Few cricket tournaments have received as much attention, perhaps even scrutiny, as has the Indian Premier League (IPL) since its launch in 2008.
It is the world’s most popular Twenty20 competition, is organised by the richest board, and attracts the biggest stars to come play in it. It has served as the ideal finishing school any youngster with international calibre could hope for, and it has helped commercialise the sport even further.
But the IPL has also been a magnet for controversy.
It has been tainted by investigations into alleged corruption, betting and spot-fixing, and has borne witness to occasional flashpoints between the game’s major stakeholders in the country – including some politicians – leading many cynics to believe this competition is just another playground for the rich and famous.
This year the tournament is in the news for another reason, one that recurs every five years: parliamentary elections.
Because it coincides with the biggest democratic event in the world, security forces deployed by the state are stretched.
To help matters, it was held in South Africa during the 2009 elections, while a part of it was staged in the UAE five years later. But this year the entire edition will be played in India because there is less crossover between the two events in 2019.
The IPL is usually held in April and May, sometimes even extending into June. That was going to be unlikely this year given the Cricket World Cup will be staged from May 30-July 14 with many national boards insisting on downtime of around 15 days before the showpiece event.
With the elections to happen in April over phases, IPL 2019 will get under way on Saturday when defending champions Chennai Super Kings host Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The final is scheduled for May 12, also in Chennai.
What is interesting about the schedule is this is the first time the IPL will be held before the 50-over World Cup; it was the other way around in 2011 and 2015. This has inevitably raised concern among international teams about their players not getting enough rest and recuperation between tournaments and availability especially towards the closing stages.
In the case of World Cup favourites India, there was speculation the franchises were told by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to “manage” the workload of its players – something captain Kohli, who also leads Bangalore, denied.
Saying the BCCI could not possibly have a one-size-fits-all policy on player management, he however urged his national teammates to be smart about how much cricket to play during the IPL. Which means player health will likely factor into strategy meetings and team selections much more. For this reason, a World Cup on the horizon will almost certainly make the IPL even more fascinating to watch.
Here is what you need to know about the annual T20 competition which is exactly a month away.
Chennai Super Kings
The defending champions are the joint most successful team in the 11-year history of the IPL – along with Mumbai Indians – having won the tournament in 2010, 2011 and last year. They have finished runners-up four times, too, and possess the best win percentage of all teams: 61.56.
Home ground: MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
Captain: MS Dhoni (India)
Pick of their Indians: Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu and Kedar Jadhav
Overseas stars: Faf du Plessis (South Africa), Shane Watson (Australia) and Dwayne Bravo (West Indies)
Star players retained: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis, Murali Vijay, Shane Watson, Ravindra Jadeja, Mitchell Santner, David Willey, Dwayne Bravo, Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu, Sam Billings, Harbhajan Singh, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir, Shardul Thakur
Star players released: Mark Wood
Going by the name Delhi Daredevils until the end of last season, the rebranded Capitals are the most underperforming side in the IPL, with a win percentage of 42.45.
Home ground: Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, Delhi
Captain: Shreyas Iyer (India)
Pick of their Indians: Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant and Prithvi Shaw
Overseas stars: Kagiso Rabada (South Africa), Trent Boult (New Zealand) and Sandeep Lamichhane (Nepal)
Star players retained: Sandeep Lamichhane, Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant, Colin Munro, Kagiso Rabada, Trent Boult, Amit Mishra, Chris Morris
Star players released: Gautam Gambhir, Jason Roy, Glenn Maxwell, Mohammed Shami
Kings XI Punjab
Another team with a poor record, they have the second-lowest win percentage of just 46.29. They are known to make strong starts to the season before dropping the ball towards the business end, although they finished runners-up in 2014.
