With India still being caught up in World Cup fever after last weekends victory over Sri Lanka the IPL has only had a few days to grab the headlines but with two new teams, and a host of new players, cricket fans in India are eagerly anticipating the start of the tournament.
With the Pune Warriors and Kochi Tuskers Kerala joining the league and most of the franchises rebuilding their squads during the Player Auction in January this year’s IPL feels almost like a new tournament.
The multi million dollar league gets under way tonight at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai with the first of 74 games spread out over 7 weeks.
With the league expanding to 10 franchises during the winter the group stages will see the teams split into two groups of five with the top two teams qualifying for the knock out stages.
The defending IPL champions, the Chennai Super Kings come into this year’s tournament full of confidence having retained the services of a number of keys player who helped the Super Kings secure last years IPL crown.
While other franchises rebuilt their squads during the two day Player Auction in January the Super Kings carefully selected their team resigning players like MS Dhoni, Albie Morkel, Murali Vijay and Suresh Raina.
With a core of key players retained the Super Kings go into this year’s event as one of the favorites excepted to reach the IPL finals at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai at the end of May.
The key to the Super Kings success last year was their powerful top order with Vijay and Raina in tremendous form with the bat as the pair scored 910 runs between them.
Raina, the all time leading IPL run scorer ended the tournament with a vital half century in the final which helped the Super Kings secure a 22 run victory against the Mumbai Indians.
Despite missing out on Muttiah Muralitharan the Super Kings bowling attack will once again play a vital role in the Super Kings defence with Doug Bollinger and Tim Southee offering biggest threat with the ball.
The Super Kings opponents tonight may have one of the largest fan bases in the IPL and a passionate owner in Shahrukh Khan the Kolkata Knight Riders have failed to make an impact during the previous three IPL tournaments.
Khan’s answer to his team’s failings was to make Indian international Gautam Gambhir the most expensive cricketer in the history of the IPL when the Knight Riders paid $2.4 million to secure Gambhir during January’s Player Auction.
The Knight Riders also dumped previous skipper Sourav Ganguly and most of his under performing teammates and revamped the squad signing stars like Jacques Kallis, Brett Lee, Eoin Morgan, Shakib Al Hasan, Ryan ten Doeschate and Brad Haddin.
With a big hitting top order the Knight Riders will be confident of out gunning their opponents but a weekend bowling attack might be the teams down full when the pressure is own.
With Lee and Lakshmipathy Balaji as the team’s main threats the pressure will be on Kallis, Yusuf Pathan and ten Doeschate to step up to the mark with an older ball during the middle overs.
Should an injury prone Lee fail to make it through the entire tournament the Knight Riders could find themselves with an inexperienced attack with a place in the knock out stages of the tournament on the line.