Football Football
Horse Racing Horse Racing
Cricket Cricket
Basketball Basketball
Golf Golf

Graeme Smith: MI and RR have right balance to go all the way

22 Mar | BY Graeme Smith | MIN READ TIME |
Graeme Smith: MI and RR have right balance to go all the way

The Betway ambassador previews the 2024 IPL and reveals the teams and players he expects to have a successful season.

Visit Betway’s IPL betting page.

I’m really looking forward to this year’s edition of the IPL. It’s a competition that has set the benchmark for a number of years.

As Commissioner of the Betway SA20, we know that, commercially, it’s impossible to compete with the IPL, but we’re very fortunate to have six of their most experienced franchises as partners and those partnerships are key to learning how to build a successful event.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this year’s changes play out, with the impact player rule allowing teams to call upon one of five named substitutes at any point during a match and the two-bouncer rule giving bowlers more unpredictability.

I’ll never forget the experience of 2008

India winning the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in 2007 really created the platform for IPL, but I don’t think any of us could have scripted the experience that we had during that first season in 2008.

At a point where we weren’t sure what the future looked like, T20 cricket suddenly became a very important format. It was the first time that players had really crossed barriers.

Guys you often played against from other parts of the world were suddenly in your team and being behind the scenes with a lot of Indian players meant that, culturally, you got a whole different experience as well.

The Rajasthan Royals team that I was a part of were the first side to lift the trophy so, cricket-wise, we were successful, but the fanfare was just mental. I’ll never forget the bus trip to the final where you could hardly move during the entire route because of the amount of people that were enthralled by the competition.

Indians and Royals look the teams to beat

As ever, it should be very competitive, but I like the balance of the Mumbai Indians’ and Royals’ squads. They have really strong Indian roots and international players that can make a big impact, so they should have big expectations of pushing as deep as they possibly can.

From an MI perspective, it’s going to be interesting to see how the transition of leadership is managed with Hardik Pandya replacing Rohit Sharma as captain. They struggled with their seam bowling last year but getting Jasprit Bumrah back is huge and he’s my pick to be top wicket taker.

Rajasthan had a good squad last year. Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal are just an insane pair at the top of the order and are both good bets for the orange cap in the top run scorer market.

You’ve then got Trent Boult with the new ball, and a great spin department with Ravi Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal – who I think could run Bumrah close for the purple cap – so they’ve got options right throughout and I think they’re well-catered for all conditions.

IPL offers the perfect breeding ground

These franchise tournaments are always exciting to watch and never fail to produce great storylines.

I was surprised to see MS Dhoni step down as Chennai Super Kings captain but, as much as he’s an incredible leader, he’s always had the ability to put the team first.

He might have suffered a niggle in pre-season training or just realised that it’s time, but you wonder whether his body feels like it can last an entire season. It will be interesting to see the type of role that he plays now, how they phase him in and out and what sort of cricketing element he can play, but his influence over the team in the coming weeks is still going to be enormous.

However, you can be sure that, as one generation steps away, another will quickly emerge.

There’s so much talent in India with rookies and youngsters that really put their hand up after being exposed to the crowds and the pressures of facing international talent. There’s always someone that comes to the fore. Jaiswal, for example, really stepped up last year and is now averaging over 68 in Test cricket.

Such depth of talent and competitive cricket is why the Indian team has gone from strength to strength. It’s a model to be applauded and I can’t wait to see the next stars emerge.

Graeme Smith

Graeme Smith

Betway's global cricket ambassador who captained South Africa in 108 of his 116 Tests, scoring over 9,000 runs and 27 hundreds.

Graeme Smith

Graeme Smith

Betway's global cricket ambassador who captained South Africa in 108 of his 116 Tests, scoring over 9,000 runs and 27 hundreds.