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Rohit Sharma.  (Photo: Getty Images)
Rohit Sharma. (Photo: Getty Images)

IPL 2020 preview: Six things to look forward to

From the romance of Sharjah to the prospect of seeing Indian cricketers in action after ages, here are six reasons to get excited about the new season

Buckle up. Choose your cricket line-ups and keep those team jerseys ready because the 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) starts today. The 53-day tournament—with the final on 10 November—has a new title sponsor, no crowds, a neutral venue (United Arab Emirates), but it will hopefully have the same thrilling cricketing action that has been on display since 2008. Here are six interesting subplots to watch out for.

Champions versus Champions-elect?

Last year’s finalists go head-to-head in the opener on Saturday. Between the two, the Mumbai Indians (4) and Chennai Super Kings, or CSK (3), share seven IPL titles. M.S. Dhoni’s recent retirement from all forms of international cricket means his sole focus can be on adding to CSK’s tally. Facing him will be the tournament’s most successful captain, Rohit Sharma. Last year, Sharma guided Mumbai to their fourth title. The UAE isn’t a happy hunting ground for the team—they have lost all the matches played there. Can they break the jinx this time?

M.S. Dhoni.
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M.S. Dhoni.


Can Kohli deliver the title for RCB?

When it comes to the IPL, luck just doesn’t favour the Indian captain. Virat Kohli, who has been with the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) since season 1, is yet to get his hands on the coveted trophy despite having performed magnificently with the bat—he leads the charts with 5,412 runs scored so far. On paper, RCB boast of a strong side. Kohli will hope his serial “underachievers" can go all the way this year.

Virat Kohli.
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Virat Kohli. (Photo: Hindustan Times)


Keeping covid-19 at bay

The covid-19 pandemic has forced a change in plans for the world’s biggest Twenty20 league. Everyone from the players to the support staff is part of an IPL “secure bio-bubble": They will essentially be isolated from the rest of the world. All eight teams have their own bio-bubbles. Apart from strict social distancing measures, the teams have been advised to avoid common areas.

Indian cricket is back 

For the first time since February, when they were whitewashed in the Tests and One Day Internationals in New Zealand, Indian players will be seen in action, albeit on club duty. Fans will be eager to see their fitness levels and form post-lockdown. With a grudge tour to Australia coming up in December, national team players might also be hoping to strike form in the IPL and carry the momentum with them on tour. 

Delhi keeps the faith in its young captain 

At 25, Shreyas Iyer is the youngest captain in the IPL. He took over the reins at Delhi Capitals from Gautam Gambhir in the 2018 season. The following year, Delhi made it to the knockout stage. That performance seems to have been enough for the management to repose faith in Iyer, even though the squad has potential skippers in senior players like Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan and new acquisition (and 2018-19 Kings XI captain) Ravichandran Ashwin. 

IPL returns to the UAE 

Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi were co-hosts for the first 20 games of the 2014 IPL, before the tournament returned to India after the general election. This year, they will host the whole season. One of the deciding factors in which team pulls ahead early could be who adapts quicker to conditions there. Seeing Indian cricketers in Sharjah should bring back memories for those who watched the team’s epic battles, especially with Pakistan, at this venue in the 1980s and 1990s.

nitin.s@htlive.com

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