Abu Dhabi: The day cricket fans in the UAE and around the world have been waiting for has arrived, as the Indian Premier League (IPL) takes off at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Cricket Stadium with a battle between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders, the 2012 champions, on Wednesday.
A winning start is what both teams will be looking for, especially in this edition of the IPL, which is starting outside India due to elections there, meaning no teams will have home advantage.
When Gulf News asked John Wright, the head coach of Mumbai, on how important it is to get off to a winning start, he said: “Everyone wants a winning start and that is the best way to start. It will be a lot better feeling going into the second game after winning the first game because there is lot of pressure on this competition, as it is quick, and we would like the momentum going early.”
Both teams, with that objective in mind, trained hard from 10am here on Tuesday despite the heat touching 42C.
Last year, Mumbai lost their first game to Royal Challengers Bangalore, so will be looking to avoid a repeat, and their record against Kolkata is impressive.
The Knight Riders are determined to regain the trophy and begin with a new-look side. They retained skipper Gautam Gambhir and West Indies spinner Sunil Narine and, with all-rounders Yusuf Pathan and Jacques Kallis in the line-up, they have the talent to transform any situation into a winning one.
They have strengthened their bowling line-up with Morne Morkel, Umesh Yadav, Pat Cummins and Vinay Kumar. With spinners Narine, Piyush Chawla and Bangladesh super star Shakib Al Hasan, as well as Chinaman specialist Kuldeep Yadav, their bowling attack can wreck any team.
Mumbai are the champions of the IPL and the Twenty20 Champions League because of their ability to deliver on the field when it matters. Their batting is led by skipper Rohit Sharma, followed by Michael Hussey, Ambati Rayudu and hard-hitter Corey Anderson.
But, whatever they score, Mumbai have a bowling line-up led by the fearsome Lasith Malinga and backed up by bowlers like Zaheer Khan and the experienced Harbhahan Singh to defend it.
If all these factors cannot usher in victory, two greats of the game have landed here to inspire them, with the legendary Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar and spinner Anil Kumble working hard giving tips to the players.
So the stage is set for an exciting battle in a packed stadium — it promises to be an electrifying start to the IPL. A nail-biting finish could set the tone for the rest of the matches.