Form watch - from the World Cup into the IPL
Kochi Tuskers Kerala
In IPL 2010, Mahela Jayawardene showed how Twenty20 batting can be non-violent, yet effective. He comes into this edition in top form, having book-ended his World Cup with two sublime centuries. He has had success opening in T20s, and Kochi's performances could well evolve around his finesse at the top. Brendon McCullum will offer an interesting counterpoint to Jayawardene's ways. His World Cup was lacklustre against top teams, with 177 of his 256 runs coming against minnows, but he is a menacing presence in any Twenty20 line-up. VVS Laxman has looked completely out of sorts in past IPLs, losing his innate grace to the compulsion to go aerial. This year, he will look for the middle ground that Jayawardene has made his own. With the rigour of international cricket behind him, the free-spirited Muttiah Muralitharan could be Kochi's main bowler. Given Sreesanth's unpredictability, RP Singh and John Hastings might be Kochi's go-to seamers. Sreesanth's bigger contribution - if he manages to keep his wits about him - will be in attracting local fans.
Expect Kumar Sangakkara to captain Deccan with the charisma that came to typify his days in charge of the Sri Lankan team. He led Punjab through a disastrous 2010 season, and will want to make a clean break this year. Sangakkara is in fine form with the bat, having finished the World Cup third on the run-scorers' list with 465 runs. Kevin Pietersen's injury, however, leaves the rest of Deccan's batting thin on pedigree. With 224 runs from seven innings, JP Duminy never quite came into his own during the World Cup, but the bigger worry is the out-of-form Cameron White, who has struggled in past IPLs. The bowling will depend heavily on Dale Steyn who has grown in stature since the last edition, and comes off a strong World Cup performance (12 wickets at an average of 16.00). He will expect support from Rusty Theron and Ishant Sharma, who both have points to prove to their national selectors.
With a World Cup medal now adorning his mantelpiece, there's little left for Sachin Tendulkar to achieve in the game. The IPL offers him the chance to redeem his poor captaincy record, something he got to within a game of doing last year. Having rattled 482 World Cup runs, Tendulkar is primed for another bountiful tournament with the bat. Davy Jacobs, whose audacity at the top lit up the 2010 Champions League, is another exciting top-order prospect. Expect mayhem from Kieron Pollard - as he showed in the World Cup (154 of his 180 runs came against Netherlands and Ireland), he loves to pummel average bowling, and he's bound to run into some of that at the IPL. With Zaheer Khan gone, the bowling unit will depend on the striking ability of Lasith Malinga, whose yorkers were mostly on target in the World Cup (13 wickets). With nine wickets in nine games, Harbhajan Singh wasn't at his most incisive in the World Cup, but the presence of old mate Andrew Symonds in the covers should fire him up.
No side that has Shane Warne and Rahul Dravid in its ranks can be taken lightly. However, in picking these stalwarts, Rajasthan may have gambled on experience and pedigree at the cost of Twenty20 aptitude and young legs. Given that context, a lot will be expected out of the tireless Shane Watson (290 runs in six matches), who will join the IPL after the Bangladesh tour. Ross Taylor's World Cup will forever be remembered for his birthday blitz against Pakistan, but he was consistent enough to score 324 runs at 64.80. Rajasthan will look to Shaun Tait for short, sharp bursts of pace, the kind of which he fleetingly produced while running up a World Cup tally of 11 wickets. Jacob Oram hustled South Africa into collapsing in the World Cup quarter-final; expect him to retain that spark in the field.
