Super Kings look super value

  • By: Dave Tickner
  • Last Updated: March 31 2013, 15:50 BST

The future. Just a bit of fun. A gaudy display of wealth; a celebration of sponsors, of style over substance. A cancer that will kill the game.

Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings can take a third IPL title

Everyone has a view on the Indian Premier League, the biggest fish in the increasingly crowded T20 tourney pond.

The tournament, which retains a desperately bloated 72-match round-robin group stage followed by the successful play-off format that sees the top two meet in a first qualifier for the final with the loser of that clash getting a second chance in a second qualifier against the winner of the elimination clash between the third and fourth-ranked teams.

Picking a winner in a tournament boasting a long opening round followed by the prize being settled across just four games may seem an impossible task, but we have no hesitation in siding with the Chennai Super Kings at 9/2.

In an unpredictable tournament played over an unpredictable format, the Super Kings' consistency is astonishing. They have finished in the top four and qualified for the post-season in all five IPL campaigns to date. They have contested four of the five finals, winning two.

Their consistency in results and consistency of their squad cannot be a coincidence. The Super Kings are easily the most identifiable 'brand' in the IPL, their success built on an established core of top-quality homegrown players no other side can match: MS Dhoni, Murali Vijay, R Ashwin, Suresh Raina. Ravindra Jadeja is now a vastly improved player and should make an increased impact with bat and ball, while overseas stars Dwayne Bravo, Michael Hussey and Albie Morkel are all established Super Kings players, while Dirk Nannes adds oomph to the pace department.

The 2010 and 2011 champions have an unmatched record in this event and, on paper, once again look to have the strongest squad.

But there's more. The first qualifier and eliminator are both played in Chennai, potentially giving the Super Kings home advantage for those key games.

And home advantage means a lot to the Super Kings this year. Because in an astonishing move, the IPL have announced that Sri Lankan players will not be allowed to play in Chennai, which is in Tamil-Nadu, due to rising tensions over the treatment of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

This has only limited effect on the Super Kings, who have no Sri Lankans in their strongest side, but will significantly affect some of their key rivals with the likes of Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews all key players for their franchises who will be unavailable for their sides' league matches in Chennai and - perhaps more significantly - either of those play-off matches.

It all adds up to the Super Kings looking a fantastic piece of ante-post business at 9/2, with a top-two finish looking likely and with it the chance to take a position ahead of the play-offs.

Of the 'big five' (Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai) it's Delhi who look the likeliest to miss out on a play-off spot.

They've lost Kevin Pietersen to a knee injury and Jesse Ryder following the recent sickening attack on the New Zealander.

With David Warner and Virender Sehwag bringing wretched form from the India v Australia Test series, the batting looks heavily reliant on skipper Jayawardene.

Indeed, missing out on the top four could be the least of the Daredevils' worries. The 2012 table-toppers finished bottom in 2011 and look worth a small interest at 20/1 to continue their yo-yo existence by plummeting to the foot of the pile again.

Moving to the other markets, and Bangalore's Chris Gayle dominates the top batsman book at no better than 7/2. The layers' fear of the world's most destructive T20 player is understandable, but he was poor in Australia's Big Bash - the tournament closest to the IPL in terms of star quality - and looks far too short.

There has to be value further down the lists; the tricky part is identifying it. Gayle's team-mate AB de Villiers immediately jumps out at 40/1, but may bat as low as five in the Royal Challengers' star-studded batting line-up.

Gautam Gambhir is another who appeals at 20/1. He'll certainly need to score plenty of runs for a Kolkata side that looks at least one top-class batsman light for their title defence.

Gambhir has twice finished inside the top three runscorers, but his recent illness - he missed the last Test against Australia due to jaundice - is enough to put us off. Certainly, though, he's one to keep an eye on; should he start the tournament fit and firing, he'll be worth siding with.

But the player we'll go for is Rohit Sharma, one of the IPL's most consistent run-scorers. Over the five years of this tournament he's never been outside the top 20 in this market, with finishes of (most recent first): 9, 17, 9, 10, 11. He looks overpriced at 40/1 with each way terms of a quarter the odds for the top five.

Elsewhere in the top bat markets, Steve Smith looks a good each-way bet to be the top-scoring Australian in this year's event. He's increasingly focused on his batting in recent years and proved his class with runs during the third Test against India recently. He's a fine player of spin and we know he likes the conditions. With his Pune side not overloaded with batting quality, Smith may get plenty of chances up the order and 16/1 looks a good few points too big here.

In the top bowler market, Ajantha Mendis looks the value at 25/1. The lesser homegrown players in this tournament are generally susceptible to extreme pace and mystery spin, with the Sri Lankan the best price of those who fall into either category.

He took out this market in the World Twenty20 on the back of a six-wicket haul against Zimbabwe in the opening game and could pick up a couple of similar bags of wickets here.

Mendis has little IPL pedigree, but in truth that doesn't worry us: it just means the non-international players have seen even less of him.

Sunil Narine took this tournament by storm last year, but he's now less than half the price of a man who looks just as capable of making a similar impact on batsmen who have seen little of his work.

  • Preview posted at 1330 GMT on 30/03/2013.