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With just over 6 weeks to go for IPL 2020, the franchises must be keenly monitoring the performances of their players. They will also look to address injury concerns before the season. Jofra Archer's injury will certainly alert the other franchises to keep an eye on the fitness levels of their key overseas players.
The reason why franchises stress so much on their overseas players is that very often, it's the 4 overseas players who turn the matches for their teams. Also, since only 4 out of 8 overseas players can be picked, the selections must not affect the team's balance and should be made taking into account the pitch, and other conditions. It's another reason why franchises spend a lot of cash on acquiring overseas assets in the auction.
Having established the importance of the overseas player combination, let's take a look at the best overseas combination for each team, and the strategies which they may employ.
Chennai Super Kings
Best overseas combination: Shane Watson/ Faf du Plessis, Sam Curran, Lungi Ngidi, and Imran Tahir
CSK's Ideal XI: Shane Watson/ Faf du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni(C) (WK), Kedar Jadhav, Sam Curran, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir, and Shardul Thakur/ Piyush Chawla/ Harbhajan Singh(Depending on the pitch)
Chennai Super Kings has a very confusing overseas players conundrum to deal with come next season.
The main issue comes at the top of the order and it seems clear that only one of Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis can play. This is because Ambati Rayudu has done better at the top of the order, and he should open the batting. Both Watson and Du Plessis aren't in good form right now and the management has to take a tough call on them.
More confusion ensues in the selection of the all-rounders. Dwayne Bravo has been a crowd-favourite and the CSK faithful for a long time. But he has had a couple of sub-par seasons and doesn't seem to be getting better.
In contrast, Sam Curran has done very well for England, and the youngster should get the nod ahead of Bravo.
Lungi Ngidi will certainly be CSK's first-choice overseas pacer to partner Chahar, Curran, and Thakur and his spot in the side should be assured. The 23-year old picked up 9 wickets in 7 games in the Mzansi Super League and made a good comeback to the national team in the ODIs against England.
The final overseas spot should go to last season's Purple cap winner Imran Tahir. The 40-year old is still going strong and did very well in the Mzanzi Super League playing for Nelson Mandela Bay Giants. Though he'll have competition in the form of CSK's big signing Piyush Chawla, Tahir should play due to his consistency and natural wicket-taking ability.
The rest of the spinners barring Jadeja will be rotated according to the conditions.
Best Overseas Combination: Shimron Hetymer, Marcus Stoinis, Chris Woakes, and Kagiso Rabada
DC's Ideal XI: Prithvi Shaw/ Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer(C), Rishabh Pant(WK), Shimron Hetymer, Marcus Stoinis, Chris Woakes, Axar Patel, R Ashwin, Kagiso Rabada, and Ishant Sharma/ Amit Mishra(Depending on the pitch).
Delhi Capitals have a more settled overseas combination than CSK though they have to figure out at what position certain players should bat.
Marcus Stoinis success in the BBL as an opener might force DC to rethink their opening combination. The all-rounder made a whopping 705 runs in 17 matches at a great average of 54.23. This included an innings of 147 runs, the highest individual score in BBL history.
But considering that they have three quality Indian openers, he is likely to occupy a slot in the middle-order though he provides additional backup to the openers slot along with Jason Roy.
Shimron Hetmyer was signed by the Capitals for a whopping ₹7.75 Crore. He too is likely to bat at No.5 or No.4 depending on the situation. Considering that they have a host of Indian options like Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Ajinkya Rahane, and Rishabh Pant, the likes of Jason Roy and Alex Carey are likely to warm the bench.
The other two options are more assured in terms of their places in the side. Considering that they don't have a lead Indian pacer, both Chris Woakes and Kagiso Rabada have to play and spearhead the pace attack.
With Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, and Axar Patel in the side, young Nepalese leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichchane will be relegated to the bench.
Kings XI Punjab
Best Overseas Combination: Chris Gayle/ Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell, Jimmy Neesham, and Sheldon Cottrell
KXIP's Ideal XI: KL Rahul(C), Chris Gayle/ Nicholas Pooran, Mayank Agarwal, Glenn Maxwell, Deepak Hooda, Jimmy Neesham, Krishnappa Gowtham, Ishan Porel, Ravi Bishnoi, Sheldon Cottrell, and Mohammed Shami.