Home ground: Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali
Captain: Ravichandran Ashwin (India)
Pick of their Indians: Lokesh Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair
Overseas stars: Chris Gayle (West Indies), David Miller (South Africa) and Mujeeb ur Rahman (Afghanistan)
Star players retained: Chris Gayle, David Miller, Karun Nair, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Ravichandran Ashwin, Andrew Tye, Mujeeb ur Rahman
Star players released: Axar Patel, Yuvraj Singh, Marcus Stoinis
Kolkata Knight Riders
The only side apart from Chennai and Mumbai to have won the title more than once, Kolkata were crowned champions in 2012 and 2014 – both under the leadership of the now-retired Gautam Gambhir. A side packed with Indians and West Indians, Dinesh Karthik is once again expected to lead them given he is one of India’s most important players in the T20 format. Win percentage: 53.08
Home ground: Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Captain: Dinesh Karthik (India)
Pick of their Indians: Robin Uthappa, Kuldeep Yadav and Shubman Gill
Overseas stars: Andre Russell, Sunil Narine and Carlos Brathwaite (all West Indies)
Star players retained: Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn, Nitish Rana, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla
Star players released: Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson
Possibly the richest franchise in the league, they are also its joint most successful in terms of titles – three – along with Chennai, being crowned champions in 2013, 2015 and 2017. Their win percentage of 57.01 is second-best in the league as well. The Indians, therefore, will always go into the new season as among the title favourites.
Home ground: Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
Captain: Rohit Sharma (India)
Pick of their Indians: Yuvraj Singh, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah
Overseas stars: Quinton de Kock (South Africa), and Kieron Pollard and Evin Lewis (both West Indies)
Star players retained: Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Krunal Pandya, Aditya Tare, Evin Lewis, Kieron Pollard, Ben Cutting, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Jason Behrendorff
Star players released: Mustafizur Rahman, Pat Cummins, JP Duminy
The Royals have never managed to reach the levels of the inaugural season when they beat MS Dhoni’s Chennai to clinch the title. Their win percentage of 53.05 is not bad for a comparatively shoestring budget. A rested Steve Smith is back in the side after a ball-tampering ban and motivated to prove himself.
Home ground: Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur
Captain: Ajinkya Rahane (India)
Pick of their Indians: Jaidev Unadkat, Sanju Samson and Dhawal Kulkarni
Overseas stars: Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler (both England), and Ish Sodhi (New Zealand)
Star players retained: Steve Smith, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Ish Sodhi, Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson, Stuart Binny, Rahul Tripathi, Dhawal Kulkarni
Star players released: Jaydev Unadkat (before being bid for again) and D'Arcy Short
Royal Challengers Bangalore
The perennial bridesmaids of the league, Bangalore have never won the title but they have reached the final three times. Despite being laden with superstars of the calibre of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and until the 2017 season Chris Gayle, they have a poor win percentage of 48.17.
Home ground: M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore
Captain: Virat Kohli (India)
Pick of their Indians: Parthiv Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal and Umesh Yadav
Overseas stars: AB de Villiers (South Africa), Shimron Hetmyer (West Indies) and Colin de Grandhomme (New Zealand)
Star players retained: Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Parthiv Patel, Washington Sundar, Moeen Ali, Colin de Grandhomme, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Siraj, Tim Southee, Umesh Yadav, Nathan Coulter-Nile
Star players released: Quinton de Kock, Brendon McCullum, Chris Woakes
A relatively new franchise, they have still managed to reach two finals – winning the title in 2016 and finishing runners-up against Chennai last year. They also have an impressive win percentage of 55.37. They will likely have David Warner, the man who led them to the title three years ago, back in the side after the former Australia vice captain was banned from last season’s action due to his role in last year’s ball-tampering controversy.
