Top players from around the world have gathered for the 14th Indian Premier League (IPL), which begins Friday for a 52-day Twenty20 extravaganza that will take place in empty stadiums due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Five stars could be the key to preventing reigning champions Mumbai Indians from winning for a third consecutive year.

Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore)

Kohli reacts after losing his wicket in a 2019 IPL match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad in Bangalore [File: Aijaz Rahi/AP Photo]

The Indian captain and prolific batsman is essential to the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s hopes of winning a first IPL title.

He led his team to a better performance last year with 466 points in 15 appearances as Bangalore made the playoffs in the UAE. He said he would open the baton in the T20 internationals and the IPL.

But with critics, including former Indian opener Gautam Gambhir, suggesting there must be a guard change in Bangalore, ‘King’ Kohli will be determined to shine ahead of the T20 World Cup later this year.

Ben Stokes (Rajasthan Royals)

Stokes reacts to bowling against Sunrisers in IPL match in Hyderabad [File: Mahesh Kumar A/AP]

The English all-rounder has proven his worth in all formats and his form with bat and ball will be crucial as inconsistent Rajasthan strive to continue their inaugural IPL triumph in 2008.

The Royals, who will be led by India Sanju Samson this season, finished bottom of the eight-team table last year, with Stokes joining the team late due to his late father’s illness.

He scored 285 points, including an unbeaten 107, in eight games for a team that ran hot and cold.

New Royals cricket manager Kumar Sangakkara believes Stokes is “exactly the type of player any side would want.”

Steve Smith (Capitals of Delhi)

Smith plays a shot during a 2019 IPL match between the Delhi Capitals and the Rajasthan Royals at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur [File: Sajjad Hussain/AFP]

A new start awaits Australian Steve Smith after being bought by Delhi Capitals for $ 300,000 at this year’s auction, following his release from the Rajasthan Royals.

Smith, who led the Royals last year, could struggle to make the starting XI in a powerful Delhi lineup that includes skipper Rishabh Pant, Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw and Shimron Hetmyer.

But coach Ricky Ponting insists Smith, a prolific top-notch hitter who has amassed 2,333 points in 95 IPL games, will be hungry to play in a T20 World Cup year.

“I think the fact that he’s been released from the franchise he’s been in for a long time will make him a little hungry this year too,” Ponting said on the Cricket Australia website.

He added that Smith’s playing chance would be in the top three in the batting order.

Chris Morris (Rajasthan Royals)

Morris unsuccessfully appeals for the wicket of India’s MS Dhoni during the Cricket World Cup match between South Africa and India at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, England [File: Aijaz Rahi/AP]

The Royals broke the bank for the South African all-rounder at the IPL auction as the 33-year-old became the most expensive player in IPL history with $ 2.25 million.

Morris, who has claimed 80 wickets and scored 551 points in 70 IPL games, admitted the prize “blew me away.”

“There’s a little extra pressure, but the pressure you get from a price tag doesn’t affect you on a cricket pitch at the end of the day,” Morris said.

Chris Gayle (Punjab Kings)

Gayle lifts her bat after completing 50 races in the 2019 IPL match between Delhi Capitals and Kings XI Punjab at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in New Delhi [File: Sajjad Hussain/AFP]

Still a force in Twenty20 cricket at the age of 41, the veteran remains a staple in the Punjab Kings’ batting arsenal.

The so-called “Universe Boss” exploded last season after making the team halfway through the tournament to hit three half centuries in seven games.

Punjab missed out on a play-off spot, but the destructive southpaw, who is aiming for his third T20 World Cup title with the West Indies later this year, said he believed the team’s name change to Kings XI Punjab would also bring them. a change of luck.

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