Champions Chennai Super Kings will kick off the 15th edition of the Indian Premier League against former winners Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday as the Twenty20 tournament returns home with an expanded version following the addition of two new teams.
The entire 2020 edition of the cash-rich tournament and the second half of last year’s tournament were held in the United Arab Emirates as India grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mumbai will host 55 matches in three stadiums in and around the city, while Pune – also in the Western state of Maharashtra – will host the remaining 15 league games which means air travel will not be required for the league’s 10 franchises.
Fans will also be allowed to attend matches, with a 25 per cent capacity limit, during the 2022 edition with COVID-19 restrictions easing in the country.
The IPL, which counts Bollywood stars and billionaires among franchise owners and draws the best cricketers globally, will expand to 10 teams after Lucknow and Ahmedabad paid a combined $US1.7 billion to enter the world’s richest cricket tournament.
Chennai, one of the most consistent sides since the tournament’s inception in 2008, defeated Kolkata to lift their fourth IPL title last year and Saturday’s season-opener will be a repeat of the 2021 final.
Kolkata will have a chance to take revenge on Saturday at the Wankhede Stadium, with both sides going into this year’s edition under new captains.
India’s former World Cup winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni handed over the reins of Chennai, who have also finished runner-up on five occasions, to national team all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja in a surprise announcement on Thursday.
“Jadeja, who has been an integral part of Chennai Super Kings since 2012, will only be the third player to lead CSK,” the team said. “Dhoni will continue to represent Chennai Super Kings this season and beyond.”
Kolkata will be led by India batsman Shreyas Iyer.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore were also forced into a leadership change and named Faf du Plessis as their leader after India batting mainstay Virat Kohli stepped down.
Five-time champions Mumbai will continue to be led by India’s all-format captain Rohit Sharma and the side will play 11 of their 14 league matches across three venues in their home city.
“It’s a relatively new team, a lot of new guys have come in,” Rohit told reporters. “70-80 per cent of the squad haven’t played in Mumbai before. So there is no such thing as an added advantage.”