Hyderabad buoyed by batting investments
Probable first XI
1 Shikhar Dhawan (capt), 2 Aaron Finch, 3 David Warner, 4 Naman Ojha (wk), 5 Darren Sammy, 6 Irfan Pathan, 7 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 8 Amit Mishra, 9 Karn Sharma, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Ishant Sharma.
A formidable bowling attack masked inadequacies in batting to guide Hyderabad as far as the eliminator match on tournament debut.
Not since Rajasthan did an underdog gain as much following as Hyderabad. The fans liked the world's most fearsome fast bowler playing treasure hunt with match tickets. They ate up one of the most brutal hitters of the ball playing with a pacifier. The locals would have especially enjoyed reversing a woeful home record. Their previous avatar lost 17 out of 20 matches in Hyderabad. This outfit lost only one. Hyderabad would have only four opportunities to build on that though, considering the bulk of their matches are scheduled in the UAE and at away venues in India.
Expectations would still be high courtesy a good auction. David Warner and Aaron Finch form a frightening threat at the top and should they fire, Hyderabad's average of 144 while batting first will undergo significant redecoration. The Australia duo's recent T20 form and a dodgy reputation against spin means an asterisk is probably needed against that prediction.
They have depth in bowling, but will need to find a useful partner among the gaggle of medium-pacers for Dale Steyn in the final overs. Ishant Sharma was an able new-ball partner in 2013 and would hope for a good season, especially after being ignored for the World T20 which led him to contemplate ODI retirement.
Amit Mishra managed to replicate his IPL form - he is the second-highest wicket-taker - for India in recent times and will lead the Hyderabad spin attack. The economical Karn Sharma will be his deputy and their partnership could find help from UAE pitches that have handled a considerable amount of cricket over the last six months.
Dale Steyn is cricket's answer to the Hulk. His terrifying efficiency made him the lynchpin of Hyderabad's success and it was no surprise that he was among the those the franchise retained. They will be hoping he can continue the form he showed in Bangladesh during the World T20.
A resurgent Shikhar Dhawan twirled his moustache into Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year. Injury sidelined him from the majority of last season but this year he would complete one of the best top orders in the tournament, if those cover drives are not hampered by the burden of captaincy.
The only offspinner in the side Parvez Rasool (INR 95 lakh) is also a handy lower-order batsman. He leads his state side Jammu & Kashmir and comes into the competition on the back of 139 runs and five wickets in five matches, with an economy under six in India's domestic T20 tournament.
All fit, and with no international commitments.
"I don't set personal goals for myself. Because in doing so you end up putting pressure on yourself."
The chilled-out approach Ishant Sharma will take during this season
11/2 - joint third-favourites with Mumbai Indians
Odds provided by bet365
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo