The long and much-awaited Indian Premier League (IPL) gets underway tomorrow with hope and anticipation of another sizzling tournament.
The last IPL was really fantastic with many close matches and a pulsating final. This came after the IPL had sort of become predictable and slightly boring in recent times.
The return of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) has certainly added more strength to the 11th edition of the IPL.
With many of the players shuffled around at auctions it will be difficult to gauge the strength of the teams until the matches get underway.
The four teams to look out for as always for will be CSK, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Mumbai Indians (MI) and the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) who have traditionally done well over the years. But they will surely be tested as they all start with different combinations this year.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is back as the CSK captain and his astute leadership and skill will be a bonus for the team. He has often led CSK with distinction and brought glory to them. He may have lost some of his batting skills but he can turn it on when he feels like.
RCB will be without their champion player Chris Gayle who was not picked during the auction. Admittedly, Gayle had a poor season and though age and burnout has caught up with him, he can still set the stadium alight with his stroke play.
The advantage for RCB is that skipper Virat Kohli is in top gear with the bat and this time they will hope to make it right to the top.
Rajasthan Royals have already lost one of their top stars when skipper Steve Smith was banned from all forms of the game by Cricket Australia (CA) over a ball-tampering incident. Ajinkya Rahane has assumed the captaincy and he will be banking on some of his young overseas players like D’Arcy Short and Jofra Archer to deliver.
MI have a strong bowling attack spearheaded by Jasprit Bumrah and Pat Cummins, who had a terrific tour to South Africa. Kieron Pollard will be eager to prove himself again with more consistency. Skipper Rohit Sharma has been in good nick and his form will be crucial to the MI’s fortunes.
Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will be without their skipper Gautam Gambhir this time around and Dinesh Karthik will be lead the side instead. Karthik is an experienced skipper on the domestic circuit and his newfound ability as a finisher will be crucial. KKR also have Chris Lynn and Andre Russell who are among the biggest hitters in the business.
Gambhir will be in charge of the fortunes of Delhi Daredevils who will be aiming to make a big impression. The team has some excellent overseas stars like Glenn Maxwell and Daniel Christian who are impact players.
The combination of Gayle and Aaron Finch at the top makes Kings XI Punjab a very thrilling team and one can expect big fireworks if both men hit form. They are now captained by Ravichandran Ashwin who will be determined to prove his worth in the shorter versions of the game.
Sunrisers Hyderabad have lost their captain David Warner because of the CA ban but in Kane Williamson they have a captain with great ability. Alex Hales will take Warner’s place at the top and he has been in decent form recently. Leg spinner Rashid Khan was a hero in the last edition and he will hope that the pitches will help him again.
So forget the saas-bahu serials, the movies and any other programmes you watch on television and tune in to cricket’s biggest carnival on your the screens or at the ground.
Prime Time is IPL time until the final on May 27…