Mahendra Singh Dhoni
India's captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has the world at his feet, virtually. Last season he all but took his team to the IPL crown, as they lost to the Royals off the last ball in a thrilling final. This season, as India captain, he captured everything that came this way and will no doubt be itching to win this second edition of the IPL. He has a strong, balanced team at his disposal and can pull it off.
England's premier all-rounder Andrew Flintoff is the most expensive player in the IPL. He has the ability to turn a match on its head both with the bat and ball. Like Dhoni, he also can clear the boundaries at will and his bowling is more than handy, especially in conditions suited for fast bowling. Clearly, his presence will make a lot of difference to the Chennai's team balance this year.
Matthew Hayden may have quit international cricket but will still enter the tournament as one of the batsmen to watch out. Fresh from a long break, the bulky left-hander is itching to do what he does best -- smash the bowlers all around the park. Last year he played just four matches, smashing 189 runs at 63.00, before returning home for international duty. Chennai Super Kings must be delighted that the veteran is available for the full tournament this year.
South Africa's rising stature in international cricket has unearthed quite a few young stars, Albie Morkel being one of them. Recently in a Twenty20 International against Australia, he hit 37 off 19 deliveries to lead South Africa to an unlikely victory. He also played crucial roles with both bat and ball in South Africa's twin ODI series triumphs against Australia recently. The left-hander looks in great form and could take the tournament by storm in home conditions.
The Sri Lankan off-spinner can never be written off no matter what the conditions and whatever opposition are. Even at 36 he looks fitter than most and many batsmen around the world still don't have a clue how to tackle his spin bowling. In a format considered difficult for spinners, he made his mark last year claiming 11 wickets in 15 matches at 36.72.
Suresh Raina has emerged one of India's brightest stars in the last few months. The left-hander can destroy any bowling attack on his day and few would bet against him doing that in this year's IPL. He smashed 125 runs in the five-match ODI series in New Zealand but what stood out there was his strike rate of 148. That made many stand up and take notice of this young prodigy's talent.