For the next eight weeks, the Indian Premier League will again dominate the lives of cricket fans not only across India, but in different parts of the world as well. There is something heady about the Twenty20 game that elevates the sport as a spectacle. Understandably, it is the fours and the sixes that will appeal to the spectators, but over the years we have seen bowling tactics evolve considerably and fielding standards improve substantially, making for compelling viewing.
There is a glittering array of talent from across the globe waiting to explode sensationally. Of course, Kevin Pietersen was always a huge draw with his unique style of batting, and Michael Clarke will be missed because you need the best players to add to the quality of the event. But even without them, I am confident the Indian Premier League will continue to be a runaway success it has been for many years now.
HUNGRY TO SUCCEED
To me, the teams stack up fairly evenly, so it will all boil down to which team has more hunger and desire to win. I feel those sides that haven't won the title previously will be more resolute to go all the way. That's what will make Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians, both enormously powerful sides with a wealth of talent, dangerous outfits.
Royal Challengers seem to have all bases covered, having procured a host of Indian pace bowlers to address a problem area of last season when they narrowly failed to make it to the play-offs. In Chris Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli, who will enjoy his role as full-time captain, they have an array of some of the best batting talent in the world. And if they fire in tandem, they will take some stopping.
Likewise, the Mumbai Indians, have a new coach in John Wright, who knows what it takes to get the best out of the Indian talent. Mumbai have made a smart move in buying and making Ricky Ponting the captain. Ponting has not only been one of the best batsmen of his generation but he also has led Australia to victories in big tournaments such as the World Cup and the Champions Trophy.
If, between them, Wright and Ponting galvanise the talent, then Mumbai are well capable of going all the way.
That doesn't mean the teams who have already tasted success are to be taken any less lightly. Chennai Super Kings are always a cohesive unit and Kolkata Knight Riders will be desperate to build on last year's success. Each team will have the same goal — to hold the trophy aloft on May 26. While it can't be predicted who the winner will be, there will be no shortage of entertainment or drama along the way.
The writer is a former India pacer
TCM / HAWKEYE