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IPL jamboree returns, opening night today


 
 KOLKATA, April 6 (PTI): Its scandalous past seasons still quite fresh in memory, the Indian Premier League (IPL) organisers will look to ensure that the focus remains firmly on cricket when the cash-rich event gets under way with a glamorous opening ceremony, featuring top Bollywood stars, here tomorrow.

After a pulling off a controversy-free tournament last year, the organisers would again be hoping for a smooth run when the 47-day tournament, marred by a spot-fixing scandal in 2013, kickstarts with defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders taking on Mumbai Indians at Eden Gardens on Wednesday.

Before that, the event will open tomorrow night to a glittering ceremony where Bollywood superstars Hrithik Roshan, Shahid Kapoor and Anushka Sharma form a power-packed line-up of performers.

The melting pot that it is, the opening match itself features two players, who aggressively faced off as recently as in the World Cup last month, playing together in one team.

David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan will share the dressing room (Sunrisers Hyderabad) putting behind their spat in Australia recently.

As the international rivals become friends, there will be some who will be hungry for success as the tournament provides an ideal launchpad ahead of next year’s World Twenty20 in India around the same time.

There will be some veteran Indian warhorses with the likes of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan among others, who will see this as a final chance to make a comeback to the national side.

The Indian selectors might think otherwise, but the IPL teams clearly believe the 33-year-old Yuvraj still has the fire in his belly as he was bought for a record Rs 16 crore by Delhi Daredevils after intense bidding among four franchises.

This had happened on the back of his three successive Ranji Trophy centuries which were not enough for him to make the World Cup cut. But the player of the tournament in India’s 2011 World Cup triumph is not the one to give up and would be among the ones to watch out for this season.

“It’s been a couple of hard years for me since I have come back from my treatment. I have worked very hard and I have had a good domestic season. I am confident of doing well and hope that things get better from here,” the dashing left-hander has said.

In fact, Yuvraj would be the key to the success for the Delhi Daredevils, who finished bottom of the table in the last two seasons.

DD have once again gone for a complete overhaul and apart from Yuvraj, they have invested in a 36-year-old Zaheer Khan who too would be aspiring to don India colours one last time.

To be led by South African pro JP Duminy, DD have his compatriot Imran Tahir as the Pakistani-born leg-spinner would look to replicate his World Cup show.

The consistent Mohammad Shami will partner the highly experienced Zaheer in the pace department, while in Yuvraj and star Sri Lankan all-rounder Angelo Mathews, they will have the necessary X-factor.

It’s a strong team on paper but it remains to be seen whether they better their 2012 show where they finished on top and crashed out of the play-offs. They also have last-four finishes in 2008 and 2009.

The Sri Lankan captain, however, will miss out on the team’s opening match in Chennai on April 9 because of a ban on the Lankan players by the Tamil Nadu government.

Another power-packed team, who are yet to win the coveted silverware is Royal Challengers Bangalore, the finalists in 2009 and 2011.

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