IPL returns as Mumbai eye sixth title

MS Dhoni of Chennai Super Kings (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Chandrashekar Bhat

MUMBAI INDIANS, armed with big-money signing Cameron Green, will bid for a record-extending sixth title when the Indian Premier League (IPL) starts on Friday (30), in what could be Chennai veteran MS Dhoni’s swansong.

The 16th edition also returns to its pre-Covid glory days, with 74 matches scheduled at 12 venues over eight weeks.

In the opener at the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, defending champions Gujarat Titans will play Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings.

England all-rounder Sam Curran returns to Punjab Kings after being bought for $2.23 million (£1.81m), making him the most expensive IPL player ever.

Green, 1.98 metres (6 feet and 6 inches) tall, joined IPL’s most successful outfit Mumbai after he became the second-most expensive buy at $2.11m (£1.71m) in the December auction.

India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin called Green a “once-in-a-generation” cricketer after the batting all-rounder hit his maiden Test hundred in India earlier this month.

“I think he’s a fantastic player. Just the raw materials for a person as tall as him, lovely levers, good batting sense, can bowl and really hit the deck well, moves pretty well on the field,” Ashwin said.

Mumbai, led by India captain Rohit Sharma, will be without injured pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah but have been boosted by the return of England fast bowler Jofra Archer, who missed last season due to injury.

Dhoni and Stokes

Chennai are not far behind Mumbai with four titles – and are five-time runners-up – and Dhoni’s towering presence as wicketkeeper-batsman and captain has been key.

Dhoni, 41, remains a huge star more than two years after his international retirement.

He said he owed a “thank you” to his Chennai fans after last year’s IPL, which was held in just two cities in the group stage.

Dhoni apart, the team’s success will depend on all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja, Moeen Ali and England Test skipper Ben Stokes, who was bought by the franchise for $1.96m (£1.59m).

According to media reports, Stokes is also being considered as a possible successor to Dhoni as Chennai captain.

Australia’s David Warner, South Africans Aiden Markram and Faf du Plessis are the three overseas captains in this IPL.

Warner will lead Delhi Capitals in the absence of the injured Rishabh Pant, who suffered injuries in a car crash in December, as the team again chase their first ever IPL title.

Markram will lead 2016 winners Sunrisers Hyderabad while fellow South African Du Plessis continues as Bangalore skipper after Kohli stepped down.

The league, which began in 2008, has grown to be the world’s richest cricket tournament and a huge revenue earner for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).