Mumbai: The crown jewel of Indian cricket, the IPL, is back home: bigger, better and longer.
It is the first time since 2011 that 10 teams will compete for the most coveted T20 trophy in world cricket.
Two new entrants, Lucknow Supergiants and Gujarat Titans, reaching a combined price of approximately $1.7 billion, show that the IPL brand continues to grow.
It has taken 14 years, but the competition has now done well and has really gone global.
The owners of the iconic Manchester Untied also wanted a slice of the IPL pie, but lost out on the bidding table to the RPSG Group and the UK-based CVC group.
With the COVID situation in the country now under control, the top of the board can breathe easy and after a two-year hiatus, IPL will be held in its entirety in India this season, with a capacity of at least 25 percent of the audience in stadiums.
The number of games has been increased from 60 to 74 with the addition of new teams, extending the IPL period to more than two months.
However all teams will play 14 games each as in the past but a longer tournament will affect the intensity and quality of cricket, time will tell.
The board has learned from the hard lessons of the 2021 edition, when the tournament had to be suspended halfway through the raging pandemic and could not be completed in the UAE until four months later.
There will be no need for air travel this season as all league matches will be hosted at four venues in Maharashtra (three Mumbai and one in Pune).
It will be a challenge for curators to keep the pitches correct for two months, but at least half of the tournament will be a high-scoring affair.
One can expect more resilience on the red ground of Wankhede, CCI and DY Patil, while the black ground in Pune is expected to offer more twist.
With Supergiants and Titans rebuilding their teams from scratch and the existing franchises having to release some of their players for the mega sale, the 2022 edition may well be one of the most competitive in tournament history.
Ahead of the World Cup to be played in Australia later this year, the IPL will also determine the fate of a few Indian players.
No home advantage for MI?
Rohit Sharma has maintained that there will be no home field advantage for Mumbai Indians, but he and the likes of Kieron Pollard, Suryakumar Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Ishan Kishan probably wouldn’t mind playing in their own backyard.
After releasing the Pandya brothers and Trent Boult, the team doesn’t look the same formidable outfit on paper.
At Royal Challengers Bangalore, all eyes will be on Virat Kohli as usual, although he has happily relinquished the captaincy.
With the burden of leading off his shoulders, the former India skipper is expected to return to his batting order and play a key role in taking the team to its elusive title.
Longtime CSK batter Faf du Plessis has been given the captain’s armband in the hopes that he could do what has not been done before at RCB.
Farewell season for Dhoni?
Dhoni has done a Dhoni by giving up the CSK captaincy three days before their opening match. While his decision didn’t come as a shock, it has sparked speculation as to whether he would play in all games.
The 40-year-old stepping aside has also put Ravindra Jadeja in the spotlight, who will captain a high-profile team for the first time.
Jadeja’s stellar form in international cricket over the past few years would certainly give him the confidence to lead from the front and in times of crisis he will no doubt have Dhoni by his side.
Time for Iyer, KL and Hardik to strengthen their captaincy
After leading Delhi Capitals to their first-ever final, Iyer was eliminated as captain due to a shoulder injury. He decided to go back to the auction and KKR paid a lot of money for his services.
The stylish batter has shown rich form for India lately and he hopes to take that to the IPL and inspire KKR to their third title.
His Indian teammate Hardik Pandyaprogress of the IPL will be closely monitored. After losing his place in the Indian team for being unable to bowl regularly in 2019 following back surgery, Hardik has a point to prove.
It’s still not clear if he would bowl often in the IPL, which makes his form with the bat all the more important. Anyway, he will have to come up with something special to revive his career and also make sure novice Gujarat put on a competitive show.
Hardik’s good friend KL Rahul will also have to inspire a young unit. The success that eludes him as captain at both India and IPL levels, the opener will see another prolific season with the bat in mind, alongside leading an exciting bunch of cricketers.
Ex-Tripura CM Demands White Paper On ‘Indebtedness’ Inherited From Left Front Rule