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IPL 2017 Preview: Royal Challengers start as favourites

Tue, Apr 4, 11:16am by Senior Writer

With the compelling India-Australia Test series in the rear-view mirror, the attention of the cricketing world turns to the Indian Premier League with the rich Twenty20 tournament to begin on Wednesday night (AEDT).

While the two most powerful cricketing nations remain divided after a controversial Australian tour of India, the same Indian fans who jeered Steve Smith’s team will be cheering the Aussie stars when they front up in the IPL.

Shane Watson will captain the $5 tournament favourites, Royal Challengers Bangalore, in the absence of Indian superstar Virat Kohli, who will likely miss the first four matches as he recovers from his shoulder injury.

Kohli scored 973 runs in 16 matches last season to be crowned player of the series as RCB lost the final.

Watson, who struggled with the bat last year but was the third on the wicket-takers’ list with 20, will be joined for Australian one-day players Travis Head and Billy Stanlake at RCB. West Indian Chris Gayle will be a key player while South African skipper AB de Villiers will also miss the start of the tournament with a back injury.

Mitch Johnson showed in the recent BBL that he is far from a spent force and he will be looking to make a considerable impact for $6 second favourites the Mumbai Indians.

The Indians missed the playoffs last year but are expected to improve under skipper Rohit Sharma and with the experience of Johnson as well as all-rounder Kieron Pollard, off spinner Harbhajan Singh and speedster Lasith Malinga.

Last year’s champs, Sunrisers Hyderabad are $6 to become the first team to go back-to-back since the Chennai Super Kings back in 2010-11.

David Warner may have endured a lean Test series in India but is expected to play a major role, having scored 848 runs in the tournament last year, including a crucial 69 in the final and 93 in the semi-final. He is $7.50 to score must runs for the series.

Fellow Aussies Ben Cutting and Moises Henriques return, while Ben Laughlin has signed on, while they also have Kane Williamson, Yuvraj Singh and last year’s leading wicket-taker Bhuvneshwar Kumar on the books.

In a tight market, the Gujarat Lions, who finished top but were beaten semi-finalists last year, are $6.50. They boast Aussies Aaron Finch, James Faulkner and AJ Tye, while they also have Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja. The issue they have are that both Jadeja and Bravo are expected to miss the first couple of weeks of the tournament at least.

The Rising Pune Supergiants finished second from bottom, but are fifth favourites at $7 in 2017 with skipper Steve Smith looking for a better Indian experience this time around. Smith made just 270 runs in eight games last year and will be hoping for a stronger series as he assumes the captaincy. Fellow Aussies Usman Khawaja, Dan Christian, Nathan Lynn and Adam Zampa are in Smith’s dressing room with Faf Du Plessis, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni and Ben Stokes also at his disposal. Lyon has replaced Ravi Ashwin, who needs a hernia operation after playing 13 Tests in six months.

The Delhi Daredevils, who feature just one Aussie in Pat Cummins, are $8 with veteran paceman Zaheer Khan as skipper, while Kolkata Knight Riders could prove value also at $8 with Chris Lynn set to make a major impact.

The Knight Riders are led by Gautam Gambhir and also feature Darren Bravo, Umesh Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Sunil Narine and Nathan Coulter-Nile. Narine is $10 favourite to claim most wickets.

Kings XI Punjab are the $11 outsiders having won just four games last year. The possess plenty of talent with Hashin Amla, Murali Vijay, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Eoin Morgan, Martin Guptill and Darren Sammy and could improve greatly this year.

The tournament starts at 12:30am on Thursday morning with Sunrisers Hyderabad at $1.75 to beat Royal Challengers Bangalore ($2.10).

Suggested Bet: Back David Warner for most tournament runs at $7.50

IPL 2017 Winners:

Royal Challengers Bangalore $5

Mumbai Indians $6

Sunrisers Hyderabad $6

Gujarat Lions $6.50

Rising Pune Supergiants $7

Delhi Daredevils $8

Kolkata Knight Riders $8

Kings XI Punjab $11

IPL 2017 – Top Tournament Run Scorer

David Warner $7.50

AB De Villiers $8

Virat Kohli $11

Chris Gayle $13

Rohit Sharma $13

Shikhar Dhawan $15

Ajinkya Rahane $17

Brendon McCullum $17

Steve Smith $17

Suresh Raina $21

Gautam Gambhir $21

Others: $26 or more

IPL 2017 – Top Tournament Wicket Taker

Sunil Narine $10

Mustafizur Rahman $11

Jasprit Bumrah $13

Bhuvneshwar Kumar $13

Yuzvendra Chahal $17

Dhawal Kulkarni $17

Amit Mishra $21

Dwayne Bravo $21

Ravindra Jadeja $21

Umesh Yadav $21

Imran Tahir $21

Ashish Nehra $21

Adam Zampa $21

Murugan Ashwin $21

Mohammed Shami $21

Kagiso Rabada $21

Lasith Malinga $21

Others: $26 or more

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