Perfect Picks and Silly Selections - How The 2020 IPL Franchises Could Get It Right, Or Get It Very, Very Wrong

Nakul Pande

Having exhaustingly live tweeted the IPL auction, Nakul now gives you his opinions of the outcome of those buys

Mumbai Indians – winners of the 2019 edition of the IPL

The horse-trading, gavel-wielding and paddle-waggling is done. The fast and furious IPL auction, which Guerilla Cricket live-tweeted from start to finish, is done, and the eight franchises have their squads in place.

But who they got is only part of the story – the question now is what they do with them. As we've seen throughout the history of cricket, selectors and captains don't always get it right, and in a tournament with such a curious mix of hard-edged analytics, overly intrusive marketing and emotions worn on sleeves as the IPL, there are plenty of ways for franchises to get it wrong.

So let's have a look not just at the best XI each franchise could put on the park come March 2020, but the worst – the most lopsided, imbalanced but still plausible collection of star players pretending to be a team. Let's get to it!

Chennai Super Kings

Losing finalists last year; 2nd in league stage.

Squad: MS Dhoni (c) (wk), Faf du Plessis (overseas), Murali Vijay, Shane Watson (overseas), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Kedar Jadhav, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, N Jagadeesan (wk), DJ Bravo (overseas), Sam Curran (overseas), Ravindra Jadeja, Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh, Imran Tahir (overseas), R Sai Kishore, Mitchell Santner (overseas), KM Asif, Deepak Chahar, Josh Hazlewood (overseas), Monu Kumar, Lungi Ngidi (overseas), Shardul Thakur

Best XI: Shane Watson (overseas), Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (c) (wk), Sam Curran (overseas), Ravindra Jadeja, Piyush Chawla, Deepak Chahar, Lungi Ngidi (overseas), Imran Tahir (overseas)

Silliest XI: Faf du Plessis (overseas), Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (c) (wk), Sam Curran (overseas), Mitchell Santner (overseas), Shardul Thakur, Harbhajan Singh, Josh Hazlewood (overseas), KM Asif

Why so silly? It's a measure of how well-constructed CSK's team is that it's quite hard to make a truly silly plausible XI. But where they do lack cover is death bowling and power in the batting: Shane Watson at his best provides the latter in spades, but you never know when it's one season to many for a veteran, and the management could lose patience with him if he starts the season poorly.

A safety-first opening pair pushes Rayudu into a very workmanlike middle order, which forces CSK to look for more power from their overseas all-rounders. That means sacrificing their best death bowler Bravo, and picking a bowling attack that looks for early wickets – if you can't win the game with the bat, win it with the ball – and leaving themselves vulnerable at the death.

Delhi Capitals

Knocked out in 2nd qualifier; 3rd in league stage.

Squad: Shreyas Iyer (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Jason Roy (overseas), Prithvi Shaw, Shimron Hetmyer (overseas), Alex Carey (wk) (overseas), Rishabh Pant (wk), Axar Patel, Harshal Patel, Keemo Paul (overseas), Lalit Yadav, Marcus Stoinis (overseas), Chris Woakes (overseas), R Ashwin, Sandeep Lamichhane (overseas), Amit Mishra, Avesh Khan, Tushar Deshpande, Ishant Sharma, Mohit Sharma, Kagiso Rabada (overseas)

Best XI: Prithvi Shaw, Jason Roy (overseas), Shreyas Iyer (c), Shimron Hetmyer (overseas), Rishabh Pant (wk), Axar Patel, Chris Woakes (overseas), R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Kagiso Rabada (overseas), Ishant Sharma

Silliest XI: Prithvi Shaw, Alex Carey (overseas), Shreyas Iyer (c), Jason Roy (overseas), Shimron Hetmyer (overseas), Rishabh Pant (wk), Axar Patel, R Ashwin, Mohit Sharma, Tushar Deshpande, Kagiso Rabada (overseas)

Why so silly? Delhi Capitals will be fun next year – they have an outrageous collection of exciting top order batters, and it will be so tempting to try and fit them all in and score 250.

