IPL 2024: Dhoni v Kohli kicks marathon T20 season into overdrive

Defending champions Chennai host Royal Challengers on Friday, with veteran keeper handing over Super Kings captaincy to Ruturaj Gaikwad

This could be last IPL season where we see MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli playing together. Sportzpics for IPL
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It is going to be T20 cricket for as far as the eye can see from Friday onwards when defending champions Chennai Super Kings host Royal Challengers Bangalore (now Bengaluru) in the opening match of IPL 2024.

There has been no dearth of T20 franchise cricket since the start of the year, with the DP World ILT20, Pakistan Super League, Bangladesh Premier League just a few among a host of tournaments jostling for space. The season now kicks into overdrive and will remain there for some time.

This year's IPL finishes right before the T20 World Cup in June in the Caribbean and US, which means fans will get to see the very best in the world go toe to toe for three straight months.

On such a large timescale, it is difficult to predict who will be left standing by the end. Sure, players right now will be focused on the IPL and their franchises, but almost all top stars will have the subsequent T20 World Cup at the back of their minds.

Many are fighting to be fully fit just in time to feature in the IPL, even if in a reduced capacity, while a number of cricketers are hoping to use the league as a platform to audition for spots in their national teams.

There are other narratives playing in the IPL as well.

India captain Rohit Sharma saw his beloved Mumbai Indians captaincy handed over to Hardik Pandya, who was roped in from Gujarat Titans. Veteran wicketkeeper batsman MS Dhoni is 42 and has one good knee, which means this could very well be his final IPL season as a player.

Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc has returned to the IPL as the most expensive player in its history, going to Kolkata Knight Riders for nearly $3 million. His national team captain Pat Cummins has been tasked with leading the beleaguered Sunrisers Hyderabad out of the rut they find themselves in.

Virat Kohli will be seen back in the field after taking more than two months off cricket for personal reasons. He missed the entire India-England Test series and if he has a below par IPL, there is a chance of him not making it to the Indian team for the T20 World Cup, if reports are to be believed.

Surprisingly, a number of England players will not be playing this IPL. Delhi Capitals batsman Harry Brook decided to skip the tournament after the death of his grandmother, while Mark Wood, Gus Atkinson and Jason Roy are also unavailable due to workload issues. Ben Stokes and Joe Root had already opted out of the player auction in December.

There is a lot going on, and it all begins at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Friday when RCB visit CSK for the season opener.

Kohli is no longer the captain but remains the heart and soul of Royal Challengers. How much drive he has to push himself in the ever-changing world of T20 cricket is likely to determine his standing in white ball cricket in the immediate future.

The other Indian veteran in the opposing camp – Dhoni – is on the final bend of his stellar career.

He signalled the change of guard on Thursday after handing over the CSK captaincy reins to young opening batsman Ruturaj Gaikwad.

Dhoni had earlier given the captaincy to all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja in 2022 but assumed the role once again after the latter struggled as captain and player.

Dhoni famously led Chennai to their fifth IPL title last year, with Jadeja snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against Gujarat Titans.

However, Dhoni had played the last IPL with a damaged knee and was expected to bow out of the tournament this year. With the latest decision, the path has been cleared for the next generation to take over, with Dhoni expected to play the role of a mentor and overall player manager at the franchise that has become his second home.

Updated: March 21, 2024, 11:10 AM