Under Anil Kumble, Kings XI Punjab had an eventful auction and landed a couple of brilliant deals. But with that being said, selecting just 4 overseas players won't be easy for them.
Nicholas Pooran looked to be ahead of Chris Gayle in the pecking order but with KL Rahul keeping wickets for India, it remains to be seen if he'll do the same for Punjab too. Gayle's form has picked up and the 'Universe Boss' played a couple of destructive innings in the Bangladesh Premier League.
The rest of the overseas spots are likely to be occupied by Maxwell, Neesham, and Cottrell though there could be some rotation. With Krishnappa Gowtham being the only senior spinner in the side, Punjab might be tempted to play the talented mystery spinner Mujeeb on slow surfaces, like in Jaipur and Chennai. On those occasions, Jimmy Neesham might have to make way.
Glenn Maxwell has been brilliant all-round, and he's assured of a spot in the side. He has turned into a much more reliable bowler, picking up 10 wickets at an economy of 7.02 in the recently-concluded BBL. His batting has become more sensible though he has retained his explosive edge. He masterminded many chases for Melbourne Stars this season and could also help KL Rahul in captaining the side.
Sheldon Cottrell was bought by Punjab for a huge sum of ₹8.5 Crore in the auction. He's sure to partner Mohammed Shami with the new ball, given the lack of pace-bowling options in KXIP.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Best Overseas Combination: Sunil Narine, Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, and Pat Cummins
KKR's Ideal XI: Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan, Dinesh Karthik(C)(WK), Rahul Tripathi, Andre Russell, Pat Cummins, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kuldeep Yadav, and Prasidh Krishna.
Of all the teams in the league, Kolkata Knight Riders' overseas combination seems to be the most assured. With the huge amounts they spent on certain players, it'd be surprising if they didn't feature in the XI. Sunil Narine and Andre Russell are among the best all-rounders in the league and are sure to play regardless of opposition and conditions.
Eoin Morgan, who was bought for ₹5.25 crore in the auction, is likely to bat at No.4 or No.5 depending on where Nitish Rana bats. Shubman Gill should open the batting with Narine at the start of the season.
Coming to the bowlers, it's a no-brainer that Pat Cummins will play. The Aussie pacer was bought for a whopping ₹15.5 crore and was the most expensive buy of the auction. He'll walk straight into the playing XI and lead the pace battery. With Cummins present, the likes of Lockie Ferguson and Harry Gurney will be reduced to backups.
The talented Tom Banton will have to wait for his opportunity despite having a pretty solid BBL playing for Brisbane Heat. With players like Morgan and Narine in the side, it's unlikely that the English opener will get to bat at the top of the order. Chris Green will remain just a backup option for Narine.
Best Overseas Combination: Quinton de Kock, Chris Lynn, Kieron Pollard, and Nathan Coulter-Nile
MI's Ideal XI: Quinton de Kock(WK), Chris Lynn, Rohit Sharma(C), Suryakumar Yadav, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Hardik Pandya, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Rahul Chahar, Dhawal Kulkarni, and Jasprit Bumrah.
Mumbai Indians made a couple of puzzling signings in the auction which complicates their overseas combination. While signing Chris Lynn at ₹2 crore was certainly a bargain, a player of his quality can't be kept on the bench. But if he plays, Rohit Sharma has to bat down the order, and the team's balance will get affected. Quinton de Kock will most likely open with Lynn.
Coming to the middle-order, Kieron Pollard will play for sure and form an aggressive batting combination with the Pandya brothers. Sherfane Rutherford, who was traded by the Delhi Capitals, will serve as his backup.
Further confusion ensues when we enter the pace-bowling department. There are 4 overseas pacers to choose from, and realistically, only one of them can play. Considering that they shelled out a huge sum of ₹8 crore for Nathan Coulter-Nile, he's likely to get the nod ahead of Lasith Malinga, who hasn't been in good form since IPL 2019.
With Trent Boult in the mix, though, there is bound to be some rotation so Coulter-Nile's place in the side isn't assured, but taking into account Boult's injury and the Aussie's ability with the bat, Coulter-Nile seems to be the safest pick.
