IPL 2018: All you need to know as Chennai and Rajasthan return and Mumbai look to defend title

Mumbai Indians will begin the defence of their Vivo Indian Premier League title when they face Chennai Super Kings in the opening match of the new season on Saturday April 7

Mumbai Indians are the most successful team in the Indian Premier League's history. Tsering Topgyal / AP Photo
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What is it?

An eight-team cricket league played in the Twenty20 format. Each side contain seven Indian players, as well as four overseas players – many of whom rank among cricket’s most luminous leading lights.

Despite being only a little more than 10 years old, the IPL is often referred to as being one of the most popular leagues in all of sport. It reportedly ranks as the sixth-most attended sports league in the world in terms of live in-stadium attendance.

It has spawned a variety of imitation leagues elsewhere in the cricket world – meaning franchise leagues, played in the 20-over format, and decided by eliminator play-offs. But nothing else in cricket comes close to matching its fan-base.

Mumbai Indians are the holders, having beaten the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant in the final 12 months ago.

What is new?

Gujarat Lions and Rising Pune Supergiant have been dispensed with. Those franchises were keeping the seats warm for Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, two past winners who have spent two years out of the IPL for their part in the spot-fixing scandal of 2013.

There are a number of exciting new players, ranging from the likes of West Indian opener Evin Lewis, Australian Big Bash League star D’Arcy Short, England fast bowler Mark Wood, and Afghan mystery spinner Mujeeb Zadran.

And for the first time ever there will be a player from Nepal involved. Sandeep Lamichhane, a highly-likeable 17-year-old leg-spinner, has been recruited by Delhi Daredevils, where he will be able to lean on the coaching tips from the Australian great Ricky Ponting.

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on March 28, 2018 shows
Australia batsman and captain Steve Smith (L) leaving the ground after having been dismissed by South Africa bowler Kagiso Rabada and Australia batsman David Warner raising his bat to celebrate scoring a half century (50 Runs) during day one of the second Sunfoil Test between South Africa and Australia at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth.
Cricket Australia confirmed one year bans for Steve Smith and David Warner on March 28, 2018, following revelations concerning ball-tampering. / AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI

Who is playing?

It might be easier to start with who is not. Steve Smith and David Warner are the two most notable absentees.

The Australian duo were stood down from their captaincy duties with Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad respectively after the recent ball-tampering furore in South Africa.

Their erstwhile Australia colleague Mitchell Starc is also missing out. He is unable to make the trip because of the effects of a shin injury.

Other than that, most of the world’s leading T20 players are involved. IPL veterans like AB de Villiers, Brendon McCullum, Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine are back.

Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, two Englishmen who starred last year, will be in alliance at Rajasthan Royals.

And there are four Afghan players registered, led by the world’s No 1 T20 bowler Rashid Khan, who was outstanding on debut for Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2017.

Past champions

The Mumbai franchise are the holders, as well as history’s most successful team, with three titles to their name.

Their opening day fixture on Saturday will pit them against the next most successful franchise. Despite being banned for the past two seasons, Chennai Super Kings have played in more finals (five), than anyone else, and have two titles to their name. Kolkata Knight Riders have also won it twice.

The other returning side, Rajasthan Royals, won the first tournament, in 2008. Sunrisers Hyderabad won in 2016, while the only other side to have won the IPL, Deccan Chargers, folded after finishing last in 2012.