The 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2020) is all set to kick off this Saturday, and all 8 teams have been training for the tournament for many weeks now in the UAE.
Conditions in the UAE will be more difficult than those in India, and utilising the hard new ball before the pitch gets slower and the spinners start getting purchase will be absolutely crucial to teams' fortunes.
Ranking the opening combinations of all 8 IPL 2020 teams
Ahead of IPL 2020, we attempt to predict who the two openers from each team will be, and rank them (from worst to best) in terms of how strong the combination looks.
Note: All players from England and Australia have been assumed to be available, with no official word yet regarding their participation in the first few games of IPL 2020.
#8 Kolkata Knight Riders - Sunil Narine and Rahul Tripathi
Sunil Narine has redefined the role of a pinch hitter in the IPL, and was in excellent form in the few games that he played in the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League (CPL). The West Indian is absolutely unstoppable on his day, and can be partnered by either Shubman Gill, Siddhesh Lad or Rahul Tripathi.
The fact that Gill has batted at No. 3 for KKR in the past, coupled with Tripathi's experience in the IPL, might mean that the former Rising Pune Supergiant man is given the nod.
While this is not a poor combination by any means, they are not better (on paper) than the others on this list.
#7 Chennai Super Kings - Shane Watson and Murali Vijay
Shane Watson has been a consistent presence at the top of the order in the last two IPL seasons for CSK, but apart from a few crucial knocks, hasn't been at his best. However, with the long break putting everyone on even footing, the Australian could shine in IPL 2020.
The departure of Suresh Raina has left a hole that is expected to be filled by either Ruturaj Gaikwad or Murali Vijay, but the former is yet to recover from COVID-19. The Tamil Nadu batsman could step in for Raina, and if he does play, there is no doubt that he will be opening the innings.
Vijay is a CSK legend, and although he hasn't played very regularly for the team since returning, IPL 2020 could be his. Despite this combination also being a solid one, they are placed as low as #7 on this list.
#6 Rajasthan Royals - Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal
Jos Buttler has been a revelation at the top of the order in white-ball cricket, and his IPL form for RR has been nothing short of world-class. The Englishman has many players who could walk out to the middle with him, such as Robin Uthappa and Sanju Samson.
However, the player who is most likely to open the batting alongside Buttler for RR is young southpaw Yashasvi Jaiswal. The 2020 U-19 World Cup's leading run-scorer could become the next entrant on the long line of upcoming cricketers RR have produced.
Jaiswal's inexperience at the IPL level and in domestic cricket is the reason behind RR being placed at #6 on this list.
#5 Royal Challengers Bangalore - Aaron Finch and Devdutt Padikkal
It might be a bold call to put Aaron Finch and Devdutt Padikkal so high on this list, given the former's abysmal IPL record in recent years and the latter's lack of experience in the cash-rich league.
However, Finch is in superb form for Australia in the limited-overs formats, and there's no reason why he can't finally set his IPL record straight. Padikkal, on the other hand, finished the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy as the leading run-scorer, and is likely to be preferred ahead of Parthiv Patel with AB de Villiers expected to don the gloves.
RCB could have a splendid opening combination on their hands.
#4 Delhi Capitals - Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw
Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw are both tested at the IPL and international levels, and have shown that they have what it takes to be named among the best openers in the world on their day.
This right-left opening combination is so formidable that it might even keep former Rajasthan Royals captain Ajinkya Rahane out of the side. Shreyas Iyer's DC are genuine favourites to bag the IPL title, and the Dhawan-Shaw partnership will certainly go a long way in helping them achieve that objective.
The fact that this combination is placed at #4 is a testament to the quality of the following three.
#3 Kings XI Punjab - Chris Gayle and KL Rahul
Chris Gayle and KL Rahul have played together for both RCB and KXIP, and they have excellent understanding that has been built over the course of many years.
There was a lot of criticism levelled at Gayle, with experts claiming that he is past his prime, but he put all the doubts to rest with his performances in IPL 2019.
Rahul, on the other hand, is now the KXIP captain, and he will have the experience and leadership of the big West Indian to fall back on. The Karnataka lad has been in excellent form in white-ball cricket in the recent past, and it is likely that the responsibility of captaincy will elevate his game to the next level.
The Gayle-Rahul partnership is definitely one to keep an eye on in IPL 2020.
#2 Mumbai Indians - Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma
Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma were one of the best opening combinations in IPL 2020, but the acquisition of the hard-hitting Chris Lynn has now raised questions over who will open the innings with the South Africa.
Lynn has struggled against spin, with the most recent example of this worrying trend being the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League. This might prompt MI to go with Nathan Coutler-Nile as their final overseas option (with Kieron Pollard, Trent Boult and De Kock being the other three) due to the all-rounder's prowess in both departments.
De Kock and Rohit are one of the best opening combinations that can be assembled in all of world cricket, but they still don't top the pair that is #1 on this list.
#1 Sunrisers Hyderabad - David Warner and Jonny Bairstow
The SRH duo of David Warner and Jonny Bairstow set IPL 2019 ablaze with their performances, and they are the deserved holders of #1 on this list.
Captain Warner is the leading run-scorer among overseas players in IPL history, while the Englishman had an excellent debut season last year. Warner and Bairstow are currently duelling in an ODI series between their respective countries, but they will be unstoppable when they team up in IPL 2020.