This season, more like any other in recent times, feels like a new start for the Indian Premier League. The mega auction has ensured that the teams have a whole new feel to them, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli won’t be captaining their sides while Hardik Pandya will be captaining one, Suresh Raina will move into the commentary box, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers will be missing and two new teams will add to the chaos as the old ways will perhaps start to give way to the new.
If anything, it seems like the face of the tournament is about to change.
A season just after a mega auction always brings with it a vastly different excitement, but this feels even more different because many of the stars who made the tournament what it is are either winding down their careers or have already called it quits.
Prime among those changes will be Dhoni not leading the yellow brigade anymore. CSK has for the longest time been all about Dhoni. He was more than a captain – he decided the direction the club would take and their strategies too. But his decision to step down shows again that he is a man who puts team before self and the CSK faithful will love him for that. That said, will he now be able to hold his place in the team as a player alone?
Kohli’s decision to step down was driven by a different need but it will be interesting to see whether he can find his best form in the IPL. Will the freedom afforded by not having to deal with captaincy responsibilities allow him to go out and elevate his T20 game? We have seen glimpses of Kohli’s creativity but it pales in comparison to what Suryakumar Yadav or some of the other batters are capable of. It will be an interesting tournament for Kohli, the batter. Not just for RCB, but for India’s plans too.
Rohit Sharma, now not just captain of the Mumbai Indians but also of the Indian cricket team across formats, will look to re-establish MI’s dominance even without some of their core players. In a sense, this season will test him for so many different reasons.
At the same time, Hardik Pandya is a bit of an unknown in the captaincy department and unlike Ravindra Jadeja, who will be able to turn to Dhoni or Stephen Fleming for guidance, the all-rounder (is he still one?) will have to chart his own path perhaps. Captaining a new side is never easy because so much is still up in the air but it can be a pretty fun experience too.
The absence of Gayle and de Villiers will make many fans nostalgic for these two stars have meant so much to the league. The sense of astonishment they evoked while batting inspired so many others to dream a little dream. But then again, some of these all-time greats – like Lasith Malinga and Shane Watson – are coming back in coaching roles.
But so much of professional sport is about getting to know a team and its players; forming a connection with them and the start of this season will see fans trying to do that again. Some teams like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai have managed to maintain a core that will give them a semblance of familiarity but most others look like entering the great unknown, scary and exciting.
Some have called for the mega auction era to come to a close and if that indeed happens, we will be seeing such a massive upheaval for the last time but for now, all these changes will ensure the excitement around the new season will last longer than usual. So many new faces to see and so many more permutations and combinations to crunch. A new(ish) tournament format too.
Virtual groups for IPL 2022
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We might even get to see the best season ever with all league matches being played in Maharashtra. The reduction of travel time should allow teams to focus even more on the game itself and that is always great news.
As always, the lure of the IPL is not all about the money either. With the T20 World Cup looming, performances in the tournament could play a huge role in deciding India’s squad for the global event and that just adds another layer of intrigue to everything unfolding on the field of play.
There is just a whole new vibe in the air. The 2022 season of the IPL will, in every sense, be a theater of dreams. Some are forgotten while some are just beginning.