More England players than ever before will feature in this year’s Indian Premier League, which begins in Chennai on Friday despite Covid chaos as champions Mumbai Indians take on Royal Challengers Bangalore.
There are 14 England players signed up across the eight franchises, although last year’s MVP Jofra Archer must overcome an elbow injury before travelling next week.
The tournament is facing several headaches, including the withdrawals of Mitchell Marsh, Josh Philippe and Josh Hazlewood, reportedly to avoid the stresses of bubble life. India is also about to overtake Brazil as the country with the second-most Covid cases.
More England players than ever before, including Ben Stokes, will feature in this year’s IPL
MVP Jofra Archer must overcome an elbow injury before travelling next week to India
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Chennai Super Kings: Coming off their worst-ever season. England spinner Moeen Ali is one of the new recruits.
Delhi Capitals: Rising star Rishabh Pant is captain due to Lancashire-bound Shreyas Iyer’s injury. Steve Smith and Sam Billings will compete for his place.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Eoin Morgan is captain after a change in leadership in last year’s edition.
Mumbai Indians: Five-time champions are looking for a hat-trick of titles under India batsman Rohit Sharma.
Punjab Kings: World No 1 T20 batsman Dawid Malan has been drafted in.
Rajasthan Royals: The ‘English’ franchise is home to Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Liam Livingstone.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Three-time runners-up but yet to go one better, despite being fronted by record runscorer Virat Kohli.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Could reunite England one-day openers Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy, but Australia’s David Warner is in the wings.
Several players, including England tormentor Axar Patel, have already tested positive for the virus.
This has raised fears that the tournament will follow the Pakistan Super League, which was suspended as infection rates rose.
It begins without fans and will tour six venues, with the opening 16 days joint-hosted by Chennai and Mumbai.
This is the first year in which the ECB have allowed carte blanche participation, meaning those who make the latter stages will miss the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s on June 2.
Royal Challengers Bangalore, the three-time runners-up, want to go one better under Virat Kohli
The decision was made prior to the finalisation of Test plans, yet it may not have mattered given the Twenty20 World Cup is being played in India in six months’ time.
Kolkata Knight Riders can rely on England captain Eoin Morgan’s expertise as they seek to win a third title and break the dominance of Mumbai, who have won five of the last eight editions.
Rajasthan Royals finished bottom last term but boast Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and, hopefully, Archer. Stokes replaced Buttler as opener in 2020 to rare Royals success, coinciding with a career-best unbeaten 107.
An extension of such form could influence England to bat Stokes ahead of Dawid Malan at three later this year amid concerns he is wasted further down the order.
Malan may struggle for regular game time at Punjab Kings despite his excellent T20 record, with West Indies duo Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran rivals for overseas batting berths.
Kolkata Knight Riders can rely on England captain Eoin Morgan expertise as they seek to win a third title
The Mumbai Indians are looking for a hat-trick of titles under India batsman Rohit Sharma
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk