So who will topple Chennai Super Kings in this year's IPL? Is anyone capable, or will MS Dhoni's men be crowned Champions for a third consecutive year? IPL5 is here and six weeks of compelling action will begin to unfold on Wednesday.
In the build up to this year's tournament many people have had their say and as I know from my own experience, a successful product is always a prime target for the cynics and doom mongers. Certainly, there have been issues. Earlier this year, the temporary withdrawal of financial support for Indian cricket by Sahara after a disagreement with the BCCI, threatened the future involvement of the Pune Warriors. Although Sahara settled their differences, allowing Pune to retain their place, the BCCI were mighty close to losing a second franchise following Kochi's suspension in September. Had that happened, the loss of 20% of the league within a matter of months would've created a massive issue for the BCCI in terms of the IPL's perceptible strength.
Naturally, and quite properly, all of it was played out in the full glare of public scrutiny and the one thing that appears to be constant about the IPL is that the tournament continues to command an abundance of contrasting column inches. Commentators appear to be split between highlighting the quality of the world-class talent on show and making financial comparisons with previous editions of the tournament.
For example, in the last few days, I've seen headlines as diverse as: "The turf ain't that green anymore" and "IPL has all the ingredients of a Blockbuster."
There's been focus on Dhoni, Tendulkar, Gayle, and co. as prized assets in the latest world-class festival, while other observers talk about poor television ratings and suggest the IPL is in terminal decline. It is true that last year's TRP (Television Rating Points) of 3.9 compared to 5.2 in 2010 is not a particularly positive statistic, but for me it doesn't suggest the IPL is suddenly past its sell by date.
In the formative years, we made sure that we stayed on top of the "wow" factor. A strong part of our approach was to ensure we continued to innovate and present and package the product in a refreshing way. After all, if your favourite meal is served in exactly the same style every night, you'll soon tire of its splendour. It was always my intention that the IPL should be different. It had to be a constantly developing tournament, consumed by a colourful, vibrant razzamatazz that supported top class T20 cricket played by the best players in the world. And each year, we knew we had to work harder to make it different than the last. So, in my view - and whatever the current questions of the commentators - the IPL retains all the basic ingredients of a wonderfully exciting and eagerly anticipated spectacle, lit up by wickets, catches, sixes, and run outs.
And now, with the build up effectively over, 76 matches at 12 venues promise tremendous excitement in the fifth series. The first match could hardly have been better positioned. Chennai Super Kings versus the Mumbai Indians in Chennai. Or put another way, Dhoni versus Sachin! It will be Sachin's first game on home soil since that memorable moment in Dhaka, Bangladesh, when he became the first player to score 100 international centuries. Remember, he also scored a century in last year's IPL, so this is not a bad little opener!
I for one, shall be glued to the screen and before you ask, of course there will be some sadness that I'm not there personally to see it all unfold. But equally I'll be as proud as I've been at the outset of the four previous editions, of the part I played in making it happen.