The IPL is back. The big names from around the world come together, friends will turn foe and vice versa for these two months. There’s something for everyone in the Indian Premier League, because had it not been so, it couldn’t have captivated the imagination of the public for as long as ten years. And as it steps into its 11th chapter, it’s probably stronger than ever, or at least the biggest players in the broadcast market – Star India Pvt. Ltd. – think so, bagging the TV and digital rightsfor the next five years for INR 16347.5 crore. The poster boys of the tournament – Chennai Super Kings are back, as are the inaugural champions, Rajasthan Royals. Here’s everything that’s in store as the tournament enters an exciting new decade.
So what should one look forward to this IPL 2018?
The wait is finally over as arguably the most-celebrated franchise of the tournament marks a fresh guard after spending time on the sidelines following a suspension handed out over the betting charges against their team principal Gurunath Meiyappan. If one thought there could be some love lost in these two years, videos of CSK’s practice sessions playing out in front of a 15,000-strong crowd dispelled any notion of a concern. Although the Chennai-based franchise might have lost out to Mumbai Indians who bagged their third crown last season in the title race, they have left no stone unturned in maintaining their heart-to-heart connect with the populace. The city’s Thala, MS Dhoni, was retained as the leader and so was the core – Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Suresh Raina and Faf du Plessis – along with him. Only time will tell if CSK can be once again be a force to reckon with, but there’s little doubt that the sea of yellow and their whistles in tow will make their return a memorable affair.
Like CSK, RR too make a return, who were out with similar charges placed against co-owner Raj Kundra. But even before they make a return, they have been dealt with a body blow in the form of a ban spelt out to their original skipper Steven Smith in the wake of the infamous ball-tampering saga. However, they wouldn’t let that steal their thunder as there are no few fortresses as strongly built as Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur – the best venue for any home side with RR enjoying a win-loss ratio of 2.67, the highest for any team. So if the whistles ring loud in Chepauk, there will be no less Halla in Jaipur.
One of the most interesting spaces to follow will be how a few new leaders not just shape their fortunes but those of their teams too. Ravichandran Ashwin has never led in a T20 game and his leading of Kings XI Punjab, a team with a greatly different culture and vibe than the ones he’s been accustomed to, will make for an interesting case study. Ashwin is not just an outsider, but will also be faced with the challenges of turning the fortunes around of a team that has not only won no titles but also has been at its poorest form in recent times. Similarly, a Kane Williamson is the stark opposite of David Warner, someone Sunrisers Hyderabad’s recent success was attributed to. Honestly, there was a slim possibility for the New Zealander to make it to the first eleven but the situation right now is such that he will have to lift himself to the pedestal of leading the side, and by example.
Dinesh Karthik, too, isn’t much different from the aforementioned captains. Karthik will walk into a team that has for long belonged to Gautam Gambhir, who didn’t just break away from the Sourav Ganguly hangover but delivered two championships to the franchise. And now, Karthik will be expected to meet these lofty expectations and mix into a culture that the Knight Riders talk quiet highly about. Karthik, though, has experience of leading in the IPL, having skippered Delhi Daredevils in six matches across the 2010 and 2014 seasons. He has also led Tamil Nadu in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, winning 11 out of 12 games, while in the Tamil Nadu Premier League, he has seven wins and one loss as a captain.