Hope the IPL is spared of desert storms in the Middle East.
There is no Sachin Tendulkar to triumphantly bat through the blustery, dusty maze.
Legends will be legends and Sachin will be Sachin. The fact of the matter is that a significant chunk of matches, including the playoff games and the final, of IPL 2021 will be played in these parts.
The IPL, suspended owing to COVID-19 striking the tournament in May this year, is all set to resume.
And the two most successful teams in IPL history, Mumbai Indians (8 points from 7 matches) and Chennai Super Kings (10 from 7) will meet on Sunday night in Dubai to kick-start the tournament resumption.
Could help pacemen
The surface for the game between the two top-four teams could lend encouragement for pacemen in terms of bounce and seam movement. Mumbai Indians has signed up the pacy Kiwi Adam Milne who has been in blazing form recently. And CSK has been bolstered by the return of Aussie seamer Josh Hazlewood.
The game will witness two wily captains, M.S. Dhoni and Rohit Sharma, matching wits and skills. The duel could go down to the wire.
A fresh venue, plenty of new faces, and the second half of IPL 2021 already has a different feel to it.
Several English players have pulled out with the Ashes looming, and a few others have fitness concerns.
Then there is this controversy surrounding Virat Kohli’s shock relinquishing of the T20I captaincy after the T20 World Cup.
There are several theories doing the rounds, but perhaps the Indian captain wants to create a little space for himself to spend with his family.
And T20I is the format that can be done away with easily, given Kohli’s passion for Tests and the significance of the ICC ODI World Cup.
The whispers of Anil Kumble getting back the India coach’s job is growing by the day, but then the Indian leg-spinning legend is genial by nature and not someone who carries old wounds.
Kumble’s immediate job though, as the coach of Punjab Kings, will be to lift the side from its current position of 6 points from 8 matches.
With the influential Dawid Malan opting out, it has roped in Aiden Markram.
Delhi Capitals is at the top of the table with 12 points from 8 games. The side has powerful stroke-makers, a fiery pace duo in Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, and a potent mix of domestic and foreign talent.
Kohli, A.B. de Villiers and the much-matured Glenn Maxwell have formed a formidable batting force for Royal Challengers Bangalore this season.
RCB, in the top four, has also brought in Wanindu Hasaranga, the Sri Lankan leg-spinner with a potent googly.
Given its position on the table, Rajasthan Royals has plenty of heavy lifting to do.
But then, its big-hitting English import Liam Livingstone is in terrific form. The team has also signed up West Indian swashbuckler Evin Lewis and South African wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, adding another dimension to its attack.
Kolkata Knight Riders too needs a change in fortunes. Will canny Kiwi swing bowler Tim Southee, in for Pat Cummins, provide it?
And Sunrisers Hyderabad has bought West Indian hard-hitter Sherfane Rutherford for Jonny Bairstow.
Given that the UAE is 90 minutes behind India, the matches beginning at 7.30 p.m. IST will be commencing at 6 p.m. local time. And the team batting first may have to bat in twilight, not the easiest time to sight the ball, for a considerable length of time.
UAE brings its own sets of challenges.