Anyone pining for the IPL can now take some succour from the fact that the nearly-identical-sounding ÍPL begins this weekend. The Íslensk Premier League (pronounced ee-P-L) is about to launch its sophomore season at the world’s northernmost cricket ground.
A double round-robin outdoor T20 league featuring all four clubs, it’s Iceland’s flagship domestic tournament. The defending champions are Kópavogur, who deservedly romped to the title last year and completed a memorable – and unprecedented – treble, alongside the Summer Solstice Sixes in June and the winter’s Volcanic Ashes indoor competition.
Will the Puffins soar?
Upstartish, underhand and unruly. That’s how Kópavogur used to be known, at least until their treble-winning season last year. Now the undisputed number one team, and with a new captain in David Cook, the Puffins have become distinctly less brash, and they’re being coy – if not downright modest – about their chances this season. Without two key all-rounders, Dushan Bandara (now at Hafnarfjörður) and Keenan Botha (injured), they are worried about their batting. The plan is for Bala Kamallakharan, Abhi Chauhan and Cook to try and face most of the bowling. They have no such anxieties about their bowling, however. A first-rate attack boasts Nolan Williams, Abdur Rehman, Jegadeesh Subramaniyam, Chauhan and Cook, and it will cause problems.
Kit Harris’s verdict: They don’t have the batting to compete, other than in low-scoring affairs. Expect their bowlers to get them out of trouble more than once. Forecast: 3rd place.
Are the Vikings ready for battle?
Once the venerable, traditional, intellectual team, Reykjavík have undergone a startling, snarling renaissance under Sadun Lankathilaka and Lakmal Bandara. They have quickly developed a reputation for being the bad boys of Icelandic cricket, and with the histrionics of Lankathilaka now combined with the hissing venom of Derick Deonarain, they are the team that loves to be loathed. In Deonarain, they have perhaps the most complete all-round batsman in Iceland. He will be backed by keeper-batsman Ravi Rawat and the national team captain Lakmal Bandara, but they will rely heavily on that trio to do the bulk of the scoring. Their bowling has good balance: Bandara, Lankathilaka and Khan Gul for pace, Weerasooriya and Sathiya Rupan for spin.
Kit Harris’s verdict: They won’t win many friends this year, but they’ll do well on the field. Deonarain and Bandara will score plenty of runs. The bowlers will keep them in the game. Forecast: 2nd place.
Will the Hammers fall again?
The team (mostly) from the mosque, and without doubt the cricket classicist’s team. Last year’s poor relations won many hearts with their sportsmanship and conduct on the field, and they’ve recruited well over the winter; their squad isn’t just strong, it’s deep. Winning Dushan Bandara over is, of course, massive. But he joins three perfectly capable batsmen in Chamley Fernando, Samuel Gill and Mohammad Younas. The bowling attack has depth, too. Spearheaded by Bandara, there are good seam options in Javed Miakhial, Khan Agha and Mehmood Tariq. Sulaman Nawaz may be the third-best spinner in Iceland, after Cook and Weerasooriya, and Kali Nazar can give it some flight.
Kit Harris’s verdict: It’s a tough call between Reykjavík and Hafnarfjörður, but the Hammers just edge it because they have better back-up options. It all hinges on Bandara. Forecast: winners.
Is the Volcano ready to erupt?
Vesturbær, the new team, makes its debut on Sunday against the defending champions, Kópavogur. Talk about a baptism of fire! The guys from the west town are here because of the enormous efforts of the Alvotech company and its workers, and no fewer than 12 of their squad of 18 are debutants. Fans of Icelandic cricket will understandably be drawn to the familiar faces: Lee Nelson, a veteran of the Falcons for many years, and Sebastiaan Dreyer, the youngest player on the circuit. Those men aside, the team has a distinctly Indian flavour. They have looked a little raw in training, and apart from Nelson, it’s hard to see where the runs will come from. Their bowling attack is very samey, too, with every man jack of ‘em being a right handed slow-medium-pacer.
Kit Harris’s verdict: It’s hard to say anything for sure, but on the prima facie evidence it would be quite a surprise if they pulled anything off. Even winning a game would be a great achievement. Forecast: 4th.