IPL 2023 preview: Buttler aims to serve up a repeat as new season could be Dhoni's last act
The Ashes is coming up this year, and so too is the Cricket World Cup.
But the roaring success of the Indian Premier League means its 16th season is anticipated on a similar level to those totemic events on the cricket calendar.
And why not? There is no greater franchise competition in cricket, featuring star names from across the globe playing to vast crowds and huge television audiences.
A measure of the boom in IPL popularity came when its broadcast rights were sold in the wake of last year's tournament, with five-year deals bringing in 48,390.5 crore (£4.8billion), testament to the tournament's enormous appeal.
Among leagues worldwide, only the NFL is said to have bigger per-game TV deals, with the spectacle of T20 cricket becoming a big winner with spectators, sponsors, broadcasters and advertisers.
Heading into the 2023 season, which begins on Friday with an eye-catching tussle between defending champions Gujarat Titans and 2021 winners Chennai Super Kings, Stats Perform has identified potential key storylines for the new campaign.
How can Buttler follow his MVP season?
Jos Buttler had a staggering campaign last time out for Rajasthan Royals, hitting 863 runs in 17 innings at an average of 57.53, with four centuries to his name. That was as many centuries as everyone else in the IPL combined managed to score.
He finished 247 runs ahead of KL Rahul, who was second on the batting list. Buttler cracked 83 fours and 45 sixes, and he has since been appointed England's white-ball captain.
This is a huge year for Buttler, with England defending their title at the World Cup, and all eyes will be on the 32-year-old to see how he contributes for the Royals.
Chris Gayle, in 2011 and 2012, is the only batter to have finished as top scorer in consecutive IPL seasons.
This is a league that brings explosive moments, and Australian bowler Pat Cummins surprisingly managed the fastest fifty with the bat last year, achieving the feat from 14 balls for Kolkata Knight Riders against Mumbai Indians.
With the ball, Buttler's Rajasthan team-mate Yuzvendra Chahal took a league-leading 27 wickets, at an average of 19.51 and with a 7.75 economy rate. He was the only bowler to take a hat-trick in the 2022 IPL, doing so against KKR.
The economy rate king was two-time former MVP Sunil Narine, who gave up an average of 5.57 runs in his 56 overs, albeit taking just a modest nine wickets.
CSK seek immediate statement win
Gujarat were champions in their debut season last time around, while defending champions Chennai finished a miserable ninth out of 10 teams.
This time CSK are determined to start strongly and banish memories of 2022, and one way or another it promises to be a memorable campaign.
It appears likely to be MS Dhoni's final IPL campaign, with the 41-year-old giant of the game and former India captain reportedly considering whether to call time on his illustrious playing career.
Dhoni would want to go out on a high, and in the hope of building a winning team CSK have taken an expensive plunge by bringing in England Test captain Ben Stokes.
There are suggestions Stokes could inherit Dhoni's talisman status at CSK, although there has been an early blow with the all-rounder not expected to bowl in the early stages of the tournament due to concern over his left knee.
CSK suffered another setback to their bowling department when they lost New Zealand fast bowler Kyle Jamieson to a back injury, replacing him with South Africa paceman Sisanda Magala.
Could pulling the Short straw work out well for Punjab Kings?
Jonny Bairstow would have been lining up for Punjab Kings, but a freak golf course injury continues to keep the England wicketkeeper-batter out of action.
In his place comes Australian Matthew Short, who has yet to play international cricket or feature in the IPL, but the 27-year-old is experiencing quite a moment in his career.
Short was player of the tournament in Australia's Big Bash League, the domestic T20 competition, when he scored 458 runs for Adelaide Strikers and became just the third player in 12 seasons to hit 400 runs and take 10 wickets in a single season.
He will fancy stepping up to IPL level and continuing his rich run of form, and joins a franchise that has seen significant change since finishing sixth last year. Punjab have a new captain and new coach, with Shikhar Dhawan and Trevor Bayliss replacing Mayank Agarwal and Anil Kumble.
PBKS will hope Short makes a long-lasting impact, while they are trusting a huge investment in Sam Curran pays off after making the England all-rounder the most expensive player in IPL history, landing him in the draft for 18.5 Cr (£1.85million).
Changes across the board
A year is a long time in the IPL, and there have been a host of new appointments.
Australian veteran and IPL master blaster David Warner has taken over as captain of Delhi Capitals due to Rishabh Pant being ruled out while he recovers from the major car accident he experienced in December.
Brendon McCullum's move to coach England means Kolkata needed a new man in charge, and they have brought in Chandrakant Pandit, while Brian Lara has taken over from Tom Moody with Sunrisers Hyderabad, and Mark Boucher will pull the strings with Mumbai Indians after Mahela Jayawardene became global head of performance.