Biggest cricket jamboree couldn't have better start than great Indian derby
New Delhi: The stage is set for cricket's biggest jamboree and the battle lines have been drawn for the brand new edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Considered one of the world's best leagues, IPL has flourished into a money spinning industry and at the same time the circus has churned out many-a-talent every season.
A look back at the past decade will tell you the story of thrills and spills laced with its own controversies. However, the proactive stand taken by the IPL bosses and the BCCI has kept the controversies under check and restricted it from getting beyond control.
Well the past ten editions have given the die-hard fans worth their money and the new season that kicks off on April 7 (Saturday) too offers plenty on platter.
Season 11 begins under the backdrop of the ball-tampering episode that rocked Australian cricket and knowing very well that any hint of reverse swing during the IPL matches will be under severe scrutiny.
This is also the edition that brings back Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals back into action after having served two-year ban due to betting scams.
As usual there is glitter and glamour to kick-start the circus, but the best thing on cards is the opening match between defending and three-time champions Mumbai Indians and two-time winner Chennai Super Kings.
Interestingly, as most of the teams looked for young talents during the auction in January, the Chennai think-tank opted for more experience and picked the entire core of former players retaining Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja and also added Dwayne Bravo to the list during the auction.
Mumbai Indians too kept their core with Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah retained and Krunal Pandya bought back at the auction.
Mumbai star for the last ten seasons, Harbhajan Singh, though, found a new home at Chennai as the yellow franchise's top bowler Ravichandran Ashwin headed north to Punjab and will be leading Preity Zinta's outfit.
All said and done, the Super India derby (Mumbai vs Chennai) will set the ball rolling and outline what everyone can expect during the scorching days that follow.
Statistically speaking, since the inaugural 2008 edition, Mumbai Indians have always held an edge over Chennai Super Kings, having won 13 of the 24 clashes between them, but this time around they don't have their leading wicket-takers Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh in their ranks.
Between the two teams, Malinga has been the most successful bowler and second and third in the list are Dwayne Bravo and Harbhajan Singh. The latter two are now playing for the yellow brigade this season, while Malinga went unsold and is serving Mumbai as a bowling mentor. The highest run getter Suresh Raina is also with CSK and on paper and experience, the Dhoni-led team holds advantage, though history favours the defending champions.
Another interesting statistics reveals that the three IPL finals the two teams have played against each other has also seen Mumbai winning twice.
However, there can't be a better beginning to the eleventh season with the Super Indian Derby at the Wankhede Stadium.
Meanwhile, the first double header of the season will be staged on Sunday (April 8) with Gautam Gambhir-led Delhi Daredevils taking on Ravichandran Ashwin-led Kings XI Punjab followed by a clash between Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore and Dinesh Karthik-led Kolkata Knight Riders.
With Rajasthan Royals playing Sunrisers Hyderabad on April 9, every team in fray would have played one match each and set the tempo of the tournament.
Hope the jamboree lives up to everyone's expectation once again.
The author is the former Sports Editor of Times of Oman and a freelance writer.