NEW DELHI: The 16th edition of the men’s Indian Premier League cricket begins on Friday as 10 teams battle it out for the T20 title.
AFP Sport highlights five players to watch in the two-month extravaganza, which is being played in multiple Indian cities for the first time since the pandemic.
Sam Curran (Punjab Kings)
Punjab spent big on the England all-rounder in the IPL auction as the 24-year-old became the most expensive player in the tournament’s history at $2.23 million.
Curran’s stock as a “death bowler” rose during the T20 World Cup last year when his ability to stifle opposition batsmen in the final overs turned him into a potent weapon for champions England.
Curran said it was “very cool” to get back to Punjab, where he will play alongside his England teammate Liam Livingstone.
Another England star, Ben Stokes, has joined Curran’s former team Chennai Super Kings after being paid $1.96 million.
Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
The back-in-form Kohli is still searching for his first IPL title and remains key to his team’s success this season.
The star batsman has returned to his belligerent best across all formats after he struck his first international ton since 2019 in the T20 Asia Cup last year.
After falling for three golden ducks in the last edition, Kohli bounced back to play a part in his team’s final-four finish.
Bangalore, led by Faf du Plessis, will once again depend on Kohli and Australia’s Glenn Maxwell to break their title jinx.
Cameron Green (Mumbai Indians)
The Australian all-rounder is the latest addition to the champion Mumbai Indians franchise, which has won a record five titles, after being bought for $2.11 million in the auction.
Mumbai owner Akash Ambani said the 23-year-old, who recently hit a Test ton in India, gives them “lifetime value” with their strategy of picking younger players in the auction.
Green, standing tall at 1.98m (6 feet, 6 inches), will have many Australians for company in the league including Delhi Capitals captain David Warner.
Nicholas Pooran (Lucknow Super Giants)
A T20 league is incomplete without a West Indian hard-hitter and Lucknow were quick to pick up Pooran for $1.93 million in the auction.
Pooran, a wicketkeeper-batsman, stepped down as West Indies white-ball captain after the team’s first-round exit from the T20 World Cup last year and Hyderabad released him from their squad.
Suryakumar Yadav (Mumbai Indians)
Hailed as a T20 sensation with his strike rate of over 175, Suryakumar, or SKY as he is fondly called, will look to re-establish his worth for a team that made him a household name.
Suryakumar set the tournament ablaze in 2020 with his 480 runs including four half-centuries as he played a key part in Mumbai’s last IPL triumph.
Suryakumar, known as a 360-degree player for his ability to play all around the ground, suffered a nightmare ODI series against Australia with three successive golden ducks.
But he remains a key player for Mumbai, who will miss the services of injured pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah.