More than four months after the COVID-19 outbreak halted the world’s richest Twenty20 tournament, the Indian Premier League resumes in Dubai on Sunday with a mouth-watering clash between the IPL’s two most successful franchises — Mumbai and Chennai.
With India grappling with a surge of COVID-19 cases, the eight-team league was suspended near its halfway stage in May after two franchises reported several positive cases.
The rest of the league was subsequently shifted to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which also hosts this year’s Twenty20 World Cup in October-November.
The action begins with five-time champions Mumbai Indians resuming their bid for a third successive title against three-time winners Chennai Super Kings led by former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
While some of the franchises might struggle for momentum after the disruption, Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli said it would not be the case with his team, who are third in the points table sandwiched between Chennai and Mumbai.
“Whether you are seven wins in a row… or no wins out of five or six games, which we have experienced as a team, you still have to find motivation and that passion inside you,” Kohli told a virtual news conference on Saturday.
Bangalore, still chasing their maiden title, began strongly this year and Kohli attributed it to the team culture.
“You should not be disheartened by losses and definitely not take wins for granted,” the India captain said.
“The focus was on the culture of the team — enjoyment and keeping up that atmosphere.”
“Yesterday at my first practice, I just felt like we never went away. I felt the same happiness, the same joy.”
Table-toppers Delhi have announced that Rishabh Pant will continue as captain for the rest of the tournament even after regular skipper Shreyas Iyer’s return from a shoulder injury.
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Ken Ferris