This IPL season, different folks for different clubs

With the exception of Chennai Super Kings and to a certain extent Mumbai Indians, all the franchises in the Indian Premier League have made wholesale changes in their squads.

Adam Gilchrist will miss fans of the Chargers.
Powered by automated translation

It has been less than a week since the curtain came down on cricket's biggest showpiece. The Indian media and fans are still celebrating MS Dhoni's piece de resistance and the parties are yet to die down.

Still, it is time to move on. Curtains will go up today on cricket's biggest carnival, the riveting Indian Premier League (IPL), with Dhoni leading his defending champions Chennai Super Kings out against Kolkata Knight Riders.

A lot has changed since the India captain lifted the trophy last year on April 25 in Navi Mumbai.

For one, season four of the IPL boasts two new teams - Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Pune Warriors.

The addition of those sides has necessitated a tweak in the format, though each team will still be playing the same number of league matches (14) as last season.

Each franchise will play home and away against five opponents. Against the remaining four teams, they will play two at home and two away. A random draw was used to decide the modalities.

Season four could have featured just eight teams, or even seven, as the IPL governing council decided to eject Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab for flouting shareholding and ownership norms, and threatened Kochi with disqualification during an off-season that resembled a distressing soap opera.

The legal system came to the aid of the expelled teams and cricket fans must surely be thanking the courts; they will still be treated to Shane Warne's wizardry at Rajasthan Royals, awe at Shaun Tait's fearsome pace and admire Shane Watson's belligerence.

At Kings XI, hope will be renewed with the arrival of Adam Gilchrist, who captained Deccan Chargers to the title in season two and the semi-finals last year.

The Chargers finished bottom in the first season, a position that Kings XI occupied last year, and Gilchrist is hoping he can script a similar turnaround with his new team.

"I really enjoyed my time with Deccan and forged some really good friendships there," said the former Australia star. "We had a successful time obviously; we won the title once and got to the semis last year.

"So that was a big turnaround for me [from season one], and that's what I am hoping to replicate at Kings XI. Obviously it was a frustrating year last year for Kings XI, so hopefully with a new-look outfit, we can turn around the fortunes."

Gilchrist can obviously take some confidence from the return of Shaun Marsh, Kings XI's hero of season one. The Australian missed most of season two and three due to injury and international commitments, but he is back and eager to help the team seek redemption.

"I have really enjoyed playing cricket over in India," Marsh said. "Playing for Kings XI is a huge honour and I will be trying my best to get out there again, perform really well and get the team into the semi-finals, and hopefully the final.

"I am looking forward to it. Hopefully, the body holds up. I am confident, we got a pretty good squad assembled and hopefully we can give it a shake this year."

The Kings XI dressing room this season will be very different to what Marsh has been used to.

Punjab, along with the Chargers and Kolkata, decided against retaining any of their players. So Mahela Jayawardene has moved to Kochi, Kumar Sangakkara to the Deccan Chargers; Brett Lee is with Kolkata and Irfan Pathan has gone to Delhi.

Yuvraj Singh, Punjab's biggest star, will be leading Pune this season and Marsh will be go head-to-head against his former teammate in their opening clash on Sunday.

"We got Yuvraj first game, so it will be a bit of fun," said Marsh, promising a bit of chatter when the World Cup's player of the tournament comes out to bat. "He is a fantastic player and we will have to try and get him out nice and early."

Dinesh Karthik will be Marsh's new teammate after spending three seasons with the Delhi Daredevils. The Indian admits all teams will need some time to settle in following the wholesale changes.

"As an individual, you need to settle in," Karthik said. "But the key to the IPL is settling in pretty quickly so that you kind of get acclimatised, get the hang of the players. So it's going to be a very interesting stint with the team.

"Kings XI had a bit of a rough year, but you've got to give it to them. They've held on to the whole thing, they've picked a good team and this year is going to be interesting for us."

Marsh shares the same view about the changes. "There's a lot of players changing within the team," he said. "I guess it's going to take a little bit of time to get used to it now. We are playing with different players and it's going to be very interesting.

"It's going to be a lot of fun as well - you get to play with different players, international players, and you get to learn. I am very lucky, very fortunate to play with Gilly [Gilchrist] and hopefully I can get out there and bat with him a few times, and get ourselves off to a good start.

"He is one of the best ever. To be able to play with him, towards the end of his career, it's going to be huge honour for me. Certainly, I will learn a lot from him."

Due to the addition of two new teams fresh auctions were held in January with the existing eight franchises getting the option of retaining a maximum of four players, but at a heavy price. Holding four players would mean a reduction of US$4.5million (Dh16.5m) from the total purchasing budget of $9m for each team.

Only Mumbai Indians (Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Kieron Pollard and Lasith Malinga) and Chennai Super Kings (Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay and Albie Morkel) - the two finalists of last year - chose to retain four players.

Rajasthan Royals held on to two (Shane Warne and Shane Watson), while Delhi (Virender Sehwag) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (Virat Kohli) chose one apiece.

The fans are also the main reason for Gilchrist's displeasure over the fresh auctions.

"I am a big believer in a little bit of loyalty - loyalty to fans as much as anything. There were some relationships being forged there through that first three-year period," he said.

"Chennai have been the only team that really targeted getting the players that they had back and that could prove to be a very shrewd move on their behalf."

With Dhoni at their helm, you could expect nothing less from the Super Kings, who wear the Champions League crown as well. "Captain Cool" might just keep the celebrations going in Chennai till May end.