IPL 2016 RCB
This might just be the year RCB clinch their maiden IPL crownIANS

The bat tonking, the ball fizzing, the boots flying up in the air for a catch as commentators scream at the top of their lungs for every "exhilarating" moment, with the camera then panning to the cheerleaders as they dance in celebration of a six, wicket or catch – yup, the IPL is upon us once more, barely giving anyone an opportunity to catch their breaths after that breathless tournament that was the ICC World T20 2016.

IPL is that cannot ignore tournament, the one, which if it isn't there, you don't really miss, but if it is, you cannot help but watch. With two sparkling-new teams – Rising Pune Supergiants (MS Dhoni goes from the bright yellow of CSK to the equally bright pink of RPS) and Gujarat Lions -- set to make their debuts this season, the "hmm, this should be interesting" levels have gone up a notch.

As the World T20 showed, the shortest format of cricket is not just about seeing which team can smash the ball out of the park better. This format is as much about proper cricket as any other. A format where intelligence and game awareness is just as important as that ability to just empty your mind and look to hit the ball into orbit every time the bowler runs in.

The first couple of weeks will be pretty exciting, with the excitement pill at the start of any tournament lasting for about that long, and while there will be a lull in proceedings in the middle, the IPL will hit its straps again once the second week of May kicks in.

By then, the dust would have cleared, with the pretenders, who looked so good at the start of the tournament, fighting amongst themselves to avoid the wooden spoon, while the top five to six teams will be vying for that position in the top four.

At the end of the day, no matter what cricket you play, the only thing that matters is the top four, and may that all-important battle commence.

Now, here are the predictions (hopefully, I do better than those score and match predictors in the World T20).

Predictions: Delhi Daredevils: With Rahul Dravid (who doesn't admire him) and Paddy Upton at the helm, the Daredevils prove to be a harder nut to crack this time around, doing a rather good impersonation of the suspended Rajasthan Royals.

Gujarat Lions: A new team, with plenty of word-class all-rounders in the lineup. However, with Suresh Raina still searching for that top form, the Lions struggle to really challenge the top four. (Yup, I know, now Raina is going to have a scorcher of a season).

Kings XI Punjab: Glenn Maxwell starts like a man possessed, with those reverse-sweeps working like a charm, but with a young captain in David Miller, they struggle for consistency, and end up flattering to deceive.

Kolkata Knight Riders: With a changed-action Sunil Narine and the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa not quite at their previous best, KKR fail to find their rhythm. And while they make a comeback thanks to some Andre Russell heroics, they probably just fall short. (And, that is the cue to KKR finishing first).

Mumbai Indians: The defending champions play like the defending champions, starting off a lot better this time and maintaining the momentum to ease into the playoffs. Jos Buttler, when given an opportunity, cannot but sparkle and MI quickly become the clear favourites for the title.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Every season, RCB are picked as the team to beat. This will finally be their year, many predict before the start of a season. So, with Virat Kohli desperate for honours after missing out on the World T20, AB De Villiers with a point or three to prove, Chris Gayle in swinging form and Shane Watson desperate to prove his price-tag, RCB make it to the playoffs. Will they be able to take the title without Mitchell Starc, though?

Rising Pune Supergiants: You know an MS Dhoni-led team will compete. There is so much of the CSK mark on this RPS side that making the transition will be a lot smoother.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: Another team, like RCB, that have flattered to deceive more often than not. Too much of the batting burden last season was on David Warner, so much will depend on how Shikhar Dhawan, Kane Williamson, Eoin Morgan, Deepak Hooda and Yuvraj Singh support the left-hander. They have a barrage of left-armers who could come in handy.

Top four prediction: Mumbai Indians, RCB, RPS and SRH, who just beat out competition from DD and KKR.

Final: RCB vs RPS (just because RCB vs RPS has a better ring to it than RCB vs MI). The Test captain vs the limited-overs captain. Should be a lot of fun.

IPL 2016 champions: RCB (Yup, I am calling it. About time Kohli, De Villiers and Gayle won this thing).

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