Cricket: Expanded IPL returns to India with COVID curbs | Cricket News

The Indian Premier League returns for its biggest season on Saturday, with a galaxy of top names and two new franchises expands the world’s richest cricket competition to 10 teams for its 15th edition.

But crowds in the cricket-crazy nation will, at least, initially, be limited to 25% capacity with group games limited to four locations – one in Pune and three in Mumbai.

Venues for the three playoffs and the May 29 final have yet to be announced.

International T20 greats such as Australia’s David Warner and England’s Jos Buttler will return to high-octane cricket in two months, but fellow Englander Ben Stokes and veteran West Indies smasher Chris Gayle are the big names that will be absent.

Teams will be split into two groups of five, based on their previous IPL records, for a 70-match regular season that promises to be completed entirely in India for the first time since 2019 as coronavirus pandemic.

Arun Dhumal, treasurer of the Board of Supervisors of Cricket in India (BCCI), told AFP news agency: “This season will be with a lot of spectators and we hope to have full capacity soon.”

“The new teams bring a lot of excitement and after the player auction, in a way, all the teams are new. There’s a lot of new blood and we hope that’s exciting for the players and fans alike. ”

10 teams splashed $75 million to buy 204 players in last month’s auction with the Mumbai Indians bringing in Ishan Kishan for a whopping $2 million.

British tennis player Liam Livingstone is the most expensive foreign player, costing the Punjab Kings $1.52 million to boost his bid to win his first IPL title.

The two new teams, formed at a staggering total cost of $1.6 billion, are the Gujarat Titans, owned by US venture capital fund CVC, and Lucknow Super Giants, backed by the Indian tycoon. Degree Sanjiv Goenka.

Team IPL Gujarat Titans
IPL group Gujarat Titans owned by US venture capital fund CVC [File: Ajit Solanki/AP]

The Mumbai Indians led by Rohit Sharma are the most successful IPL team, winning five record titles in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020.

The Chennai Super Kings, led by former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, are the defending champions and will open the season against Kolkata Knight Riders, owned by Bollywood giants Shah Rukh Khan, at Wankhede’s Stadium. Mumbai on Saturday.

The two-month extra round will see 74 matches with all teams led by some of the greats of former cricket, including Australia’s Ricky Ponting and New’s Tom Moody and Stephen Fleming Zealand and Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka.

The Gujarat Titans first-timers caught up with critically-acclaimed spinster Rashid Khan of Afghanistan, but the explosive pace of Britain’s Jofra Archer may not be visible to the Mumbai Indians after he missed the Ashes in Australia with an elbow injury.

Among the home team’s superstars, Virat Kohli will be under pressure after resigning as India captain and must endure, to his lofty standards, a gentle spell on the unrecorded bat. goals in a century of international competition since November 2019.

Having tried and failed to win the IPL title for nine seasons as captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore, “King Kohli” also had to step aside with South Africa’s Faf du Plessis taking over.

“(Kohli) doesn’t look very confident but he needs a bit of luck. I’m sure you’ll like the same Virat, very freestyle, very dominant polish,” Vijay Lokapally, a veteran journalist and Kohli biographer, told AFP.

“And it’s good if we expect him to be excellent all the time, that speaks to the respect he has for the world of cricket.”

Tournaments start in India in April last year but had to be halted half a month later due to an increase in COVID-19 infections across the country.

It was finally continued in September in the United Arab Emirates, with Chennai Super Kings beat Kolkata Knight Riders in the final on October 15 in Dubai.

The pandemic also forced the IPL to play in the UAE in 2020.

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