But not only will that mean Delhi going full Gujarat Lions and playing openers out of position, they might need every single run of it with the attack they'll be left with – with Carey, Roy and Hetmyer all in the top 5, that only leaves only one overseas slot left, and very little room for all-rounders.

Rabada will play every game he's fit for – quite apart from his talent, he is a superstar in Delhi for obvious reasons. There's going to be a temptation to play new signings Mohit Sharma and Tushar Deshpande, and that could leave Delhi really short on death bowling.

Kings XI Punjab

6th in league stage; missed out on playoffs on net run rate.

Squad: KL Rahul (c) (wk), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle (overseas), Karun Nair, Mandeep Singh, Glenn Maxwell (overseas), Sarfaraz Khan, Nicholas Pooran (wk) (overseas), Prabhsimran Singh (wk), Harpreet Brar, Tajinder Dhillon, Deepak Hooda, Krishnappa Gowtham, Darshan Nalkande, Jimmy Neesham (overseas), Arshdeep Singh, M Aswhin, Ravi Bishnoi, Sheldon Cotterell (overseas), Chris Jordan (overseas), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (overseas), Ishan Porel, J Suchith, Hardus Viljoen (overseas), Mohammed Shami

Best XI: Chris Gayle (overseas), KL Rahul (c) (wk), Mayank Agarwal, Glenn Maxwell (overseas), Mandeep Singh, Deepak Hooda, Krishnappa Gowtham, Chris Jordan (overseas), Sheldon Cotterell (overseas), M Ashwin, Mohammed Shami

Silliest XI: Chris Gayle (overseas), KL Rahul (c), Nicholas Pooran (wk) (overseas), Glenn Maxwell (overseas), Sarfaraz Khan, Deepak Hooda, J Suchith, Ravi Bishnoi, Ishan Porel, Mohammed Shami, Mujeeb Ur Rahman (overseas)

Why so silly? It says a lot about Kings XI's top-heavy nature that their best XI and silliest XI has 3 of the same players in the top 4. If anything with the acquisition of Maxwell the franchise is even more over-stocked at the top level, and trying to slot him, Pooran and Gayle into the same XI leaves only one overseas slot left.

That means neither of the death bowlers Cotterell and Jordan can play, nor the talented all-rounder Neesham. Again, young Indian acquisitions will always tempt franchises, so Bishnoi and Porel make a very inexperienced attack that doesn't have a natural death bowler. It's a sort of Delhi Capitals- lite, top-loading both batting and bowling innings and hoping Plan A works.

Kolkata Knight Riders

5th in league stage; missed out on playoffs on net run rate.

Squad: Dinesh Karthik (c) (wk), Tom Banton (overseas), Shubman Gill, Siddhesh Lad, Eoin Morgan (overseas), Rinku Singh, Rahul Tripathi, Nikhil Naik (wk), Chris Green (overseas), Sunil Narine (overseas), Nitish Rana, Andre Russell (overseas), Varun Chakravarthy, Kuldeep Yadav, M Sidharth, Pravin Tambe, Pat Cummins (overseas), Lockie Ferguson (overseas), Harry Gurney (overseas), Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, M Prasidh Krishna, Sandeep Warrier

Best XI: Tom Banton (overseas), Sunil Narine (overseas), Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik (c) (wk), Andre Russell (overseas), Varun Chakravarthy, Pat Cummins (overseas), Shivam Mavi, Kuldeep Yadav, M Prasidh Krishna

Silliest XI: Nikhil Naik, Sunil Narine (overseas), Rinku Singh, Siddhesh Lad, Dinesh Karthik (c) (wk), Nitish Rana, Shubman Gill, Pat Cummins (overseas), Lockie Ferguson (overseas), Harry Gurney (overseas), M Sidharth

Why so silly? From a team with more spinners than they knew what to do with, KKR have an enviable array of overseas fast bowlers. And it will be very tempting to try and smash teams aside with all of them at the same time – Pat Cummins' record-breaking auction price means there's going to be a lot of pressure to play him in every game, even when it means sacrificing strength elsewhere.

Nihil Naik found himself press-ganged into opening last year when Sunil Narine was injured, and with Andre Russell's leg held on by physio tape and hope he could find himself deputising for another West Indian when he's not suited for the role. This pushes the explosive Rana and the classy Gill too far down the order, means there's no room for overseas batters or all-rounders, weakens the spin attack, and leaves the team even more reliant on Narine.

