I played in five editions of the Indian Premier League for two different teams. A few months after the IPL last year, I decided to stop playing. It doesn’t feel odd because my decision was well thought out, and I have no regrets. I finally do feel like I’ve retired from the cricket ground.
I am quite excited about this year’s IPL, and looking forward to some more innovations in the Twenty20 format. I will certainly follow Kolkata Knight Riders, my home team, closely. The other teams that I will be following through the season are Chennai Super Kings, one of the most consistent sides in the tournament, Mumbai Indians – who have a well-balanced side, and Pune Warriors, who I represented for two editions of the IPL.
This IPL season is an important one for senior players like Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan. All three had been dropped from Indian squads in recent times, and I’m sure a stunning performance at the IPL will get them back in the selectors’ thoughts. Good performance irrespective of format gets noticed. Gambhir got a hundred against Australia in the warm-up match ahead of the Test series, and the selectors called for him when Shikhar Dhawan was out injured. For him, it won’t matter that this is a Twenty20 tournament.
Many promising, domestic players have been signed by different teams this year, like Sandeep Warrier for Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sachin Baby for Rajasthan Royals, Sandeep Sharma for Kings XI Punjab and Parveez Rasool for Pune Warriors. I’ll have my eyes on Rasool for sure. His performance against the Australians in the warm-up game, where he took seven wickets for 45 runs, was impressive and he also batted well. The other young Indian players that I expect big things from are Unmukt Chand and Shikhar Dhawan, who will be back in two weeks.
As for Indian bowlers, Sreesanth is one to watch. He has been through a rigorous fitness regime and I would like to see how he has improved, because a bowler like him will be valuable in the Indian bowling line-up over the next 15 months. Harbhajan Singh at Mumbai Indians and RP Singh, bought by RCB in the 2013 auction, are the other bowlers who I feel will impress this season.
The newly formed Sunrisers Hyderabad will be a surprise package. Most of the players have been retained from Deccan Chargers and with a new management, they should be raring to go. Deccan Chargers hadn’t looked their best since winning the title in 2009, but Sunrisers Hyderabad could be a different story.
As we all know, Twenty20 is a format where it’s very difficult to predict a winner. Momentum can swing either way in a matter of balls, so I will refrain from making any predictions. But I do believe that Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore are most likely to make the final four.
Ever since I retired, I’ve been asked if I miss being in the dressing room. I can honestly say that I don’t. As for whether I’d take up a coaching or consultancy role, I haven’t given it any thought. I will take things as they come.
For more insight on the IPL, read the Wisden India Extra.