Now that I have seen at least one match of each of the 8 teams, I think now is a good time to mention my first impressions of the teams.
To start with – Mumbai Indians – It looked like grandfather Sachin and Sanath playing with their grandkids, atleast when the team was announced. With their combined age 77 it did seem that way. The team looked lacking middle order strength BUT they proved me wrong and the new recruits seems like a good choice. Aditya Tare, Saurabh Tiwary, Sathish and Ambati Rayadu look well in their part and they won the match despite Seniors not doing much, Harbhajan injured and Yusuf Pathan blitzkrieg. Perhaps Lucky to win that day, but if they continue to play that way a spot in the semis is there for the taking.
A team you love it or hate it but cant ignore it , Kolkata Knightriders. Surprise ! Surprise ! The team is playing as a ‘team’ and have left behind their past 2 nightmarish seasons, at least it looks so far. Ganguly is leading them from the front and his fielding and batting maybe a bit rusty but his captaincy is as sharp as it was during his peak. Angelo Matthews has to be the most underrated ( and cheap) all rounder just like most Lankan players are. Brad Hodge is playing well and Laxmi Ratan Shukla seems to have a got a second wind. The team should continue to do well especially in home games with massive Eden Garden support behind them and half of Bollywood cheering for them. With superstar overseas players like Hussey, Bond , Mccullum and Gayle yet to arrive , things can only be better. Perhaps a semifinal spot for them.
Rajasthan Royals was the team of 10 players and Shae Warne in the first edition, now its perhaps 10 players and Yusuf Pathan. The man is in peak of his form and can do no wrong. Breaking several domestic records in last 2 months he continues to pummel the opposition bowlers with his huge sixes and massive drives. Royals were unlucky not to win their first match. However apart from Pathan other team members looked bit out of touch. Warne didnt turn the ball much and none of the other bowlers were impressive. Although its mindless to predict based on just 1 game but I think Royals might just miss out on the Semis spot this year.
Another team that looked rusty was Chennai Superkings. Even with massive crowd support behind them, they couldnt muster up a decent fight to the Chargers. Their bowling looks weak and even Muralidharan seems struggling. They are also missing Flintoff and Oram and they seem to rely too much on Dhoni and Hayden at the top. Someone like Suresh Raina, Badrinath etc. have to stand and deliver. They have to improve and improve real soon.
Deccan Chargers rolled over the superkings succesfully after suffering unexpected loss against Knightriders. They seem to have the right team combination with Gilchrist and Gibbs at the top, Symonds and Rohit Sharma in the middle. Their bowling also looks decent with R P Singh, Vaas and Prgyan Ojha. Their slightly weaker link is I think VVS Laxman. Laxman is the most elegant player when its comes to batting in a test match, however in this format of the game he looks out of place especially when he is opening the innings along with fluent Gilchrist. Perhaps they need to make him bat at 4 or 5, although I cant see him slogging in the final 5 overs either. Maybe drop Laxman altogether.
Bangalore Royal Challengers looks a great team when you have experience of Kaalis, Dravid, Kumble to combine with young brigade like Manish Pandey , Robin Utthappa and Virat Kohli and with Dale Steyn leading the bowling attack you have one of the best balanced team. However they were simply outclassed in the first match by KKR. Perhaps they would soon get their act together and be a team they were last year.
Kings XI Punjab to me looks the weakest team of the tournament. Somehow the middle order of Mahela, Yuvraj and Sangakkara looks too sedate and their bowling minus Brett Lee lacks serious firepower. Irfant Pathan needs a speedy dose of aggression from his brother Yusuf Pathan. Ramesh Power and Piyush Chawala looked clueless on slow pitch. They need Brett Lee to be back , mercurial Sreesanth to be consistent and maybe someone more aggrasive like Shaun Marsh at top of order should be good. Whats Mohhamad Kaif doing in the team?
Finally, the team to beat, Delhi Daredevils with the strongest batting lineup of this IPL, they would be the team every other team would be afraid of. On their day any of Sehwag, Gambhir, Warner, Dilshan and AB Deviliers can blast any bowling attack out of the ground. They have a wonderful bowling attack as well with Dirk Nannes in top form and Amit Mishra with a new found confidence. A semifinal spot is almost a guaranteed if they continue to play like they do and they can. Who knows maybe even the championship !