Which IPL team to support? A team-by-team guide to help you decide

Sunrisers Hyderabad’s consistency, Chennai Super Kings’ experience, RCB’s charisma to the Carribean charmers of KKR and KXIP, IPL offers something for everyone.
By Rahul Venkat

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is almost upon us. Come Saturday, the world’s biggest T20 cricket spectacle will begin its 13th season in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The IPL started in 2008 on the back of the successful inaugural men’s T20 World Cup in 2007 where India beat Pakistan in a thrilling final.

For the first time, two teams played 20 overs of cricket each in a major international tournament, leading to a quick and entertaining game that produced a result.

The IPL has elevated the platform of Twenty20 cricket since, so much so that there are several cricketers who have re-modelled themselves as T20 specialists.

It has also led to several countries forming their own domestic T20 leagues – the Big Bash in Australia, the Caribbean Premier League in the West Indies and the T20 Blast in England - are some of the most popular ones.

With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting our movement, the charm of watching IPL at home will certainly impress many sporting fans who love Olympic sports.

The Olympic Channel has prepared a special guide with the aid of some amazing Olympians to help you pick your favourite team in IPL 2020. Here we go!

Mumbai Indians: Michael Phelps

If you fancy a serial champion like Michael Phelps, go for Mumbai Indians!

Mumbai Indians have won a record four IPL titles.

Making a connection between the most decorated Olympian of all-time and the most successful IPL team, MI is an obvious choice.

However, Michael Phelps, with his 23 Olympic golds and Mumbai Indians, with its four IPL titles, are bound by more than just their incredible successes.

Phelps is known for his never-give-up attitude, with some of his wins coming after he trailed in the early stages of a race, with a great ability to find an extra gear when needed.

MI have a similar trait – they may look down and out in the early parts of the season - but have managed to find a way through almost every time, and then using the momentum to win the IPL title.

This season, the Mumbai Indians, led by skipper Rohit Sharma and fuelled by stars like Jasprit Bumrah, Kieron Pollard and Quinton de Kock will be gunning for a fifth IPL title this time around in the UAE.

Chennai Super Kings: Eliud Kipchoge

Chennai Super Kings are the only team to win consecutive IPL trophies, in 2010 and 2011, before winning again in 2018.

If you are a fan of the exploits of Eliud Kipchoge in the slow-burn, long-winding run of a marathon, chances are you will take to the Chennai Super Kings.

Kipchoge, a 5,000m bronze-medallist at Athens 2004 and silver-medallist at Beijing 2008, finally won the much coveted Olympic gold in the marathon at Rio 2016. It was a long road to success which involved much hard work and heartbreak.

CSK have a similar story - they fell to Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural IPL final in 2008 and then made it to the knockouts in 2009 - before finally getting their hands on the trophy in 2010.

Kipchoge went on to become the first man to break the two hour-mark in marathons, (albeit unofficial) while CSK became the first team to retain their trophy in 2011, a record which still stands to this day.

CSK also like to play the long game – taking it slow at the beginning, conserving their wickets and then put on the afterburners at the end – exactly like a marathon.

It is a philosophy perfected by Chennai Super Kings’ enigmatic, and recently-retired from international cricket, captain MS Dhoni and it has helped them make the knockouts in every IPL season.

T20 is touted as a youngsters’ format but CSK have busted that myth with its reliance on stalwarts like Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo and Ambati Rayudu.

Kolkata Knight Riders: Sushil Kumar

A massive, muscle-heavy body is a prerequisite for wrestlers and India’s only two-time Olympic medallist, Sushil Kumar certainly boasts an imposing frame. But that alone did not win him medals. He is also quick on his feet and displays great agility.

These parallels can be drawn for Kolkata Knight Riders as well.

KKR rely on the powerful Andre Russell and explosive Sunil Narine to be the muscles and do the heavy lifting (read bulk of run-scoring) in an innings.

However, they are ably complemented by the technically gifted Shubman Gill, touted to be the next big star of Indian cricket, and the nimble-footed skipper Dinesh Karthik, to bring agility to the team.

IPL champions in 2012 and 2014, the Kolkata Knight Riders have been inconsistent for the past few seasons but will hope the power and technique combo carries them to a third title this year.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: PV Sindhu

2016 IPL champions Sunrisers Hyderabad have been one of the most consistent teams.

If Saina Nehwal began the evolution of Indian badminton with her London 2012 bronze, Rio 2016 silver medallist PV Sindhu is certainly the one who propelled it forward, even going on to become world champion.

