Chennai Super Kings is back: This is by far the biggest event of IPL 2018. Captain MS Dhoni, Vice-Captain Suresh Raina and Sir Ravindra Jadeja have already been reunited.
They may try to go after players like Ravichandran Ashwin and Murali Vijay to complete the party. Interestingly it appears that both Ashwin and Vijay have virtually retired from international T20s.
Faf du Plessis, who played for CSK in the final of the 2015 edition, is also in the auctions with a base price of Rs 1.5 crore, though Kings XI Punjab is also eyeing him.
Dhoni first became captain in 2007 and was soon leading India in Tests, ODIs, T20s and he was also CSK captain.
In 2016, he quit complete India captaincy and it was also his last leadership stint with Rising Pune Supergiants. 2017 was the first year when Dhoni was captain neither for India nor IPL since 2007.
But Dhoni the captain is back in 2018. How will the fresh start suit him? Will he regain the Midas touch from the very first match?
Both CSK fans and rivals will watch Dhoni and his boys with keen interest.
Raina's make or break year: 2017 was a mixed bag for Raina. He got picked up for the T20 series with England, but was dropped after that and even failed the YoYo fitness test for Team India.
While he did clear it subsequently, Raina still found himself out in the cold. He will have to do something spectacular in IPL 2018 if he wants to find himself in the squad for the ODI World Cup in England in 2019.
Of course Raina, IPL and CSK are a perfect fit and there’s no reason why Raina shouldn’t do well in the 2018 edition too. 2017 was a good year for Raina where he scored 442 runs at an average of 40.2, so his IPL form continues to be rock steady despite his international slump.
Raina is the all-time IPL top run-getter, but it could change with one bad season. Take a look at the leaders: Raina (4540), Virat Kohli (4418), Rohit Sharma (4207) and Gambhir (4132). While Chris Gayle is the clear leader with 265 sixes, the race for second spot is tight: Raina (173), Rohit (172) and Kohli (159). Raina also has the most IPL matches (161) and catches (86).
Rajasthan Royals is back too: While all the focus is on CSK, we should not forget that RR is returning too. Of course they begin from scratch with the job falling in the hands of Steve Smith. Smith has had a stellar run in international cricket though not that much in IPL.
He was part of Pune Warriors India that shut down. He was part of RPS and that shut down too. He got the ire of some fans as he replaced Dhoni for the RPS captaincy. Now he begins from scratch with RR once again and has his task cut out rebuilding the team. Many restarts for him!
While Smith's international run has been Bradmanesque off late, his 2017 IPL season was decent too where he made 472 runs at an average of 37. He however had a surprisingly low strike rate of 122. Smith it must be said is more suited to Tests and ODIs rather than T20s.
However, Royals will pin their hopes on Smith for it was another Aussie in the form of Shane Warne who got them the inaugural IPL. Interestingly, only Indian and Aussie captains have won the IPL.
Indians: MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma.
Aussies: Warne, Adam Gilchrist and David Warner. RR must be hoping Smith joins this list!
The Chris Conundrum: Gayle is international cricket’s greatest conundrum. He has two Test triple centuries, but he last played in Tests in 2014. He is also in and out of the shorter formats of the game for the West Indies.
And now this brutal RCB hitter finds himself in the auction with a base price of Rs 2 crore in the marquee list. One doesn’t have to check the form of this hard-hitter and he can get going anytime.
The number of IPL records Gayle has is mind-boggling… Most man of the match awards: 18. Fastest century: 30 balls. Most centuries: 5. Most sixes: 265. Highest score: 175*. Most sixes in an innings: 17.
Gayle is 38 and one hopes we can see a few more Gaylestorms before he finally decides to call it a day.
Royals and Kings XI Punjab lead in the purses: Royals has taken Smith and KXIP Axar Patel leaving them to build a brand new team with a kitty of Rs 67.5 crore. So these will be the teams to follow at the auctions as they are building absolutely brand new teams and can go really high in the bidding war.
The teams with the lowest money left after retentions—Rs 47 crore—are CSK, Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils. CSK may go really high with Ashwin, meaning they might end up with the lowest kitty to fill in the rest of the players.
Other changes: Everyone is used to watching Sony telecast the IPL, but this year it will be Star Sports and they spent a whopping Rs 16,347.5 crores for the five-year rights. Also from 4pm and 8pm, the timings have changed to 530pm and 7pm.
That means that when there are two matches in a day, there will be some simultaneous play and you will be forced to choose your match.