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IPL 2020: The ‘MVP’ candidates

Rishabh Pant

With a new decade of IPL action looming, we can now start to explore the player pool of 2020, identifying potential MVPs and top-scorers. Who will justify their value over the coming months?

IPL’s most valuable

By dint of his all-rounder status, Glenn Maxwell enters 2020 as the IPL’s most valuable batsman. The Australian star joined Kings XI Punjab for Rs 10.75 crore, and represents something of a gamble, having developed a reputation for having less batting consistency than many cheaper homegrown talents.

Nonetheless, he can often clear boundaries under immense pressure in a way that few IPL imports can, and has the natural ability to single-handedly push the Kings XI into the playoffs for what would be just the third time in a dozen IPL seasons.

In the bowling department, meanwhile, Pat Cummins is now the MVP in terms of the investment made by Kolkata Knight Riders, with his auction price (Rs 15.5 crore) beating that of Ben Stokes’ 2017 value by Rs 1 crore – still a significant margin, even after inflation. As of January 2020, he sits at the summit of bowler rankings in Test cricket.

Player pool – frontrunners analysed

When it comes to predicting outcomes in both matchday and outright contexts for the IPL – with the IPL most valuable player 2020 stakes falling inside the latter category – a diverse array of factors are used. As such, though they are only marginally favoured by cricket experts over the remainder of the league at present, the early signs are that HyderabadChennai and champions Mumbai will be the frontrunners for glory.

Hyderabad aiming to be less reliant on ‘Bairstow-Warner axis’

Of the aforementioned trio, it is arguably Sunrisers Hyderabad who capture the imagination with particular zeal. For the purists, the left and right-handed batting partnership of colonial cousins David Warner and Jonny Bairstow broke every convention of opening order protocol.

The rest is history, and Warner screamed like a rocket to the summit of the top scorers table, outstripping the second-placed K. L. Rahul of Kings XI Punjab by 99 whole runs. Bairstow’s famous power-hitting also gave Hyderabad an unprecedented fear factor, but if both men were to suffer early dismissals, the game plan would unravel.

In the context of addressing that issue of squad depth short-term, the arrival of marquee signing Fabian Allen is a sign of real ambition. Allen’s reputation as a spinner with the ability to adapt his style – and douse even the most established opposing top-order partnerships before they get ‘hot’ – appears to have rubbished any claims that Hyderabad did not do themselves justice at the most recent IPL auction.

Mumbai tough to topple despite quiet auction

As for the reigning champions Mumbai Indians, the close-season saw a relatively conservative approach to the transfer auction. Nonetheless, reinforcement in the top order was still needed in order to keep pace with Chennai and Hyderabad in the coming season. Chris Lynn’s arrival was a seamless process, and his abilities on the flat-track are without equal under the right conditions, even if he is occasionally vulnerable to the spin.

With Lynn’s inclusion alongside the often-unstoppable partnership Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma, the Indians’ standing as favourites to retain the title is self-evident. De Kock was particularly merciless, standing amongst the top catches list in 2018 and making the top three of last season’s batting leaderboard:

Chennai ‘dynasty’ emerging with Chawla arrival

Chennai Super Kings’ pool of players is a well-settled one that errs more on the side of experience, in the view of those who value a perfectly-even balance of old and young. MS Dhoni remains easily the most influential Indian cricketer since Sachin Tendulkar, and despite expectations of a decline given his advancing age, there is not one Kings fan who would prefer to enter the new season without him.

One approach which has caught the eye is the prospect of a ‘dynasty’ within the Chennai ranks, established by the signing of Piyush Chawla in December. Having already taken 150 IPL wickets, 30-year old Chawla is ten years the junior of 2019’s top wicket-taker Imran Tahir, and while Chawla himself is an established professional, Tahir is the man who – alongside Dhoni – can help to inspire him to reach the very top.

One to watch

In the aftermath of a disappointing semi-final last year, Hyderabad have sought to address the issue of depth with a long-term (as well as a short-term) strategy in mind. The Sunrisers’ first sign of moving towards this goal is their signing of India U19 captain Priyam Garg.

Remarkably, the 19-year old only made his List A debut (for Uttar Pradesh) during last season’s Vijay Hazare Trophy, and has never looked back. Also standing amongst the highlights of Garg’s early years are a double century vs Triupura, a T20 debut for Utter Pradesh and the guarantee that he will be India’s U19 captain for the World Cup.

As a batsman who usually aims for the off-side, his inner-motto appears to be ‘go big or go home’ – like Bairstow and Warner, he is in the game to score boundaries, and play his part in seeing Hyderabad improve on their finish to 2019.

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