x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

IPL VII: UAE all set for a desert storm

Chitrabhanu R Kadalayil looks at the three most exciting fixtures the United Arab Emirates will see in April.

The rivalry between Mumbai Indians, in blue, and Chennai Super Kings, in yellow, could draw huge crowds from around the country. Manjunath Kiran / AFP
The rivalry between Mumbai Indians, in blue, and Chennai Super Kings, in yellow, could draw huge crowds from around the country. Manjunath Kiran / AFP

The UAE is to host the first phase of the annual Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 competition, starting on April 16 in Abu Dhabi.

With 20 matches spread across the three emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, and all likely to be close – going by the IPL’s six-year history – here is a look at three fixtures that should draw the fans.

Mumbai Indians v Kolkata Knight Riders, Abu Dhabi, April 16

Apart from the fact that this is the opening match of IPL VII, it is being played by two of the top four teams in the competition.

These teams do not have much of a rivalry – the Indians have won 10 and lost just two of the 12 matches they have played against Kolkata – but they both have settled squads, full with top-draw players. They also won the past two IPL titles.

The likely presence of Shah Rukh Khan – one of Bollywood’s biggest stars and part-owner of the franchise – will pull thousands of fans to the Zayed Cricket Stadium.

Kolkata could also receive a boost from the partisan Bengali crowds living in the country.

Chennai Super Kings v Delhi Daredevils, Abu Dhabi, April 21

The last time Kevin Pietersen, of Delhi, and M S Dhoni, the Chennai captain, faced off as leaders of their respective sides was when England toured India in 2008.

Both players will arrive in the UAE after having had to deal with off-field controversy: Pietersen was sacked by the England and Wales Cricket Board, while Dhoni faced court over allegations of spot-fixing in the IPL last season.

They are both strong personalities and are expected to rebound with a point to prove – a mouth-watering prospect.

Chennai Super Kings v Mumbai Indians, Dubai, April 25

This is the biggest rivalry in the IPL. When these two teams step on to the field against each other, their respective supporters yearn for bragging rights. They are also the best bankrolled teams in the league.

They have played in the final twice with Chennai winning in 2010 and Mumbai gaining revenge last year. While Mumbai have a slender head-to-head advantage, having won nine of the 15 games, Chennai have been better in the crunch matches.

The Dubai crowds have to contend with the absence of Sachin Tendulkar, who retired as a Mumbai player last year, but the game could still be a sell-out.

ckadalayil@thenational.ae

Follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE