14 things to watch out for in IPL 2021

The best stay-at-home option plays out for the next two months. Covid may have dampened spirits, but cricket could be the big feel-good factor. Here are 14 things to watch out for in IPL’s 14th edition
HELLO, INDIA
After successfully staging the IPL in the UAE last year, the BCCI has decided to host the event in India this time, choosing six cities where the matches will be held. However, a tremendous spike in Covid-19 cases, is a threat.
THE COVID THREAT
Along with the performances, the focus will also be on the number of cases that crop up during the tournament. There is a heightened sense of anxiety following positive reports of a few players. A smooth IPL will help BCCI in its endeavour to stage the T20 WC later.
EMPTY STANDS
For the first time in India, the IPL will be held sans fans. While the Star Sports executive recently said that it allows his production team to place cameras at better angles, lack of crowds does stick like a sore thumb.
GOING HARD OVER SOFT SIGNALS
The soft signal rule came under the scanner after Suryakumar Yadav’s catch by Dawid Malan during the India-England T20I series. The controversial rule is now out.
MI ON A HAT-TRICK
Powered by a core group, the Mumbai Indians could become the first team to win three IPL titles on the trot. While they beat CSK by just one run in 2019, their performance in 2020 was clinical, especially in the knockouts.
CAPTAIN PANT FOR THE CAPITALS
Perhaps, the hottest property in the game today after his exploits vs Australia and England. The 23-year-old will lead the Delhi Capitals after regular captain Shreyas Iyer was ruled out due to a shoulder injury. Could this be the turning point of his career?
THE RETURN OF PUJARA
After remaining unsold for a number of years, Cheteshwar Pujara, a Test specialist, was finally bought by CSK for Rs 50 lakhs. He claimed that he is working on his power-hitting, trying to learn from the likes of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
MSD: ENDGAME OR RESURGENCE?
IPL-2020 saw a rather off-colour MS Dhoni. With his hitting abilities having gone down drastically, his strike rate was a pathetic 116.27, and average 25.00. Will we that old spark again?
A NEW-LOOK CSK
After enduring their worst IPL last year, the Chennai Super Kings would be itching to bounce back after making a few changes. Shane Watson has retired, but the three-time champions would be strengthened by the return of key batsman Suresh Raina, who was sent off before the IPL tournament due to disciplinary reasons last year. Watch out for N Jagadeesan too.
AUDITIONS FOR WC
India has some of the best young talent in world cricket right now, and in the IPL, they get a chance to show off their wares at the right stage. With an aim to seal their spot in the T20 World Cup, Ishan Kishan, Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Navdeep Saini, Prasidh Krishna will all be itching to explode.
EYES ON HARDIK THE ALL-ROUNDER
While his performances with the bat have made him a superstar, it is Hardik Pandya’s bowling which has in focus of late. Suffering from a dodgy back, the all-rounder didn’t bowl at all in the last IPL. He bowled regularly in the T20Is vs England and in the last ODI. Will he bowl for MI this time?
SHAW’S REDEMPTION
The talented youngster had an ordinary IPL last year with only two half-centuries in 13 games and an average of 17.53. He lost his Test spot after failing in the Adelaide Test against Australia. However, leading Mumbai, Shaw had a blazing run in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
ASHWIN’S LAST CHANCE
He may be the craftiest spinner in Test cricket currently, but since 2017, R Ashwin has found himself on the sidelines of India’s limited overs team. However, with Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal struggling, there is a case for Ashwin to return to the limited overs fold now. The IPL is his big chance to build a case for T20 WC selection.
WILL ‘DRE RUSS’ BOUNCE BACK?
Over the years, one of the highlights of the IPL has been Andre Russell smashing bowlers into the stands to conjure impossible wins. However, hampered by an injury, the West Indian all-rounder scored just 117 runs in 10 games@13.00. The 32-year-old, though has looked good in practice.
MORRIS, THE NEW MILLIONAIRE
Chris Morris was bought by the Rajasthan Royals for a whopping Rs. 16.25 crore, making him the most expensive purchase in IPL auctions. The South African seam bowling all-rounder hasn’t played any international cricket since 2019, but could be a like-for-like back-up for ace all-rounder Ben Stokes.
BATTLE FOR RUNS
Last year, it was KL Rahul (670 runs in 14 games@55.83), with Shikhar Dhawan (618 runs in 17 games@44.14) who logged more than 600 runs. Expect David Warner, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli to vie for the Orange Cap.
BATTLE FOR WICKETS
Delhi Capitals’ Kagiso Rabada (30 wickets in 17 games@18.26) and Mumbai Indians’ Jasprit Bumrah (27 wickets in 17 games@14.96) battled for the Purple Cap last season. Expect Trent Boult, Anrich Nortje to add to the fight. Spinners may top the list this year.
THOSE MISSING OUT
DC will miss regular captain Shreyas Iyer. RR will be without Jofra Archer and CSK will rue the absence of Josh Hazlewood, who refused to come to India citing Covid concerns.
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