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Available on  gplay  » Cricket » IPL 2024: Kohli's 16-year itch, MSD - the evergreen captain, Pant's return, Rohit's bleeding heart & the Cup

IPL 2024: Kohli's 16-year itch, MSD - the evergreen captain, Pant's return, Rohit's bleeding heart & the Cup

Source: PTI
Last updated on: March 21, 2024 17:55 IST
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IMAGE: Four different narratives will play out in the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League. Photograph: BCCI

The never-ending speculation surrounding Mahendra Singh Dhoni's retirement, Virat Kohli's 16-year-itch, the second chance that life has offered Rishabh Pant and Rohit Sharma's bleeding heart will make for intriguing sub-plots in the annual carnival called the Indian Premier League starting on Friday.

Known to do the unexpected, Dhoni stepped down as captain on the eve of the IPL opener against Royal Challengers Bengaluru, handing over the reins to Ruturaj Gaikwad, a man he mentored for the leadership role.

But the 42-year-old, will once again smile wryly when asked if it's his last year. His heir apparent Pant, literally back from the brink after a life-threatening accident, will be desperate to show the world that he can still hit those one-handed sixes with elan.


In between, he could also be slipping in those quotable quotes behind the stumps that are considered broadcast gold.

Rohit will be the last person to show his scars hidden behind the typical 'Mumbaiya' nonchalance as he gets down to enjoying his evening dates at the Wankhede albeit without the captain's title. The partisan crowd would nonetheless look forward to those pulled sixes.

As for King Kohli, he would be in pursuit of that elusive jewel in his crown. By his own admission, he has been longing for a big title and his own passionate approach to the game would be a key factor in deciding whether the RCB men manage to emulate the women this year.

A bigger prize is also at stake for at least 10 to 12 other players, who will be vying for eight slots in the New York-bound flight that will take off at the end of May for the T20 World Cup in the USA and the Caribbean.

There will be unbelievable comebacks by some, a few new stars will emerge, there will also be those usual rags to riches stories and all of it could unfold in a matter of four minutes, the time it takes to deliver one over.

Just like overnight stars, the merciless social media will find villains too.

The likes of Pat Cummins (SRH) and Mitchell Starc (KKR), who raked in big money during the auction, will shoulder a massive burden of expectations through the season.

For every six that they concede at the death or each yorker that turns into a full toss, the two will be reminded of salaries which are north of USD two million.

IMAGE: Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians wil enter the tournament as the most successful teams. Photograph: CSK/X

CSK and MI the eternal favourites

Away from the money talk and purely on cricketing prowess, CSK would be the favourites for a sixth IPL title with a squad that has all bases covered. 

Rachin Ravindra was a breakout World Cup star but who knows under Dhoni, he might become a T20 superstar.

Deepak Chahar, the much-maligned seamer who is often accused of making CSK his first priority, would like his wrists to do the talking for him and with new captain Ruturaj Gaikwad, Moeen Ali, and Ravindra Jadeja in the mix, anything can happen.

And how can one forget Dhoni, the smiling assassin. All it takes is one six in T20 cricket and Dhoni's love affair with the maximum is eternal.

For Mumbai Indians, it has been a story of all or nothing.

Five titles till 2020 and three years of lull forced them to change a captain, who can still whip up crazy sentiments.

IMAGE: Having replaced a stalwart like Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya will have his work cut out. Photograph: Mumbai Indians/X

Tough task for Hardik the captain

It will be a tightrope walk for Hardik Pandya the leader.

For other captains, they need to win the on-field games but Pandya needs to win the dressing room too. There will be seniors with bruised egos, knowing that a shot at leadership has bypassed them. They could well be difficult to handle.

If he wins that dressing room, half of his battle will be won as MI do have a solid batting line-up even if the bowling looks weak.

For RCB, the greatest inspiration could be the women's team that gave the men a crash course on how to play calmly at the business end where Kohli and Co. have faltered.

IMAGE: Royal Challengers Bangalore still continue their elusive search for the coveted IPL trophy. Photograph: RCB/X

Kohli alone cannot win it…

Kohli wouldn't mind 200 runs less but he would badly want that trophy. Dhoni has laid his hands on it five times, so has Rohit Sharma.

But what would rankle Kohli is the fact that even KKR has won it twice under his bete noire Gautam Gambhir.

However, Kohli alone cannot win it. The Dinesh Karthiks, the Faf du Plessis', the Glenn Maxwells and likes of Akash Deep need to believe that 'E saala Cup Naam de' (This time Cup is Ours).

IMAGE: With Gautam Gambhir back with the Knights, the former champs will look to lift their third IPL title. Photograph: KKR/X

The Gambhir influence

Gambhir, who is now back in the KKR camp, would be as ambitious if not more.

No one has forgotten the ugly war of words that broke out between him and Kohli. In his familiar KKR dugout, Gambhir the coach could make a difference.

A middle-order comprising Shreyas Iyer, Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh and Andre Russell can send shivers down any bowling attack's spine. And then comes Starc, who would need to justify his nearly Rs 25 crore deal.

IMAGE: Making a comeback to competitive cricket after a life-threatening car accident, Rishabh Pant will lead the Delhi Capitals from the front. Photograph: DC/X

Pant – the emotional story this season

The team that Gambhir quit, Lucknow Super Giants has a new coach in Justin Langer and it would like to do better than Play-offs this time but with a bowling attack that doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

Ditto for Delhi Capitals although Pant's comeback could well be the most emotionally charged story of this IPL.

Gujarat Titans, the team of the last two seasons, might not make it this time with no Pandya or Mohammed Shami, who is out injured, in its line-up.

Rajasthan Royals with Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sanju Samson, Dhruv Jurel and Jos Buttler will be serious contenders.

Sunrisers Hyderabad, despite having Pat Cummins as captain, and Shikhar Dhawan's Punjab Kings are not expected to go the distance.

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