell as overseas options in the middle order, while the inclusion of Indian talents like Riyan Parag and Dhruv Jurel further strengthen their batting lineup.

In the pace bowling department, the Royals have an abundance of options. With the likes of Trent Boult and the promising addition of Nandre Burger from South Africa, who impressed during India’s recent tour to the African nation, their pace attack looks formidable. The Royals can also rely on powerplay specialist Sandeep Sharma, who has picked up 55 wickets in that phase, the second most by any bowler in competition history (Bhuvneshwar Kumar – 62).

Those bowlers will be further supported by Indian speedsters Avesh Khan, Kuldeep Sen and Navdeep Saini.

The spin department is equally as potent. With Yuzvendra Chahal, Adam Zampa and Ravichandran Ashwin in their arsenal, the Royals possess one of the most experienced and skilful spin trios in the competition.

Rajasthan’s spinners averaged 23.9 in IPL 2023, a rate only bettered by Gujarat Titans (22.4). Their ability to control the game in the middle overs could be pivotal in RR’s pursuit of IPL supremacy.

Lucknow Super Giants

The Lucknow Super Giants come into this year’s IPL on the back of an impressive first two seasons where they made the play-offs both times.

Heading into the 2024 IPL season, the Lucknow-based franchise have added exciting Indian talents Arshin Kulkarni and Manimaran Siddharth, in addition to overseas all-rounders David Willey and Ashton Turner.

Skipper KL Rahul leads the charge with the bat for the LSG. His 3,438 IPL runs since his move to the Punjab Kings at the start of the 2018 season is the most by any batter in that period.

Fellow wicketkeeper-batter Nicholas Pooran has spent the past 12 months putting the T20 franchise world on notice.

The West Indian top scored in the ILT20, helping guide MI Emirates to victory. In fact, every league that he’s scored more than 100 runs in over the last year has seen Pooran do so at a 150+ strike rate.

Nicholas Pooran batting across T20 leagues

In addition to the aforementioned duo, the left-handed trio of Kyle Mayers, Quinton de Kock and Devdutt Padikkal, who was acquired from the Rajasthan Royals, will also be looking to make a big impression in the upcoming IPL season.

The spearhead of the Super Giants’ bowling department will be 23-year-old leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi. The youngster has been one of India’s best T20I bowlers recently and has picked up 20 wickets since the start of 2023 – the second most among all Indian bowlers in the same period. In fact, his performances saw him rise to the very top of the ICC rankings for T20I bowlers in December 2023.

Complementing Bishnoi’s youth will be veteran Indian leg-spinner and the fourth-highest wicket-taker in IPL history – Amit Mishra (173 scalps).

With all this talent in LSG’s ranks, 2024 might be their best opportunity yet to take that next step in the IPL.

The Dark Horses

Kolkata Knight Riders

Heading into IPL 2024, the Kolkata Knight Riders have two key strengths: their batting outside of the openers and their spin attack. Their middle order is set to comprise of the returning Shreyas Iyer, Nitish Rana and Rinku Singh, while the likes of Andre Russell and Sunil Narine can provide firepower as floaters. Manish Pandey, Ramandeep Singh and Angkrish Raghuvanshi add significant bench depth.

KKR will be hoping for Rinku to continue his stellar form. He took the tournament by storm in 2023, scoring 474 runs at a strike rate of 150. He’s kicked on from there as well, scoring 356 runs in men’s T20Is since the 2023 tournament, with his strike rate of 176 the third highest of any middle order batter (No. 4-7) from a full-member side (minimum five innings batted) in that time.

The Knight Riders arguably have the best spin attack in the league, with Varun Chakravarthy, Sunil Narine and Suyash Sharma accounting for a combined 41 wickets in IPL 2023.

Suyash was the joint second-highest wicket taker in the 2023 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (18 wickets) and induced a batting false shot rate of 38.5% in IPL 2023, the second highest of all spinners (min. five overs bowled). Varun is in good form too, with his 19 wickets in the 2023 Vijay Hazare Trophy the joint-highest.

There is one big weakness with KKR though and that’s their openers, who averaged just 21.6 runs in IPL 2023, the lowest of all teams. Coach Chandrakant Pandit and mentor Gautam Gambhir will be hoping that Phil Salt and Venkatesh Iyer do a better job this time around, with Rahmanullah Gurbaz also available.

Meanwhile, speedster Mitchell Starc will be asked to justify his price tag of INR 24.75 crores by delivering in the powerplay and the slog overs (overs 17-20), where KKR conceded runs at an economy rate of 9.3 and 10.6 respectively.