Home ground: Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, Hyderabad
Captain: Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
Pick of their Indians: Manish Pandey, Vijay Shankar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Overseas stars: David Warner (Australia), Rashid Khan (Afghanistan) and Martin Guptill (New Zealand)
Star players retained: David Warner, Yusuf Pathan, Rashid Khan, Shakib Al Hasan, Billy Stanlake, Kane Williamson, Mohammed Nabi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Manish Pandey, Shreevats Goswami, Siddarth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed
Star players released: Shikhar Dhawan, Carlos Brathwaite, Alex Hales
The schedule (league phase):
March 23: Chennai Super Kings v Royal Challengers Bangalore, Chennai, 6.30pm
- Kolkata Knight Riders v Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kolkata, 2.30pm
- Mumbai Indians v Delhi Capitals, Mumbai, 6.30pm
March 25: Rajasthan Royals v Kings XI Punjab, Jaipur, 6.30pm
March 26: Delhi Capitals v Chennai Super Kings, Delhi, 6.30pm
March 27: Kolkata Knight Riders v Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata, 6.30pm
March 28: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Mumbai Indians, Bangalore, 6.30pm
March 29: Sunrisers Hyderabad v Rajasthan Royals, Hyderabad, 6.30pm
- Kings XI Punjab v Mumbai Indians, Mohali, 2.30pm
- Delhi Capitals v Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi, 6.30pm
- Sunrisers Hyderabad v Royal Challengers Bangalore, Hyderabad, 2.30pm
- Chennai Super Kings v Rajasthan Royals, Chennai, 6.30pm
April 1: Kings XI Punjab v Delhi Capitals, Mohali, 6.30pm
April 2: Rajasthan Royals v Royal Challengers Bangalore, Jaipur, 6.30pm
April 3: Mumbai Indians v Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai, 6.30pm
April 4: Delhi Capitals v Sunrisers Hyderabad, Delhi, 6.30pm
April 5: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Kolkata Knight Riders, Bangalore, 6.30pm
- Chennai Super Kings v Kings XI Punjab, Chennai, 2.30pm
- Sunrisers Hyderabad Mumbai Indians, Hyderabad, 6.30pm
- Royal Challengers Bangalore v Delhi Capitals
- Rajasthan Royals v Kolkata Knight Riders
April 8: Kings XI Punjab v Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mohali, 6.30pm
April 9: Chennai Super Kings v Kolkata Knight Riders, Chennai, 6.30pm
April 10: Mumbai Indians v Kings XI Punjab, Mumbai, 6.30pm
April 11: Rajasthan Royals v Chennai Super Kings, Jaipur, 6.30pm
April 12: Kolkata Knight Riders v Delhi Capitals, Kolkata, 6.20pm
- Mumbai Indians v Rajasthan Royals, Mumbai, 2.30pm
- Kings XI Punjab v Royal Challengers Bangalore, Mohali, 6.30pm
- Kolkata Knight Riders v Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata, 2.30pm
- Sunrisers Hyderabad v Delhi Capitals, Hyderabad, 6.30pm
April 15: Mumbai Indians v Royal Challengers Bangalore, Mumbai, 6.30pm
April 16: Kings XI Punjab v Rajasthan Royals, Mohali, 6.30pm
April 17: Sunrisers Hyderabad v Chennai Super Kings, Hyderabad, 6.30pm
April 18: Delhi Capitals v Mumbai Indians, Delhi, 6.30pm
April 19: Kolkata Knight Riders v Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kolkata, 6.30pm
- Rajasthan Royals v Mumbai Indians, Jaipur, 2.30pm
- Delhi Capitals v Kings XI Punjab, Delhi, 6.30pm
- Sunrisers Hyderabad v Kolkata Knight Riders, Hyderabad, 2.30pm
- Royal Challengers Bangalore v Chennai Super Kings, Bangalore, 6.30pm
April 22: Rajasthan Royals v Delhi Capitals, Jaipur, 6.30pm
April 23: Chennai Super Kings v Sunrisers Hyderabad, Chennai, 6.30pm
April 24: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Kings XI Punjab, Bangalore, 6.30pm
April 25: Kolkata Knight Riders v Rajasthan Royals, Kolkata, 6.30pm
April 26: Chennai Super Kings v Mumbai Indians, Chennai, 6.30pm
April 27: Rajasthan Royals, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Jaipur, 6.30pm
- Delhi Capitals v Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi, 2.30pm
- Kolkata Knight Riders v Mumbai Indians, Kolkata, 6.30pm
April 29: Sunrisers Hyderabad v Kings XI Punjab, Hyderabad, 6.30pm
April 30: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Rajasthan Royals, Bangalore, 6.30pm
May 1: Chennai Super Kings v Delhi Capitals, Chennai, 6.30pm
May 2: Mumbai Indians v Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mumbai, 6.30pm
May 3: Kings XI Punjab v Kolkata Knight Riders, Mohali, 6.30pm
- Delhi Capitals v Rajasthan Royals, Delhi, 2.30pm
- Royal Challengers Bangalore v Sunrisers Hyderabad, Bangalore, 6.30pm
- Kings XI Punjab v Chennai Super Kings, Mohali, 2.30pm
- Mumbai Indians v Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai, 6.30pm
How to watch matches in the UAE
All matches will be screened live on BeIN Sports.