Lasting 50 overs at the World Cup might have proved a bridge too far for Virender Sehwag, but he is well capable of running up 50-over scores in 20 overs if he sets his mind to it. He made 380 runs in the World Cup, 175 of which came in the opening game, and is likely to settle games within the span of a few overs. Add David Warner and Aaron Finch to the mix, and you could be looking at the most destructive Twenty20 top three in the world. Morne Morkel, who had a mixed World Cup with nine wickets at 23.00, is the only stable presence in a bowling line-up filled with players on the fringe: Irfan Pathan will resume that tiringly tragic search for lost swing. Roelof van der Merwe will once again try to convince with the sum of his bits-and-pieces parts. Ashok Dinda and Umesh Yadav will try to better each other on speed-gun readings.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Gautam Gambhir has the daunting task of winning over the love and support of a city that will not warm up too easily to the man who replaced Sourav Ganguly. In addition, Gambhir has a couple of records to set right. So far, he has under-achieved at the IPL, often throwing his wicket away after running away to a start. It is an affliction that bogged him down even at the World Cup, where he gifted his wicket too often despite scoring 393 runs. Gambhir's opening partner is likely to be Brad Haddin, another smooth starter who is susceptible to soft dismissals, as seen in his century-less World Cup yield of 332 runs. Kolkata's big names - Jacques Kallis (225 runs in seven World Cup innings), Eoin Morgan, Yusuf Pathan and Shakib Al Hasan - all had quiet World Cups and will seek fresh starts at the IPL.
At the moment, anything Yuvraj Singh (362 runs and 15 wickets at the World Cup) touches is turning into gold, and he will be expected to provide Pune a charmed IPL debut. Yuvraj won't find the going easy, though. His most experienced batsman, Graeme Smith (183 runs in seven innings), looked ridiculously out of form in the World Cup, and has generally struggled in Twenty20s. Jesse Ryder (184 runs in five innings) is unreliable and inconsistent at the top, and a risky option with the ball. To make matters worse, injuries to Angelo Mathews and Ashish Nehra could curtail their contributions. With the international stars out of form or injured, the engine room could be manned by IPL specialists Robin Uthappa and Murali Kartik. Additionally, Nathan McCullum's scrappiness (eight wickets at 30.12 in the World Cup) could be a worthy inclusion to the side.
Kings XI Punjab
Adam Gilchrist was out of his depth in IPL 2010, and could become a liability to his new side if his struggles with the bat continue. His team is short of quality overseas players, with David Hussey being the most bankable batting pick. Piyush Chawla, whose repeated selection for World Cup games became a national debate, will look forward to playing under lesser pressure, while Praveen Kumar returns after missing the World Cup with an elbow injury. Ryan Harris is also on the recovery trail, and could be the main striking weapon in a seemingly underweight bowling attack.
Chennai Super Kings
Chennai will be relieved with MS Dhoni's (241 runs in eight innings) return to form in the World Cup final, and will look up to continue their consistency under his watch. Suresh Raina comes into the IPL at his confident best having played two crucial innings in the World Cup, and will resume duty as Dhoni's point man. Ben Hilfenhaus is out with injury, while Dwayne Bravo and Doug Bollinger are on the recovery trail. R Ashwin, on the other hand, having been relegated to the bench in all but two World Cup matches, will be eager to have a go. Chennai have made two interesting picks from New Zealand for this season: Scott Styris (142 runs and four wickets in seven matches) and Tim Southee (18 wickets in eight matches) had contrasting World Cups, but could both fit into the line-up. Styris will have to stave off competition from Chennai's preferred allrounder Albie Morkel, while Southee could share the pace workload with Bollinger and the domestic seamers.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Daniel Vettori leads the new-look Bangalore side, and his biggest challenge will be to maintain his fitness after his World Cup was curtailed by a knee injury. AB de Villiers and Tillakaratne Dilshan were not at their best in the IPL last year, but have stupendous World Cups behind them. de Villiers plundered 353 runs in five games, while Dilshan finished top run-getter with 500 runs at 62.50. The key player in the line-up, though, could be Virat Kohli, who gave India stability in the World Cup (282 runs in nine games), and will look to hold Bangalore's middle order together. Expect more magic from Zaheer Khan, who got the ball to do things unseen previously in snaring 21 World Cup wickets. Dirk Nannes and Charl Langeveldt should complement Zaheer's skills well, while Abhimanyu Mithun and Nuwan Pradeep will hope to get opportunities too as the tournament progresses.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo