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Clash of the Captains: It's MS Dhoni vs Virat Kohli as IPL returns

India Today logo India Today 06-04-2016

The era of MS Dhoni is nearing its end but winning another IPL title is what he will yearn for before he thinks of finally calling it a day. Virat Kohli will eye a triumphant season, while Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Zaheer Khan, David Warner and David Miller will look to lead their teams to glory in the ninth season of the cash-rich T20 league.

MS Dhoni, Rising Pune Supergiants: He enjoyed his success with the incredibly consistent Chennai Super Kings for eight years, winning the Indian Premier League twice and the Champions League Twenty20 as many times. But CSK exist no more, at least for the next two seasons, as they were suspended for irregularities for two editions of the IPL. Not only that, Dhoni & Co. were left homeless until two more teams were added by the BCCI.

Dhoni was picked by new franchise Rising Pune Supergiants for this year's IPL, but he however lost his main players like Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja to the Gujarat Lions. Pune though have got some good T20 players in Ravichandran Ashwin, Kevin Pietersen, Ajinkya Rahane, Faf du Plessis, Steven Smith it will interesting to see how Dhoni replicates his previous success with the new team.

All eyes will be on Dhoni after his recent failure in the World T20 where India suffered a semi-finals exit. Pune have a balanced side with the right mix of youth and experience, including three international captains. The team will be coached by Stephen Fleming, meaning Dhoni-Fleming's CSK partnership will continue.

Has Dhoni lost his Midas touch? Time will tell.

Virat Kohli, Royal Challengers Bangalore: The heir apparent once Dhoni's tenure as captain of India's limited-overs teams comes to an end, Kohli is in superb form with the bat and is playing cricket with the right attitude. His side boasts of players like Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Shane Watson and his captaincy skills will be tested to the hilt because he will be spoilt for choices.

RCB have been one of the most high-profile teams in the league but are yet to win the tournament since its inception eight years ago. However, Kohli will be gunning for glory especially after India's failure to stamp their authority in the recently-concluded ICC World Twenty20. RCB will be coached by former New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori.

Zaheer Khan, Delhi Daredevils: After two seasons with JP Duminy as skipper, Delhi have appointed Zaheer Khan as captain. The now-retired left-arm pacer's experience will be key to Delhi's campaign. Delhi have never made it to the final of the league despite having excellent teams over the years.

The only thing that will worry Delhi will be Zaheer's own fitness after he missed major part of last year's tournament due to injury. The Delhi-based team is filled with youngsters and some in-form international players. Shane Warne led Rajathan Royals to glory with lesser-known players in the inaugural season, but will Zak do the same? Daredevils will be coached by India great Rahul Dravid.

Suresh Raina, Gujarat Lions: He may have been struggling to rediscover his form, but Suresh Raina can never be written off when it comes to T20 cricket. Everyone has seen him hitting bowlers out of the park, but his captaincy skills will be on display come April 9. Raina has been one of the most consistent players in the IPL and is also the leading run-getter. In terms of matches played, Raina here too holds a record with 132 matches under his belt.


Captaincy is a strenuous job, but with the likes of Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo and Dale Steyn in the ranks, Raina can breathe easy. The cool-headed all-rounder has played with and against these players in the past but it will be tough for him to find comfort at a new home. Like Dhoni, Raina too always stayed with CSK since the inception of the IPL in 2008.

Rajkot have the experience and the team to go the distance. They have young Brad Hodge as their coach. It's time for Raina to silent his critics and prove his mettle.

Gautam Gambhir, Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir has led Kolkata Knight Riders to championship twice. The team may lack the star power but Gambhir has won the IPL with stalwarts like Yusuf Pathan, Robin Uthappa, Sunil Narine, Shakib Al Hasan, Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav in the past.

Gambhir, who holds the record for most fifties in the IPL history, has struggled to time the ball in the domestic season and KKR's success depends heavily on the left-hander's own form. KKR will be coached by South African great Jacques Kallis, with Wasim Akram also among the coaching staff.

Rohit Sharma, Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma was made the captain of the Mumbai Indians in 2013 and has led them to two IPL titles since then. Mumbai have improved a lot under Rohit's leadership.

Rohit will be under immense pressure following a below par World T20 campaign. However, players like Jasprit Bumrah, Jos Buttler and Corey Anderson will bring positive energy in the dressing room. Kieron Pollard and Harbhajan Singh will once again be the key, but Lasith Malinga's injury will worry Rohit.

Mumbai, who have a formidable team and an undoubtedly the strongest on paper, will be hoping to become the second team after Chennai Super Kings to defend their title. CSK are the only team to win back-to-back IPL titles in 2010 and 2011.

David Warner, Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner did not had a fruitful World T20 but he will be eager to make amends to his batting when IPl's new season starts on April 9. Warner was appointed skipper last season but the team failed to make it to the play-offs.

The team is loaded with star international players and it will be interesting to see how it executes its plans in the tournament. With Eoin Morgan and Kane Williams, there are two international skippers, while inclusion of Yuvraj Singh will add the firepower. The much talked about pace sensation from Bangladesh Mustafizur Rahman, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashish Nehra will form a deadly bowling attack.

With Tom Moody as head coach, the Orange Army will look to go a step further this time.

David Miller, Kings XI Punjab: A consistent run in the IPL has elevated David Miller to captaincy. The South African batsman endured a poor World T20 outing but will be keen for a quick-fix solution to his batting form.

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