Mumbai: The champions of Chennai Super Kings will kick off the 15th edition of the Indian Premier League against former winner Kolkata Knights Riders on Saturday when the Twenty20 Championship returns home with an expanded edition after adding two new teams.
The entire 2020 edition of the cash-rich tournament and the second half of last year's tournament were held in the UAE as India battled the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mumbai will host 55 matches at three stadiums in and around the city, while Pune, also located in the western state of Maharashtra, will host the remaining 15 matches in the league, meaning there will be no need for air travel for the ten franchises.
With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the country during the 2022 edition, fans will be able to attend matches with a 25% occupancy limit.
The IPL, which counts Bollywood stars and billionaires among its franchises and attracts the best cricketers from around the world, will receive a combined payment of $1.7 billion from Lucknow and Ahmedabad to participate in the world's largest cricket tournament. After that, it will be expanded to 10 teams.
One of the most consistent teams since the tournament began in 2008, Chennai beat Kolkata to claim their fourth IPL title last year, and Saturday's season-opener will be a repeat of 2021 final.
The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in a statement, "The match will be a very important occasion as the 15th edition of the Indian Junior League will welcome the fans back to the stadium after a short break due to the epidemic."
Kolkata will have a chance to take revenge on Saturday at Wankedi Stadium overlooking the Arabian Sea, as the two teams will have new leaders at this year's edition.
India's former World Cup-winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in a surprise announcement on Thursday, handed the reins of Chennai to Ravindra Jadeja, the five-time national team runner-up.
"Jadeja, who has been an integral part of the Chennai Super Kings since 2012, will be the third player to lead CSK," the team said. Dhoni will continue to represent Chennai Super Kings this season and beyond.
Kolkata will be led by Indian batsman Shreyas Iyer.
Bangalore's royal challengers were also forced to change leadership and Pfaff du Plessis was appointed as their leader after the resignation of leading Indian batsman Virat Kohli.
Rohit Sharma will take charge of the five-time title-winning India captain, as the team will play 11 of 14 league matches at three stadiums in their cities.
"It's a relatively new team, a lot of new people have joined in," Rohit told reporters. "70-80% of the team has never played in Mumbai before. So there is no added advantage."