Glitzy IPL Marks the Start of Indian Sporting Events in COVID Times

IPL 2020 will be a happy distraction for the so far mundane year, with Kohli, Dhoni, Sharma all set to lock horns, it'll be interesting to see who dominates whom.

  • PTI
  • Updated: September 18, 2020, 5:21 PM IST
Glitzy IPL Marks the Start of Indian Sporting Events in COVID Times

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's poker face, Virat Kohli's raw emotions, and Rohit Sharma's effortless handling of his 'Galacticos' will be back to charm cricket fans across the globe with the Indian Premier League starting on Saturday, promising to be a happy distraction in a world scarred by COVID-19.

Rohit's defending champions Mumbai Indians will be locking horns with Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings in what is likely to be an exciting opening showdown.

The tournament, which has been shifted to the UAE due to five million-plus COVID cases in India, is a 'TV-only event', expected to be lapped up by all and sundry who crave for cricket and Bollywood in equal measure during prime time.

READ MOREComplete List of Players From All Eight Squads

IPL happening on foreign shores is not a new phenomenon, not even the shift to the Emirates but as Indian sports hits the restart button with the billion-dollar cricketing extravaganza, the hugely popular event to be held closed doors in a bio-secure environment will be a new experience.

David Warner or Chris Gayle's towering sixes welcomed by artificial crowd cheer will be the new normal and the deafening roars during Super Overs will be missing but no one can complain as at least the show will go on in amid a devastating health crisis.

READ MORE: 'Athleticism and Fielding Could be Biggest Challenge facing MS Dhoni's CSK', Says Bangar

A look at the teams would indicate that Mumbai Indians by a distance is the most formidable with Rohit, Pandya brothers -- Hardik and Krunal --, the indomitable Kieron Pollard, and the 'King of Death' bowling Jasprit Bumrah giving it a menacing look.

The perennial Dad's Army Chennai Super Kings can never be counted out till the time MS Dhoni is calling the shots, at least.

Experience can't be bought and the likes of Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, and Ravindra Jadeja have given their blood and sweat for the 'Yellows' and it would be no different this time.

For Kohli, winning a tournament as a captain would reaffirm his status even as naysayers question his style of leadership. The team is a shade better with the presence of Aaron Finch, Chris Morris, and the wonderfully gifted Devdutt Padikkal, who if all goes well, is destined to become a big name in years to come.

Delhi Capitals, with their newfound vigor and more pragmatic new owners, found their mojo last year and would like to go one better under an enormously talented skipper in Shreyas Iyer, who can be matched in skills by a Prithvi Shaw or a Rishabh Pant.

Seasoned hands like Ravichandran Ashwin would be an ideal foil for the team's youthful exuberance.

KXIP's KL Rahul is a class act and how he shapes as a leader could also create a narrative for the future when Indian cricket goes through another change of guard in the next few years.

There will be a lot of interest as to how he handles players like Glenn Maxwell, Gayle, and Mohammed Shami, who are devastating on their days but can be ordinary on some others.

The Sunrisers Hyderabad once again will be gunning for a place in the summit clash and their skipper David Warner, who has won the IPL before, has always led by example.

There is Jonny Bairstow's flair, Kane Williamson's poise, and Rashid Khan's flamboyance with a host of youngsters like Virat Singh and Priyam Garg eager to make a name for themselves.

When the IPL was partially held in UAE back in 2014, KKR were the eventual champions.

If Ben Stokes is the world's best all-rounder across formats, Andre Russell probably is a bit more destructive in this format as he hit 52 sixes during their horrendous last edition.

The 2018 U-19 World Cup stars -- Shubman Gill, Shivam Mavi, and Kamlesh Nagarkoti -- add a dash of youth. Eoin Morgan's leadership skills that might prove to be handy in case Dinesh Karthik misfires.

Rajasthan Royals is the weakest team lacking quality in the Indian line-up but expect Jos Buttler, Steve Smith, and Jofra Archer to do the heavy lifting in Stokes' absence. Stokes is currently in New Zealand to be with his ailing father.

MI start favorites in the opener against CSK

Mumbai Indians are traditional slow-starters in the IPL but on paper, they will be the favorites against Chennai Super Kings in the opening game in Abu Dhabi.

MI looks the most prepared and set team with a scary batting line-up of Rohit, Quinton de Kock, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Hardik, and Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard. Trent Boult and Nathan Coulter-Nile will complete their quota of foreigners.

For CSK, the core has remained the same save for Suresh Raina, who was their worst performer last year and has pulled out citing personal reasons this year. His replacement Ruturaj Gaikwad remains in quarantine having tested COVID-9 positive at least five times.

But there is Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, and Bravo, who have all won matches from hopeless situations. Mitchell Santner and Lungi Ngidi will complete their four-foreigner line-up in case Sam Curran and Josh Hazlewood are unavailable.

In case Curran is allowed to travel to Abu Dhabi, he could well be the pinch hitter at the top of the order.

CSK can only be ignored at one's own peril.