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What makes an IPL champion?

11 Sep | BY Guy Giles | MIN READ TIME |
What makes an IPL champion?

We examine trends from the 12 previous IPL tournaments to pick out one franchise that has the ingredients to become 2020 champions.

The IPL is one of the most unpredictable competitions in sport.

Each year, any one of the eight participating franchises could win the entire thing. Across the 12 previous editions of the tournament, just one team has managed to defend their title.

The concentration of both world-class and up-and-coming talent in every squad means that picking a winner in the IPL betting can seem an almost impossible task.

However, by studying trends from previous years, we can begin to understand what exactly makes an IPL champion and apply those conclusion to this year’s competition.


The IPL is by far and away the richest annual tournament in cricket, with the best players in each team earning more than $1m – and, in some cases, more than double that – each year.

In many ways the competition has become synonymous with big spending, with the annual auction almost attracting as much fanfare as the tournament itself.

It follows, then, that finances play a big part in determining success and failure in the IPL.

One thing that sticks out immediately is that having the most expensive squad does not lead to IPL success. In fact, the team with the most expensive squad has never won the tournament.

That’s not to say that teams should tighten the purse strings instead, since the Rajasthan Royals, in the inaugural tournament in 2008, and the only side to lift the trophy with the least valuable squad.

Looking at this year’s tournament, that means that we can immediately rule out the defending champions, Mumbai Indians, who have assembled the most expensive squad in 2020.

Overall, their final squad for this year’s tournament cost a total of $11,262,600. No other team has ever spent more than $11m on their playing staff.

It also means we can put a line through the Delhi Capitals, who remain the only current IPL team to have never reached a final.

The Capitals’ playing squad this year cost just $9,199,000, putting them at the bottom of the spending list.


With the most expensive players in the competition taking up a healthy chunk of each team’s budget, deciding who to splash the cash on is crucial.

Paying the right players the big bucks can make or break a franchise’s season, and there is one clear theme that emerges when looking at past winners: the most expensive player for 11 of the 12 previous champions was from India.

The only side to win the competition with an overseas player on their biggest contract were Deccan Chargers in 2009, who paid Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds $1.35m – $475k more than their best-paid Indian star, bowler RP Singh.

Applying that to the 2020 tournament rules three more teams out of contention.

Firstly, you have the Kolkata Knight Riders, who made Aussie pacer Pat Cummins the most expensive overseas player in IPL history at December’s auction, paying $2.2m to sign him.

KKR are even paying West Indies international, Sunil Narine, more than their highest-paid Indian player, captain Dinesh Karthik.

We can also wave goodbye to the Rajasthan Royals, whose two most expensive players are England star Ben Stokes ($1.8m) and former Australia captain Steve Smith ($1.7m). Their best-paid Indian player is Sanju Samson, who cost $1.1m.

Finally, this would also exclude Sunrisers Hyderabad. Skipper David Warner – opening batsman for Australia – is worth $1.7m, which is $200k more than Indian star Manish Pandey.


The IPL isn’t about spending big. It is often the sides who manage to compile well-balanced squads with international quality that triumph.

In fact, 11 of the previous 12 champions have had at least 15 players who were capped at international level.

The only team to win without that number were the Rajasthan Royals in 2008, whose squad included just 13 capped players.

This parameter would rule out Kings XI Punjab, who also have just 13 internationals in their 2020 squad. It would also seem to work against the Royals (13), and the Knight Riders (9), both of whom have already fallen short in the most expensive player category.


Finding the balance between experience and naivety in an IPL squad is crucial. Essentially, you don’t want your squad to be too old or too young.

No team has won the IPL with an average age of more than 30, while just one team has triumphed with an average age of less than 25 – again, the Rajasthan Royals in 2008.

Applying this to each squad for the 2020 tournament, this would rule out three-time winners Chennai Super Kings.

Led by 39-year-old India legend MS Dhoni, Chennai have the oldest squad in the competition, with an average age of 30 years and 11 months.

This is also another reason to rule out the Delhi Capitals, who are at the opposite end of the spectrum with an average age of just under 25.


Taking all of that into account, which franchise is our winner?

Interestingly, the only team to meet all of the criteria are Royal Challengers Bangalore.

RCB have the fourth-most expensive squad, with captain Virat Kohli their best-paid player at $2.4m. Their roster contains a massive 18 internationals, and has an average age of 29 years and two months.

Despite the ever-presence of India great Kohli, who has played for the team in all 12 seasons of the tournament, RCB are known as IPL underachievers.

They have reached three finals – 2009, 2011 and 2016 – losing all of them, with big-name players continually failing to inspire.

They finished bottom of the table in 2019, but have made some smart acquisitions for this year’s competition, including Australia white-ball captain Aaron Finch, leg-spinner Adam Zampa, rising star Josh Philippe, South African duo Chris Morris and Dale Steyn, and Sri Lanka all-rounder Isuru Udana.

Add Kohli, AB de Villiers, Moeen Ali, Yuzvendra Chahal, Umesh Yadav and Parthiv Patel to the mix, and RCB have a squad full of serious quality.

If the recipe for IPL success is anything to go by, this could be their year.

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Guy Giles

Guy Giles

Sports writer who produces regular football and cricket tips, while also covering a range of other sports.

Guy Giles

Guy Giles

Sports writer who produces regular football and cricket tips, while also covering a range of other sports.