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The 16th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is set to begin at the end of this month. After a long COVID-imposed hiatus, the ten teams will finally get to play matches at their home grounds. This will be the first time after the addition of the two new franchises that the IPL will be played in its full-fledged home and away format with all the ten teams playing eight of their total matches at their pre-assigned home grounds.
The previous seasons were being held behind closed doors at neutral venues. While bulk of the IPL post the outbreak of COVID-19 had to be shifted to the UAE, it returned to India last year only to be played across a few venues in Maharasthra. The IPL 2023 title was won by the Hardik Pandya-led Gujarat Titans (GT) after defeating Rajasthan Royals in the final. The defending champions will be hosting Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the tournament opener at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
The IPL has always been a swashbuckling affair as players across franchises put their best foot forward to make for themselves a name in one of the world’s most viewed tournaments. As the stage is almost set for the mega tournament to kickstart on March 31, we look at 5 players who could leave a mark in the very first match of the upcoming tournament.
Hardik Pandya, who played for Mumbai Indians (MI) since 2015, was not retained by the five-time champions ahead of the 2022 IPL Player Auction. However, he then joined the newly formed franchise Gujarat Titans and also took up captaincy duties for them in their maiden tournament.
Gujarat Titans defeated Rajasthan Royals to win the IPL title in their maiden season. After leading the Ahmedabad-based franchise to the title, the 29-year-old became the first captain after Shane Warne to win the tournament with a team in its first year itself.
The all-rounder led his side from the front, more with bat than the ball, throughout the season. He was the fourth-highest run scorer in the 2022 IPL season scoring 487 runs from 15 matches. However, he could only manage to pick up eight wickets in the previous season. As Gujarat buck up for their campaign initiator under Pandya’s captaincy, the skipper would be raring to take field and play an impactful innings to start things off in style.
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