New Delhi: The Indian Premier League (IPL) keeps getting bigger with each passing edition and the return of MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Shane Warne-coached Rajasthan Royals (RR) for the 11th edition only adds to the cult of the most popular Twenty20 league in the world.
Both Super Kings and Royals are back after serving two-year bans for their role in the spot-fixing scandal but their fans have remained as loyal as ever, especially the ones supporting the men in yellow.
The wait to see Dhoni and Co back playing for the Chennai side only made them desperate, as it was evident during a warm-up game at Chepauk where fans turned up in huge numbers.
They would be expecting nothing less than a third trophy from the Super Kings and Royals would be hoping that Warne inspires them to another triumph after 10 long years.
However, if anyone has unfinished business over a decade of IPL, it is India captain Virat Kohli. He made his intent amply clear earlier this week.
"More than the fans I want to win the cup," said the champion batsman.
In Kohli and AB de Villiers presence, batting was never an issue for RCB and this time the last season’s wooden spooners seem to have enough firepower in the bowling department.
The Yuzvendra Chahal-led spin attack has been bolstered by the entry of Washington Sundar. The management still has faith in left-arm spinner Pawan Negi, for whom they used the Right To Match card at the auction.
They have a top-quality Indian pacer in Umesh Yadav who will be supported by Delhi’s Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj, who made his international debut in November.
Also holding key to their chances would be England all-rounder Chris Woakes, the most expensive player RCB bought at the auction.
While there is never a shortage of star players in the lucrative league but injuries and the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa have robbed the tournament of at least four world-class players.
Mitchell Starc and Kagiso Rabada will miss the IPL due to injuries while Steven Smith and David Warner, who both were named captains of Royals and Sunrisers respectively, were barred from the competition after Cricket Australia banned them for one year for their role in the infamous ball-tampering incident in Cape Town.
Both Royals and Sunrisers will undoubtedly miss the services of their star players but at the same would be determined to put the setback behind under new captains Ajinkya Rahane and Kane Williamson.
Contrary to their reputation of spending frugally, Royals went all out at the auction time spending big money on the likes of Ben Stokes (Rs 12.5 crore) and Jaydev Unadkat (Rs 11.5 crore), who ended up as seasons costliest buys....