Mumbai Indians

Winners last year; 2nd in league stage.

Squad: Rohit Sharma (c), Chris Lynn (overseas), Anmolpreet Singh, Suryakumar Yadav, Saurabh Tiwary, Quinton de Kock (wk) (overseas), Ishan Kishan (wk), Aditya Tare (wk), Prince Balwant Rai Singh, Digvijay Deshmukh, Jayant Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard (overseas), Anukul Roy, Sherfane Rutherford (overseas), Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult (overseas), Jasprit Bumrah, Nathan Coulter-Nile (overseas), Lasith Malinga (overseas), Mitchell McClenaghan (overseas), Mohsin Khan, Dhawal Kulkarni

Best XI: Rohit Sharma (c), Quinton de Kock (wk) (overseas), Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Kieron Pollard (overseas), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Nathan Coulter-Nile (overseas), Rahul Chahar, Lasith Malinga (overseas), Jasprit Bumrah

Silliest XI: Chris Lynn (overseas), Quinton de Kock (wk) (overseas), Anmolpreet Singh, Rohit Sharma (c), Saurabh Tiwary, Kieron Pollard (overseas), Krunal Pandya, Jayant Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Trent Boult (overseas), Lasith Malinga

Why so silly? Like CSK, Mumbai's squad is pretty well covered in most regards. They've kept the core of last year's title-winning squad, and made just a few additions. And that might be an issue if Mumbai find themselves struggling, or hit by injuries – Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah in particular have been hit by fitness issues, and without those two the balance of the side gets thrown off.

But they've signed Chris Lynn! There's plenty of power there! Yes there is, but he can only get into the team as an opener – that pushes Rohit into the middle order where he doesn't have time to make up for his tendency to start slowly and puts more pressure on Pollard to score quickly. Without Bumrah, Malinga has no support as a death bowler, and if Boult or McClenaghan don't take wickets early, the lack of a true wicket-taking spinner could hurt them badly.

Rajasthan Royals

7th in league stage; only escaped finishing bottom on net run rate.

Squad: Steve Smith (c) (overseas), Robin Uthappa, Yashasvi Jaiswal, David Miller (overseas), Manan Vohra, Jos Buttler (wk) (overseas), Anuj Rawat (wk) (overseas), Sanju Samson (wk) (overseas), Tom Curran (overseas), Anniruddha Joshi, Mahipal Lomror, Riyan Parag, Shashank Singh, Rahul Tewatia, Ben Stokes (overseas), Shreyas Gopal, Mayank Markande, Varun Aaron, Akash Singh, Jofra Archer (overseas), Ankit Rajpoot, Oshane Thomas (overseas), Kartik Tyagi, Andrew Tye (overseas), Jaydev Unadkat

Best XI: Jos Buttler (wk) (overseas), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Steve Smith (c) (overseas), Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes (overseas), Riyan Parag, Shashank Singh, Shreyas Gopal, Jofra Archer (overseas), Varun Aaron, Ankit Rajpoot

Silliest XI: Jos Buttler (wk) (overseas), Robin Uthappa, Steve Smith (c) (overseas), Manan Vohra, David Miller (overseas), Tom Curran (overseas), Shreyas Gopal, Mayank Markande, Jaydev Unadkat, Akash Singh, Kartik Tyagi

Why so silly? It'll be really easy for Rajasthan to lapse back into last year's model: hope Jos Buttler does something, and if not then get stuck and plod along to a sub-par total. Not having to fit both Smith and Rahane into the same XI will help, as should the acquisition of the prodigiously talented young opener Jaiswal.

But the temptation will be to play it safe with known quantities: Uthappa Smith, Vohra and Miller would certainly fit that bill, but with Smith and Vohra lacking power and Uthappa and Miller struggling badly to fulfil their explosive potential, the onus is on Curran and Gopal to hit out down the order. It also takes up overseas slots, leaving the once-again cut-price Unadkat leading a very inexperienced attack.

