Before the IPL auction takes place later this month, the crucial IPL player retention is scheduled for Thursday and will give the first indication as to how each of the eight teams will look in 2018's tournament.
2017 was the last season of the 10-year IPL cycle, so the auction in 2018 is set to be a major event with a great number of the top players up for grabs.
However, each franchise, including the returning Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, will be allowed to retain a maximum of five of their existing players by a combination of player retention and then right-to-match cards at the auction.
Read on for an explanation of the process, along with scheduling and viewing details for the event.
Date: Thursday, Jan. 4
Start Time: 7 p.m. IST, 1:30 p.m. GMT
TV Info: Star Sports 2, Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 Tamil
Live Stream: Hotstar
With the return of the Super Kings and the Royals after their two-season suspension for illegal betting and match-fixing, there will be no Rising Pune Supergiant or Gujarat Lions in the 2018 IPL.
As a result, the retention rules are slightly complicated given some players have flitted between franchises while CSK and RR have been banned.
But, in basic terms, of the five players each franchise can retain, a maximum of three can come through Thursday's retention, while three is also the maximum right-to-match cards allowed to be used during the auction in order to retain players.
Per IPLT20.com, further restrictions apply on player retention, with a maximum of three capped Indian players allowed, two overseas players and two uncapped Indian players.
For Chennai and Rajasthan, Cricbuzz outlined the pool of players available for them to retain are those who played for them in IPL 2015 and then for RPS and GL in the tournament last year:
MS Dhoni is set to be retained by CSK after winning the IPL twice with the franchise, while Virat Kohli will stay with Royal Challengers Bangalore, per the Times of India.
Other key names expected to be retained are Rohit Sharma, captain of 2017 champions Mumbai Indians; David Warner, captain of the 2016 champions Sunrisers Hyderabad; and his Australia team-mate Steve Smith, who is set to return to RR after two seasons with RPS.
After the IPL auction on Jan. 27 and 28, it will be much easier to start to establish which of this year's franchises could be primed for victory in 2018.
But Thursday's event will be a good chance to see where some of the tournament's most high-profile names will be plying their trade when the action finally gets under way on April 4.