Abu Dhabi, Apr 16: The wait is over. The D-day is here. The seventh edition of the Indian Premier Leauge (IPL 7) gets under way here today with defending champions Mumbai Indians facing 2012 winners Kolkata Knight Riders.
In 12 previous meetings, MI have beaten Gautam Gambhir-led side 10 times. But as in all Twenty20s, history has little relevance with games turned in the space of one over.
With also change of personnel on both sides, it will be interesting to see how the new-look teams fare.
MI will be without their batting legend Sachin Tendulkar, who retired from the game after winning the crown last year. However, he will be present in the team's dug-out as he is now the 'Icon' of the franchise.
Tendulkar's mere presence will lift the MI players. He, along with coach John Wright and mentor Anil Kumble will certainly be a big advantage for the team.
MI have been boosted by the inclusion of veteran Australian left-hander Michael Hussey, who was picked at the players' auction in February. For the first time in seven years, Hussey will be playing for a new team after spending six years with Chennai Super Kings.
Captain Rohit Sharma, Corey Anderson, Lasith Malinga, Kieron Pollard, Ambati Rayudu and Pragyan Ojha are the key players for MI.
New Zealand's all-rounder Anderson is unlikely to play the opening game as he needs clearance from his cricket board's medical staff. He had dislocated his little finger during the World T20.
"They (Mumbai) have got to assess him on a daily basis but it's more a four-week injury when it could have been an eight-week injury. Theyre in communication with our medical team and when he shows he's fully fit he will be selected," New Zealand coach Mike Hesson was quoted as saying.
For KKR, skipper Gambhir needs to give them a good start. With the addition of Karnataka's Robin Uthappa, there is enough firepower at the top of the order.
There is also another Karnataka player in KKR side this year. R Vinay Kumar, high on confidence of winning Ranji Trophy, Irani Cup and Vijay Hazare Trophy (one-day), will be the one to watch out for.
While MI registered their maiden title triumph last year, KKR failed to recreate their previous edition's magic and did not make the play-offs.
In the new season, KKR, under Gambhir, will be hoping for a big tournament. For that, the likes of Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan, all-rounder Jacques Kallis need to make a huge impact. And not to forget their trump card - Sunil Narine.
All in all, the IPL 7 opener should be interesting.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (captain), Lasith Malinga, Kieron Pollard, Harbhajan Singh, Ambati Rayudu, Michael Hussey, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Corey Anderson, Josh Hazlewood, CM Gautam, Aditya Tare, Apoorv Wankhade, Marchant de Lange, Krishmar Santokie, Ben Dunk, Pawan Suyal, Sushant Marathe, Jasprit Bumrah, Shreyas Gopal, Jalaj Saxena.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Sunil Narine, Jacques Kallis, Robin Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan, Umesh Yadav, R Vinay Kumar, Morne Morkel, Piyush Chawla, Manish Pandey, Veer Pratap Singh, Chris Lynn, Andre Russell, SS Mandal, Pat Cummins, Debabrata Das, Suryakumar Yadav, Manvinder Bisla, Ryan ten Doeschate, Kuldeep Yadav.
Match starts at 8 PM IST