Royal Challengers Bangalore

8th in league stage; way behind 7th on net run rate

Squad: Virat Kohli (c), Aaron Finch (overseas), AB de Villiers (overseas), Devdutt Padikkal, Parthiv Patel (wk), Josh Philippe (wk), Shahbaz Ahamad (wk), Pavan Deshpande, Shivam Dube, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Moeen Ali (overseas), Chris Morris (overseas), Pawan Negi, Washington Sundar, Isuru Udana (overseas), Yuzvendra Chahal, Kane Richardson (overseas), Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj, Dale Steyn (overseas), Umesh Yadav

Best XI: Aaron Finch (overseas), Moeen Ali (overseas), Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers (overseas), Parthiv Patel (wk), Chris Morris (overseas), Washington Sundar, Pawan Negi, Yuzvendra Chahal, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini

Silliest XI: Parthiv Patel (wk), Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers (overseas), Shivam Dube, Pavan Deshpande, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Isuru Udana (overseas), Kane Richardson (overseas), Dale Steyn (overseas), Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal

Why so silly? Royal Challengers Bangalore, or #ArseyBees as they've become known on Twitter, have been simultaneously the silliest and most boring franchise in the IPL for the last two years. They used to be the Harlem Globetrotters, packed with talent and out to entertain, but in 2018 and 2019 they were modern-day Manchester United: expensively assembled, but with no apparent planning, and now lacking even the ability to lose entertainingly.

While they've filled holes at the top of the order with FInch and the death bowling with Morris, if they get off to a bad start like last year it's easy to see them being abandoned, Kohli to go back to opening in a misguided attempt to drag the team out of trouble himself, and for 3 overseas bowlers to leave RCB lacking a middle order. If Kohli and AB fire, that won't matter too much, but without support it's hard to see them both firing in enough games for RCB to trouble the playoffs.

If the worst does happen, at least watching Kohli combust game in game out should be fun...

Sunrisers Hyderabad

Knocked out in eliminator; 4th in league stage.

Squad: Kane Williamson (c), David Warner (overseas), Priyam Garg, Manish Pandey, Virat Singh, Jonny Bairstow (wk) (overseas), Shreevats Goswami (wk), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Abdul Samad, Abhishek Sharma, Fabian Allen (overseas), Mitchell Marsh (overseas), Mohammad Nabi (overseas), Bavanaka Sandeep, Sanjay Yadav, Vijay Shankar, Rashid Khan (overseas), Shahbaz Nadeem, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Siddarth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Billy Stanlake (overseas), Basil Thampi, T Natarajan

Best XI: David Warner (overseas), Jonny Bairstow (wk) (overseas), Kane Williamson (c) (overseas), Priyam Garg, Virat Singh, Vijay Shankar, Rashid Khan (overseas), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shahbaz Nadeem, Siddarth Kaul, Sandeep Sharma

Silliest XI: David Warner (overseas), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Kane Williamson (c) (overseas), Manish Pandey, Mitchell Marsh (overseas), Abhishek Sharma, Fabian Allen (overseas), Shahbaz Nadeem, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Basil Thampi, Khaleel Ahmed

Why so silly? Sunrisers have livened up their middle order with India U19 flyers Priyam Garg and Virat Singh – but the core of their team hasn't changed. It's still the overseas top three and the Indian fast bowlers, plus Rashid Khan – and while this tends to leave the match-winning Mohammad Nabi unable to make the XI, without the power of Warner and Bairstow the team becomes plodding. Kane might have to drop himself to Nabi in, and he's the sort of captain who just might.

But failing that, attempts to make up for that with overseas all-rounders Marsh and Allen will leave the middle order underpowered, the spin attack reliant on Nadeem, and Bhuvi trying to hold together a rotating cast of underconfident Indian seamers. Meet the new SRH, same as the old SRH? Kane and new coach Trevor Bayliss will hope not, but it's not beyond imagining.


The IPL may be a high-quality tournament, and the depth of quality has accelerated dramatically in the last few years. But with the financial stakes so high, and the environment so cut-throat, franchise owners and captains make weird decisions, and undoubtedly we'll see something even sillier than we've picked out over the course of IPL 2020. Roll on the whole glorious cavalcade of cricket, colour and chaos!