I expect IPL III to be the best of them all. There is a quiet, steely way the teams are approaching this extravaganza. There is no thumping of chests, no war cry, no feeding of the ever-hungry paparazzi. They know how fickle this format is and good starts are no guarantee to top finishes. The best of campaigns can get derailed and slow starters can zip past on the home stretch. It's a marathon. Teams need stars on the field as well as those up in the sky!
The story of this IPL could well be Sachin Tendulkar's. So far, the pastures of this format haven't interested him. The great man can adjust to all forms of the game and looks primed for the final frontier. A relaxed Tendulkar as captain will help.
A few other notings too. Teams who have better domestic performers are better insured. The wickets would be worn out and batsmen can party. A total of 180 could take some defending, more so since most playing areas are curtailed. Bowlers need to have a game plan and a relaxed attitude.
Matthew Hayden has already got tongues wagging with his mongoose bat. It has a shorter blade and longer handle and I am told the "sweet spot" is as much as twice that of a regular bat. The edges are thicker too so all those swishes off his big forearms could actually fly beyond those short-square boundaries. Wonder, if the man-giant needed it in the first place!
Most teams would look to conserve wickets for the final assault and in this respect the role of opening bowlers and batsmen would be critical. A good start or early wickets might as well be a clincher in this IPL. It's a cricket basic and still matters in any contest, any format. Good fielders too can turn a game on its head with smart run-outs. I expect Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders to make a move this season. Kolkata could still have a worry or two about their bowling but the house looks in order. The glam teams again would be Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils, the latter determined to break their semifinal jinx.
Kings XI Punjab have gone for a change of guard while the redoubtable Mahendra Singh Dhoni is ever on the prowl for Chennai Super Kings. Kieron Pollard, Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan are the young stars to watch out for.