And it is no surprise why Sindhu is an ardent fan of her city’s IPL team – Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Born from the once champion, now-defunct Deccan Chargers, the Sunrisers Hyderabad entered the IPL in 2013 and took time to adapt as they slowly went about building their team for the future.

The efforts took fruit in the 2016 season as SRH, led by the maverick David Warner, took home the IPL title. Since then, they have been one of the best teams in the IPL.

Banking on the experience of seasoned pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, a brilliant leg-spinner in Rashid Khan, 2019 World Cup winner Jonny Bairstow and player of the 2019 World Cup Kane Williamson, the Sunrisers Hyderabad will aim to deliver the title once again in IPL 2020.

Rajasthan Royals: Indian hockey team

The Indian hockey team, a dominant force in the early years of the Olympics, have been the underdogs for quite a while now. But the hopes have been reignited for fans next year.

The situation perfectly encapsulates the fortunes of Rajasthan Royals.

Champions in the inaugural season in 2008, the Rajasthan Royals were praised for extracting results from an inexperienced team but could not quite replicate that in the years to come.

However, the 2020 IPL season brings with it new hope for the Royals, led by skipper Steve Smith.

Widely recognised as one of the best batsmen in the world, Smith will finally enjoy a full season leading RR and has 2019 World Cup winners Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes among his ranks.

The arrival of young star Yashasvi Jaiswal and the presence of domestic hero Shreyas Gopal ensures that they have a capable team that could bring the IPL 2020 trophy back home to its original mantlepiece in Rajasthan.

Delhi Capitals: Dutee Chand

Shreyas Iyer is the leader of a youthful and simultaneously experienced Delhi Capitals side for IPL 2020.

With her record-breaking sprints and youthful energy, Dutee Chand represents a new hope for Indian athletics, a view endorsed by Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah.

Though only 24 years old, Chand already has the Olympic experience, having run at Rio 2016, and other world events. The combination of youthful experience is what Delhi Capitals are banking on to succeed in IPL 2020.

DC have an eclectic pool of youngsters in Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw, Kagiso Rabada and are led by a young captain in Shreyas Iyer.

To counter the youthful exuberance and lend some balance to the team are IPL veterans Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ishant Sharma.

DC made the conscious shift in approach in the IPL last year and it immediately catapulted them to the knockouts, having not managed it for many years.

They will no doubt replicate that this season and will hope to go a few steps further to finally give the capital team its first-ever IPL title.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: MC Mary Kom

If you like the adrenaline rush of boxing, with the fast movements and aggressive punches of the legendary MC Mary Kom, Royal Challengers Bangalore is a perfect fit.

Watching Mary Kom is an instant adrenaline rush due to her combination of high-energy and the range of punches she displays.

The experience with RCB play is similar because of its aggressive nature, epitomised by captain Virat Kohli.

Known for his fist-pumping celebrations, Kohli is a vocal leader on the pitch, who backs his troops to the hilt. 

Of course, it also helps that he is arguably the best all-format batsman in the world. Although not a very powerful hitter, Kohli’s ability to find the gaps and run quick between the wickets is almost unparalleled.

With the big-hitting AB de Villiers and wily Yuzvendra Chahal by his side, Kohli will hope that IPL 2020 finally brings home the long-anticipated title after years of heartbreak.

Kings XI Punjab: Usain Bolt

Everyone around the world knows Usain Bolt. Even if you are not a fan of his domination of the Olympic stage, chances are you will love his free-flowing style and fun, relaxed nature. In short, he covers the entire spectrum of sport.

The Kings XI Punjab fit that bill perfectly and it is no coincidence because they have just the right ingredients to give out that vibe. 

One of Bolt’s best buddies and fellow Jamaican Chris Gayle brings the power and fun to the side while new skipper KL Rahul and star batsman Mayank Agarwal ooze class with their attractive stroke-making.

Having added former captain Glenn Maxwell and made some astute signings like Chris Jordan, Jimmy Neesham and Sheldon Cottrell, the Kings XI Punjab are one of the most well-balanced sides in IPL 2020.

They have reached the final once before, in 2014 -- falling to Kolkata Knight Riders -- and will aim to go one better to lift the IPL trophy this time around.