Cricket fans, it's time to fasten your seatbelts. The Indian Premier League is set to take off again. It's Chennai Super Kings versus Mumbai Indians in the opener at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Wednesday night.
Full Schedule Of IPL 5
IPL 5's first ball will be bowled on April 4 and the final is set for May 27. Nine teams will be battling across 12 venues over the next 54 days to etch their name on that glittering trophy.
In all, 76 matches will feature in the fifth edition. As in the previous four years, there are two start times for matches, 4.00 PM IST and 8.00 PM IST.
It is always hard to pick a favourite in a Twenty20 format. But, Chennai Super Kings will again be the one team to beat in IPL this year. They have shown how good they are.
MS Dhoni-led Chennai have won the title twice in succession and they will be aiming for a hat-trick. They have the wherewithal to defend the trophy.
The start could not have been planned better. Two heavyweights in the league are up against each other. It is the best match-up you could have expected to unveil the fifth year of T20's biggest battle.
Mumbai Indians are formidable. They won the Champions League last year.
There are plenty of mini battles on Wednesday. It's MS Dhoni Vs Harbhajan Singh. Kieron Pollard Vs Ravichandran Ashwin. Sachin Tendulkar Vs Doug Bollinger. A mouthwatering prospect looms on Wednesday night.
Ravindra Jadeja will be under the spotlight on the opening night. He was bought this year by Chennai for $2 million. He will be under a bit of pressure to justify his price-tag.
Chennai have made M.A. Chidambaram Stadium as a fortress. It is hard for visiting teams to get the better of Dhoni and his men. Mumbai will have to work hard to upset the reigning champions.
Tendulkar has relinquished captaincy and has handed over to Harbhajan. The offspinner was successful last year as he led the team to Champions League victory.
Chennai will miss Australia's Michael Hussey for the first few games as the left-hander is away playing for his country against West Indies.
Indian fans will get to watch South Africa's new batting sensation Richard Levi, who smashed T20 International's fastest century and a record number of sixes in the same game against New Zealand recently.
There are enough explosive hitters in both teams. This should make an exciting day for batting. Once again, bowlers will be under tremendous pressure to contain the big hits in the shortest form of the game.
The other seven teams, which will get into action mode in the coming days, will also be hoping for better results.
Royal Challengers Bangalore, led by New Zealander Daniel Vettori, have faltered twice at the final hurdle. They were runner-up in 2009 and 2011. They will be hoping it is third time lucky.
Bangalore's batting hopes will again rest on the broad shoulders of explosive West Indian opener Chris Gayle. India's new vice-captain Virat Kohli will be closely followed after his heroics in the recent past in India colours.
Rahul Dravid, who quit international cricket recently, has taken over the responsibility of guiding Rajasthan Royals. After winning the inaugural edition under Australian spin legend Shane Warne, Rajasthan haven't quite come close to repeating that.
They will miss Shane Watson in the initial stages due to international commitments. Paceman Shaun Tait needs to fire for them.
Gautam Gambhir-led Kolkata Knight Riders were in the hunt last year for the title. Yusuf Pathan's addition is a big plus for the Shahrukh Khan-owned team.
Bowlers like Brett Lee, Lakshmipathy Balaji will carry Kolkata's hopes with the ball.
Australian Adam Gilchrist, who successfully led Deccan Chargers to title in 2009, is at the helm of Kings XI Punjab. Two of his compatriots David Hussey and Shaun Marsh have to fire if Punjab have to progress to top-four.
Sourav Ganguly, who turned Indian team's fortunes with his aggressive captaincy, has a huge task ahead of him as the leader of Pune Warriors.
They had very little to show in their debut season of 2011. They ended a dismal ninth last year. Yuvraj Singh is a big loss this season. It is time now for Robin Uthappa to step up and score big runs.
Michael Clarke is a good addition. However, he will be away leading Australia in West Indies and is set to feature in the later stages.
Deccan Chargers have failed to make an impact after taking the trophy in 2009. Kumar Sangakkara, the regular captain will miss action initially and Cameron White is step in as captain.
South Africa's fast bowler Dale Steyn has to work some magic if Deccan have to do well this time.
Delhi Daredevils will be led by Virender Sehwag. It is an important IPL for Sehwag as he has been struggling for runs in the recent past with the Indian team. He has to regain his lost touch with the bat for his and Delhi's benefit.
IPL 5 is a big tournament for Indian players to impress the selectors ahead of the ICC World Twenty20 Championship in Sri Lanka in September.
As always, IPL 5 too promises plenty. Let the show begin.
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