The Indian Premier League is here and it kicks off in Abu Dhabi with current champions, Mumbai Indians, and former champions, Kolkata Knight Riders, squaring off.
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Date: Wednesday, 16 April
Start time: 14:30 GMT, 18:30 local time
Live on: Sony Six, Star Sports HD, Star Sports 1 (India), ITV4 (United Kingdom), SuperSport (South Africa), OSN (UAE) SkyTV ( New Zealand), Network Ten (Australia), Channel 9 (Bangladesh), Sportsnet and Omini (Canada), Sports Max (West Indies), Geo Super (Pakistan), Starhub (Singapore).
Weather: Temperatures are pretty brutal in the UAE this time of the year. Day time temperatures will reach up to 37 degrees celsius on Wednesday, according to Accuweather. Luckily, the game begins in the evening and the heat will drop down to around 27 degrees celsius.
There is no way of telling how any of this is going to start for either team. The squads have been vastly rejigged and the local players are playing away from their usual home conditions. As starts of the seasons go, this is quite possibly the most intriguing commencement of the Indian Premier League ever.
The temporary shift to the UAE, due to elections in India, adds a completely new dimension and challenge to the competition. The only thing teams can be judged by is the players they have at their disposal. Kolkata are led by the experienced Gautam Gambhir and have a hefty line-up of experience and "match-winners". Mumbai are without Sachin Tendulkar, who has retired, but they still come with players like Lasith Malinga and the evergreen Michael Hussey.
On paper, the match-up is lip-smacking. Malinga will be bowling to Jacques Kallis and Narine will be trying to outsmart Rohit Sharma and is fellow countryman Kieron Pollard.
Mumbai might have a few concerns over fitness, though. Pollard and Corey Anderson will come into the tournament with relatively little match practice under their belts. Anderson was part of New Zealand's World Twenty20 squad, but has not played since the Black Caps crashed out of the tournament at the end of March. Pollard, meanwhile, missed out on the World T20 altogether and although he is fresh off a first-class century for Trinidad, he was sidelined by a serious knee injury prior to that.
To try and predict anything about the tournament opener is foolish. Conditions, teams, fitness, will to perform and everything else will play a part.
The only thing that is for sure is that with so many star players on show, it's not something that you want to miss. The Indian Premier League might have its issues off the field, but when it comes to just cricket, there is some extraordinary action to look forward to.
Michael Hussey was the top run-scorer in 2013 with 733 runs in 17 games at an average of 52.35. He will be key at the top of the order for Mumbai and his experience will be one of their most valuable assets.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Sunil Narine is always a threat, no matter where he plays. He finished last year's IPL with 22 wickets at an average of 15.90. Although he was somewhat underwhelming in the World T20, Narine will be key in keeping at turning the screws on the run rate.
Mike Hussey, Ambati Rayudu, Rohit Sharma, Apoorv Wankhade, Corey Anderson, Shreyas Gopal, Kieron Pollard, Jalaj Saxena, Ben Dunk, CM Gautam, Sushant Marathe, Aditya Tare, Jasprit Bumrah, Josh Hazlewood, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Marchant de Lange, Lasith Malinga, Pragyan Ojha, Krishmar Santokie, Pawan Suyal
Full preview of the Mumbai Indians' squad, breakdown of their auction business and more here.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Gautam Gambhir, Manvinder Bisla, Piyush Chawla, Debabrata Das, Kuldeep Yadav, Sayan Mondal, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Veer Pratap Singh, Robin Uthappa, Vinay Kumar, Suryakumar Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Jacques Kallis, Pat Cummins, Chris Lynn, Morne Morkel, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Shakib Al Hasan, Ryan Ten Doeschate
Full preview of the Kolkata Knight Riders' squad, breakdown of their auction business and more here.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!