Champions: Mumbai Indians

It is easy to be tricked into believing that the form and trends from one tournament will naturally extend into the next, but reigning champions Mumbai Indians will be very hard to stop in 2021.

Rohit Sharma’s side have proven themselves to be the best T20 team on the planet over several years, winning the competition in four of the last six campaigns.

They have every base covered, with Sharma and Quinton de Kock regularly getting them off to quick starts and probably the world’s best T20 bowler, Jasprit Bumrah, well rested coming into this competition.

It is Mumbai’s production of the best homegrown talent that sets them apart, though. Even apart from Sharma and Bumrah, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya form a formidable – and likely unstoppable – core.

To finish in the top four: Punjab Kings

Punjab lost a lot of very close matches in the first half of the 2020 IPL, and the rub of the green did not change in time for their decent second-half showing to sneak them into the top four.

But there was lots to like about KL Rahul’s team, which has been renamed from Kings XI Punjab ahead of this tournament.

Chris Gayle reminded any doubters that he is far from finished as a top-level batsmen, hitting the sixth-most sixes in the competition despite playing just seven times. KL Rahul, meanwhile, was the competition’s top run-scorer.

Punjab were badly let down by their death bowling last time out, failing to defend big scores from all manner of extraordinary situations. It makes sense that they have replaced the ineffective Glenn Maxwell with Jhye Richardson, who was the top wicket-taker in the recent Big Bash.

To finish bottom: Chennai Super Kings

With four of their frontline batsmen aged 35 or older, CSK looked too old and lacking in dynamism in 2020.

And though Shane Watson has since retired, the commitment to MS Dhoni – who scored 200 runs at a strike-rate of 116 – as skipper and the signings of Robin Uthappa and Che Pujara hardly seem like the beginning of a rebuild.

Three of CSK’s six victories last season came in three consecutive dead-rubbers at the end of the competition, but did ensure that they finished one above bottom on net run rate.

Nothing about their pre-tournament business suggests that they can improve on that finish, and the value is with backing them to go even worse.

Top run-scorer: KL Rahul

Six of the last seven winners of the Orange Cap have been opening batsmen, so it is no surprise that the eight favourites to be top run-scorer this year probably fit the bill.

The only doubt is Virat Kohli, who may move down to No. 3 for Royal Challengers Bangalore in order to squeeze in Finn Allen.

Kohli’s India team-mate KL Rahul makes a pretty compelling case. Rahul stormed to this award in 2020 and ended the recent ODI series against England in excellent form.

At a longer price, Rajasthan Royals’ Ben Stokes may be worth a look. Stokes opens the innings for the Royals and averaged 40.7 last year despite a slow start to the tournament.

He may not be nailed in Sunrisers Hyderabad’s side, but 2018 winner Kane Williamson may also be worth a small punt. He averaged 45.3 across 12 innings last year and is a superb accumulator of runs.

Top wicket-taker: Jasprit Bumrah

Just one of the last 10 winners of this award has been a spinner, so we can dispense of two of the five favourites – Rashid Khan and Yuzvendra Chahal – from our thinking.

In a market decided by a handful of wickets here and there, availability and playing for a team that reaches the latter stages is important. No bowler has won this award without playing at least 14 matches since 2008.

Ten of the last 12 winners also finished in the top 20 of the rankings the year before, with 2020 leader Kagiso Rabada finishing second in 2019.

We are also looking for somebody who bowls in the powerplay and at the death, when wicket-taking opportunities are maximised.

That leaves us with two very obvious candidates – Rabada and Jasprit Bumrah. With Rabada’s availability for the opening match or two not clear, we will side with Bumrah, who finished second in 2020.

The most expensive recruit in the 2021 auction, Chris Morris , also fits the bill.

CSK’s Sam Curran does not seem a likely winner despite ticking all the boxes, but Sunrisers’ Thangarasu Natarajan might be worth a pop at .

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