Two-time champion Super Kings appear to be the favourite this season as well

The sixth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) will unfold here on Wednesday at the historic Eden Gardens with nine teams set to dish out some explosive stuff over the next 54 days. The opening match between defending champion Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Delhi Daredevils (DD), two highly accomplished sides, is expected to set the tone of the tournament.

As the entire nation is keyed up for an exciting T20 championship, the focus will naturally be on the highly skilled individuals who can turn the fortunes of a game with their sheer brilliance. All the nine sides have such individuals in plenty, making this edition a special one.

The teams too, barring newcomer Sunrisers Hyderabad (SH) and to some extent Pune Warriors India (PWI), have a settled look and are capable of dominating the show.

The bruising battle will come to an end at the Eden Gardens on May 26. Only the team that shows courage, consistency and has the right game plan will hold aloft the trophy.

Envy of rivals

Chennai Super Kings (CSK), twice champion and twice runner-up — and once winner of the Champions LeagueT20 in 2010 — will be the envy of the other eight.

Led by M.S. Dhoni, CSK has the right player for every position, and looks the favourite this season as well. Harnessing the talent and getting the team’s challenge going is the shrewd ‘Captain Cool’, who himself is a terrific player late in the order.

In terms of talent, Mumbai Indians (MI) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) are unmatched, but the two teams’ achievements in the previous five editions have not been very encouraging.

RCB will be under the charge of one of India’s exciting talents, Virat Kohli, and how this youngster brings the best out of his reputed seniors will be crucial. The recently retired Ricky Ponting is experienced enough to bring about a change in MI’s destiny. It is a team that has always been among the favourites, but has failed to deliver. MI’s biggest achievement so far has been winning the CLT20 a year after CSK won it. Will this edition go MI’s way?

A good mix

Since he took charge of KKR, Gautam Gambhir has brought about a marked change in the team’s approach. In his first year, KKR finished fourth, and in his second at the helm, he led the side to the title denying CSK a hat-trick.

Like the CSK, KKR too has a compact squad with a great mix of experience and youth. Having experienced the pressures of playing the final, the team has the right players to deliver again. Bowling has been the team’s strength, and West Indian spinner Sunil Narine, second highest wicket-taker of the last edition, is the trump card.

DD too is a team of under-achievers. With so many brilliant individuals, the team has not made it big. With injury problems and missing players like Kevin Pietersen, Jessie Ryder and now Virender Sehwag for the opening game, DD will have to play daring cricket to make a mark this season.

The outsiders

Since Shane Warne scripted the side’s rags-to-riches story in the inaugural year, Rajasthan Royals (RR) has not been the same. With Rahul Dravid at the helm and the big-hitting Aussie Shane Watson available for the entire tournament, RR can cause some shocks at best.

In every tournament there has to be a side with an outside chance of surprising the favourites. King’s XI Punjab (KXIP) will wear this tag well.

Led by Adam Gilchrist, the team has enough potential to not only last the distance but to wreak havoc en route.

PWI too has new coaching staff, a new captain and some potentially very good players in Steve Smith and Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj will be completely focused on delivering. This will also mean that PWI cannot be taken lightly.

With players like Dale Steyn, Kumar Sangakkara and Shikhar Dhawan in the line-up, SH can prove a serious threat to other eight teams.

Keywords: IPL 6IPL 2013

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