As the Indian Premier League steps into its sixteenth year, it also returns to its pre-Covid days with the T20 action shifting from one city to the other in the traditional home-away format.

The competition was taken a notch higher after the league was expanded into a ten-league affair last season and Gujarat Titans pulled off a fairytale title win on their debut with Hardik Pandya leading the side to victory in front of a record crowd at Ahmedabad.

IPL 2023: Complete squads, captaincy changes, team-wise schedule, key players and more

In IPL 2023, along with the original home and away format in addition to two other venues Guwahati and Dharamsala, there is much to look forward to. There are captaincy changes (some forced, some strategic), new unions and an anticipation to see how some innovations work out.

Here’s a look at some things we are looking forward to in the upcoming edition:

New rules

The 2023 IPL season will mark the debut of a number of new rules that have the potential to enhance the already dynamic aspect of T20 cricket. Firstly, there is the impact player rule, which permits teams to utilise an additional specialist hitter or bowler depending on the situation in a match. Additional innovations allow captains to name their playing XI following the toss and then choose an impact player from among the five substitutes listed with the playing XI.

As seen in the Women’s Premier League recently, teams can also the on-field umpires’ review wide ball and no ball calls. Even though it is being argued that it undermines the position of umpires and can be used to hinder momentum during death overs, it does add to the fairness in close situations.

From IPL playing conditions

IPL 2023: MI’s Rohit Sharma and Mark Boucher on Impact Player rule, plans for the season and more

In general, there have been calls to see teams to move beyond templates, take more multifaceted approaches and introduce more strategic thinking in the format. With other sports such as football, hockey and rugby already big on substitution, it was about time cricket also saw something that allowed that kind of flexibility. In addition, choosing teams after the toss ensures a more horses-for-courses kind of approach where teams can be decided on the basis of pitch, conditions, whether they need batters that are better at chasing or bowlers who are better bowling in the first innings. With the best analytical minds in the business present at the IPL, it will be exciting to see whether the competition goes up a notch higher because of these new rules and regulations.

Impact player at IPL 2023: All you need to know about the new rule in Indian Premier League

Ben Stokes with Chennai Super Kings

Speculation about whether it will be MS Dhoni’s last year in IPL come and go. Like Rohit Sharma said at a pre-season press-conference, “I don’t know if it’s going to be the last season. Hearing it (Dhoni’s IPL retirement) for the last two-three years. I think he is fit enough to play a few more seasons.”

Honestly though, Dhoni is 41 years old. He looked supremely fit in the lead-up to this campaign but plays no other kind of competitive cricket. It was also reported that Dhoni was dealing with a knee niggle during CSK’s open training session and there is also a question mark over his availability for the season-opener, as per the Indian Express.

His powers may be waning but the power he holds over Chennai Super Kings fans is still mind-boggling. And so, when he does decide to hang his boots, who will marshall the troop in Yellow?

The-Ravindra Jadeja-as-captain-experiment had to be abandoned mid-season last year. It didn’t look like he was ready for that role and his own prowess as a cricketer seemed to be affected by the responsibility. Dhoni had to take over again and continues to be the leader for this season.

It’s (very) early days but with Ben Stokes’ addition to the squad, CSK may have found a potential successor.

He is a proven leader and has played alongside MSD at the Rising Pune Super Giants and so they are both familiar with each other’s working styles. However, it remains to be seen what Stokes will offer as a player this season, considering the English Test skipper has to manage his workload and injuries as well. For at least some time, he will play as a specialist batter. How he steps up, especially at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, in front of the home crowd, will be one of the things to look out for this season. The mantle of CSK leader has (almost) always been with one man, will this be the season we see a definitive move towards another?

IPL 2023: Ben Stokes ready to start as batter but bowling will have to wait, says CSK’s Mike Hussey

The home and away format is back

After the IPL was confined to just a few venues during the pandemic, it finally returns to the original, home and away format for the sixteenth edition. It will also be for the first time since the expansion of the league that teams will all play at new home venues including Ahmedabad and Lucknow. It will be interesting to see how the locals receive their new home teams. Word is that the opening game in Ahmedabad is already set to witness more than one lakh spectators against CSK.

IPL 2023 fixtures list: Here’s the full schedule of 70 matches in the league stage

Apart from the fact that IPL-deprived cities will finally get to see their teams at home again, it also brings back the strategic element of preparing for different pitches and conditions. After years of playing on the UAE, Mumbai and Pune pitches, the teams will finally get back to prepping for the the variety of Indian pitches – from Chepauk’s turners, Chinnaswamy’s small boundaries, Wankhede’s bounce etc.

The battle off-field: Jio vs Star

Before the competition even began on the field, another one began off-the-field, in a bid to garner eyeballs. For the first time, the viewership will be divided across two platforms in India. The marketing and advertisements for both the platforms has been aimed at taking subtle digs at each other.

For instance:

Watch: TV or digital? Star, JioCinema go head-to-head with IPL 2023 promos featuring Kohli and Dhoni

If the aim is to outdo each other in terms of coverage, one can hope perhaps the audience will be rewarded with good quality in the process. JioCinema offered an impressive multi-camera angle view during its coverage of WPL and Fifa World Cup earlier. Meanwhile, Star has decided to up their game by on-boarding several former cricketers for their commentary panel, the highlights being the additions of Steve Smith and Aaron Finch.

This battle seems to be promising and although it remains to be seen whether the in-stadia experience improves or not, this is a chance to improve the living room experience.

Legacy teams, can you throw in a new champion?

Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Capitals, Punjab Kings.... it’s enough final appearances. It’s time to finally break the drought. It’s been sixteen years. Gujarat Titans won a title in their inaugural edition and they cracked the system in their very first go. That should raise some alarms for the ‘older’ teams because the competition is rising and their fans’ patience is being tested.

It was exciting to see new champions in the Titans but if one of the older teams can go all the way this time around and finally pose a challenge, it will finally break the monotony of having Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings filling their cabinets with so much silverware.

Can Delhi finally end their wait? Can Punjab Kings stop being an enigma? Will this finally be RCB’s year? It’s a plotline worth following.