New Delhi - The 10th season of the Indian Premier League
starts Wednesday, marking a decade of scandal and success for the flashy
Twenty20 competition beloved by India and watched across the globe.
The latest edition of the glitzy league - famous for its
pyrotechnics, cheerleaders and huge signing bonuses - gets under way with
defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad hosting Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Since its debut in 2008 the shorter-format league has
evolved into India's most popular sporting event, filling stadiums and
attracting TV audiences well beyond that enjoyed by Test and one-day
competitions in the cricket-mad subcontinent.
"Its unique selling proposition is that most of the
stadiums are packed, and it is being watched around the world," IPL
chairperson Rajeev Shukla said.
Its appeal has outlasted numerous controversies - most
notably corruption and match-fixing charges - that at times have raised more
eyebrows than the showy theatrics on the pitch.
Three of the eight teams from the inaugural edition, and two
others since, have been taken over by new owners, suspended or simply vanished
Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals were barred for two
seasons in 2015 over a spot-fixing saga, while Hyderabad's original franchise
Deccan Chargers were terminated for breaching contract terms.
The league's founder Lalit Modi, meanwhile, is in
self-imposed exile in Britain, refusing to return to India to face corruption
Shukla acknowledged the league's muddy past but said all
possible checks and balances were in place to ensure the 10th edition was a
"There may have been some aberrations but the strongest
possible action was taken. We have ensured that corruption does not creep
in," he said.
"I am quite optimistic that this edition will be
another grand success and be very significant for us."
Despite a litany of off-field troubles the league has never
struggled to attract foreign talent.
A host of international stars have become household names in
India, shaping their careers on the IPL stage or resurrecting former glories.
England pace bowler Tymal Mills recently signed a $1.8
million-contract with Bangalore - despite having played just four T20
Fellow countryman Ben Stokes - who joined Rising Pune
Supergiant for more than $2 million - said the IPL was an opportunity
unavailable in England, where the format is not yet franchised.
"A big reason for coming out here is to get that
exposure and try and take the Twenty20 game to new level," he said.
Australia skipper Steve Smith, who has replaced former India
captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the helm of Pune, said he had benefited
immensely from playing in the league.
"You get to learn different parts of the game, and what
people from different parts of the world are thinking," he said.
But cash, and plenty of it, has been the single most
important ingredient for the IPL's success, experts say.
"Money is the magnet," ESPNcricinfo senior editor
Sharda Ugra said.
"I think IPL was always going to succeed... because so
many people directly connected with the BCCI (India's cricket board) and Indian
business were involved at that time. They were like determined to see it
Signing deals for up-and-coming stars are also growing, with
Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan signed by Sunrisers for $615 700 - the most
ever offered to a player from an associate (non-Test playing) nation.
Khan and teammate Mohammad Nabi will be the first players
from Afghanistan to play in the IPL, highlighting the league's ever-expanding
While Royal Challengers Bangalore captain and run-machine
Virat Kohli will be absent for the opening week of the competition, big hitters
abound such as Kohli's team-mate Chris Gayle and Sunrisers' David Warner.
The tournament ends on May 21 with the final in Hyderabad.