Players to Watch

Glenn Maxwell (Royal Challengers Bangalore)

There’s hardly a cricketer more entertaining than Glenn Maxwell. His unbeaten 201 in the 2023 World Cup against Afghanistan was an innings for the ages. The Big Show has hit a couple of centuries since then in the T20I format, including one against India. He’s been in impeccable form since the last IPL, a competition where he smashed 400 runs at a strike rate of 184.

Since the end of IPL 2023, he’s hit a boundary every 3.1 balls in men’s T20Is, the most frequent of any batter from a full-member side to have featured in at least five innings.

In the recently concluded Big Bash League 2023-24, Maxwell scored 243 runs, of which 186 came via boundaries. His strike rate of 174 in the tournament was bettered only by Laurie Evans’ 190 (minimum 20 balls faced).

Maxwell’s bowling ability is going to be just as important for Royal Challengers Bangalore, who are devoid of good spin bowling options.

Now, Maxwell is not the most threatening bowler and has a passable bowling economy of 7.98 in his T20I career, nor was he asked to bowl much for RCB last year.

But he was Australia’s second-most economical bowler in the 2023 World Cup, conceding just 4.81 runs per over from his total allocation of 68.3.

RCB will be hoping they can ask something similar of him in IPL 2024.

Kuldeep Yadav (Delhi Capitals)

Kuldeep Yadav’s cricketing voyage has been a tale of peaks and valleys, transitioning from being hailed as the future of Indian spin alongside Yuzvendra Chahal, to enduring periods on the bench in both national and IPL teams. However, recent performances have reshaped his narrative and positioned him as a potential cornerstone of India’s bowling attack across formats.

Despite encountering setbacks, including lacklustre IPL seasons and injuries, Kuldeep’s resilience and hard work alongside his childhood coach and mentors at the National Cricket Academy has propelled him towards a revitalised version of himself, appropriately named “Kuldeep 2.0.”

His stint with Delhi Capitals in the IPL has served as a catalyst for that transformation, providing him the platform to rediscover his rhythm and confidence. Although his previous IPL season wasn’t exceptional, recent international outings have showcased his resurgence.

In the 2023 Asia Cup, he was named the Player of the Series for his nine wickets at an impressive average of 11.4 – an average that trailed only Hardik Pandya (11.3 – min. 10 overs bowled). Notably, he played pivotal roles in both Super-4 games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, delivering match-winning performances with figures of 5/25 and 4/43 respectively.

His contributions weren’t confined to the Asia Cup alone. In the 2023 ODI Cricket World Cup, Kuldeep’s 15 wickets were crucial in India’s journey to the final. Following this success, he continued his stellar form in T20Is against South Africa, with figures of 5/17 in the third T20I marking his best bowling performance in the format

During the recently concluded England Test series, Kuldeep further showcased his prowess, bagging an impressive 19 wickets at an average of 20.2. Only Ashwin and Tom Hartley managed to take more wickets than him, while his bowling average was bettered only by Bumrah (16.9) among players who bowled at least 10 overs. Since 2023, Kuldeep has amassed a total of 83 wickets across various formats in international cricket, with Josh Hazlewood (86) and Ravindra Jadeja (85) the only two to log more during the same period.

As the Capitals gear up for the upcoming season, Kuldeep’s resurgence couldn’t come at a better time. With a potent googly and impeccable accuracy, he adds depth to their spin attack alongside Axar Patel, Lalit Yadav and Vicky Ostwal. Head Coach Ricky Ponting’s endorsement further solidifies Kuldeep’s role in the team’s plans for the upcoming tournament.

KL Rahul (Lucknow Super Giants)

When you think of big IPL runs, you think of KL Rahul. The right-hander from Karnataka has made a name for himself in recent years, finishing with 600+ runs in four out of the last six IPL seasons, the most by any batter in tournament history.

This season, however, could look a little different for the Lucknow Super Giants captain. The 31-year-old is expected to bat lower down the order, a switch that we have seen him make in both Tests and ODIs not too long ago.

Rahul has made that change with great success as well, as his 452 runs at an average of 75.3 at the 2023 Cricket World Cup show. No player batting at 5 or lower throughout the tournament scored more runs than Rahul did.

Now, with the 2024 T20 World Cup not too far away, it remains to be seen if the former Punjab Kings man can use the upcoming IPL season to force his way back into the T20I reckoning for the Indian national team.

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