The Indian Premier League starts on Saturday, five months late and shifted to the United Arab Emirates because of the coronavirus pandemic.
AFP Sport highlights five players to watch in the 53-day Twenty20 extravaganza.
Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
Captain Kohli will be key to Royal Challengers Bangalore’s hopes in the 13th edition of the tournament.
The star batsman hasn’t been at his best in the T20 tournament, save the 2016 edition when he scored 640 runs in 16 matches to guide Bangalore to a runner-up finish.
But with ‘King Kohli’ backed by big guns including South Africa’s AB de Villiers and Aaron Finch of Australia, Bangalore will be optimistic about doing better than last year, when they finished with the wooden spoon.
David Warner (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
Back as captain of Sunrisers Hyderabad two years after being replaced over a cheating scandal, Warner is aiming for the top.
The explosive opener smashed 692 runs from 12 matches last year after being barred from the 2018 edition over the ‘Sandpapergate’ affair during a Test against South Africa.
But Warner’s leadership and exploits with the bat helped Hyderabad clinch the 2016 title, and he is looking for a repeat of that in the UAE.
“I am sure I will be doing my very, very best to try and lift the IPL trophy coming this year,” he said, after being reinstated as Hyderabad skipper.
Jos Buttler (Rajasthan Royals)
Buttler has formed the backbone of England’s one-day batting since their World Cup triumph last year and is a key player of his IPL team, the Rajasthan Royals.
The wicketkeeper-batsman recently hit his T20 international best of 77 not out against Australia in what seemed a perfect tune-up for the IPL.
Buttler, who has a strike rate of over 150 in the IPL, plays alongside fellow countrymen Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer for the inaugural champions, who will be hoping to do better than last year when they finished seventh.
Andre Russell (Kolkata Knight Riders)
A West Indian power-hitter who has single-handedly won games for Kolkata Knight Riders, Russell is any bowler’s nightmare.
The all-rounder was the IPL’s Most Valuable Player last year, with 11 wickets and 510 runs for Kolkata.
The two-time champions are considering promoting the middle-order batsman to the number three position and get the maximum out of his attacking play.
“If he comes in at number three and bats 60 balls, he might even score a double-hundred. Anything can happen with ‘Dre’ Russ. He is almost the heartbeat of the team,” said KKR team mentor David Hussey.
Rashid Khan (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
The Afghanistan spin sensation passed 300 T20 wickets during the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League.
Rashid, 21, has plied his trade in T20 leagues across the globe but it was his exploits for the IPL’s Hyderabad team that grabbed the most attention.
The world’s top-ranked T20 bowler has claimed 55 wickets in 46 IPL games and is handy as a lower-order batsman.
According to his Hyderabad team-mate Bhuvneshwar Kumar, having Rashid is “is always a delight for any team”. #innlive