Best Overseas Combination: Jos Buttler, Steve Smith, Ben Stokes, and Tom Curran
RR's Ideal XI: Jos Buttler(WK), Yashasvi Jaiswal/ Robin Uthappa, Sanju Samson, Steve Smith(C), Ben Stokes, Riyan Parag, Tom Curran, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Mayank Markande, and Kartik Tyagi
Jofra Archer made the headlines after getting ruled out of the IPL owing to a stress fracture in his elbow. His loss will certainly affect Rajasthan Royals hugely and toy with their overseas combination.
They haven't announced his replacement yet, but English bowling all-rounder Tom Curran is most likely to fill in for him. He was an integral part of BBL champions Sydney Sixers and picked up 22 wickets in just 14 games albeit at a slightly high economy of 9.05. He could be a like-for-like replacement for Archer who has the knack of picking up wickets. IPL 2018's Purple Cap winner Andrew Tye could be an option to consider as well.
The rest of their overseas spots are well settled owing to their consistent performances in the international circuit. Jos Buttler's explosive starts up top will be even more essential now that Ajinkya Rahane has left the side. A lot will be expected of Steve Smith after his brilliant run in international cricket. The No.1 ODI all-rounder Ben Stokes must try and replicate his good form into the T20 format and adapt to the slowness of the wicket in Jaipur.
All this means that David Miller will be a backup option, though he could come in if the side decides to go in with Indian pacers instead of Curran or Tye.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Best Overseas Combination: Aaron Finch, AB De Villiers, Chris Morris, and Kane Richardson/ Dale Steyn
RCB's Ideal XI: Aaron Finch, Parthiv Patel(WK), Virat Kohli(C), AB De Villiers, Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Washington Sundar, Navdeep Saini, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kane Richardson/ Dale Steyn, and Umesh Yadav.
Royal Challengers Bangalore bolstered their side with a couple of huge signings in the auction, including splashing ₹10 crore for Chris Morris. RCB's pace battery was their weakness last season and they focussed a lot on strengthening that area.
It'll be a straight toss-up between Kane Richardson and Dale Steyn for that overseas slot to partner Chris Morris. While Richardson will have the edge over Steyn due to his good form in the BBL and for Australia, Steyn will be hot on his heels after making a comeback to South Africa's T20I squad.
The other three overseas players are assured of playing. Aaron Finch, who was signed for ₹8 crore, is set to open the batting with Parthiv Patel, while AB de Villiers is likely to bat at No.4. Morris is the perfect signing for RCB as he can give them 4 overs with the ball and score some quick runs towards the end of the innings.
With this being the case, the likes of Joshua Phillipe and Moeen Ali are likely to remain on the bench. Josh Phillipe will serve as a backup for both Finch and Parthiv since he's an opener as well as a keeper. Moeen Ali could feature if RCB decide to play an extra spinner, and he could come in place of Richardson or Steyn.
Best Overseas Combination: David Warner, Jonny Bairstow/Kane Williamson, Mohammad Nabi, and Rashid Khan
SRH's Ideal XI: David Warner, Jonny Bairstow/ Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Priyam Garg/ Wriddhiman Saha(if Bairstow is benched), Vijay Shankar, Virat Singh, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Siddharth Kaul, and Khaleel Ahmed
Sunrisers Hyderabad's overseas combination is perhaps the most complicated in the league since they have three of the world's best overseas batsmen in their squad. While David Warner is sure to hold on to this place after winning the Orange Cap last season, Bairstow might drop to the bench and be replaced by Saha if Mohammad Nabi has to play. Skipper Kane Williamson has benched himself on occasions to maintain the team balance, and even he could be dropped to play Nabi.
SRH haven't addressed their middle-order issues and have banked on youngsters like Virat Singh and Priyam Garg to do the job for them. Mitchell Marsh isn't a great signing, and he's likely to remain on the bench for most of the season.
Rashid Khan is the best bowler in the side and he's sure to play. But the Afghan talisman doesn't have any quality Indian spinner to support him, and that's why SRH should play Mohammad Nabi. It's a surprise that Nabi isn't a first-choice player considering that he's the No.1 T20 all-rounder in the ICC Rankings.
With this much competition for the overseas spots, it's a given that the likes of Fabian Allen and Billy Stanlake remain backup options.