The high (and low) fives
Return of the fast bowlersIrfan Pathan, Delhi Daredevils
Has been injury-prone over the past few years. Has managed to get in only seven first-class games since the end of the 2009-10. Last played first-class cricket in November 2012, scoring a century. A knee injury put him out of action, and he made a comeback only towards the end of the Indian season.
Zaheer Khan, Royal Challengers Bangalore
Was dropped from the Indian Test side after the Kolkata Test against England in December. Went back to India's first-class competition, the Ranji Trophy, to force a comeback, but injured his calf. Missed the final stages of Ranji Trophy. Is slowly working his way back to full fitness.
Munaf Patel, Mumbai Indians
Since India's World Cup win, in April 2011, has played two first-class games, 20 List A games, and 27 matches in the IPL. Began this season with appearances in the Challenger Trophy (the premier domestic one-day tournament), but then played only the Deodhar Trophy (the zonal one-dayers), after which he didn't represent Baroda in the domestic Twenty20s.
Umesh Yadav, Delhi Daredevils
Last played for India in the Ahmedabad Test against England in November 2012 before a stress reaction in the back ruled him out. Came back after rehab to represent Vidarbha in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (the domestic T20s), and took five wickets in the first match back.
RP Singh, Royal Challengers Bangalore
Has played only seven first-class games since his infamous Test comeback in August 2011, missing the whole 2012-13 season. Returned to action with his appearance for Air India in the Corporate Trophy in February 2013, and has represented Uttar Pradesh in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy since then.
Five with India stakesIndia's next international assignment will be the Champions Trophy, and there are ODI slots up for grabs. Here are a few who will want to make a case for themselves:
Virender Sehwag, Delhi Daredevils
Dropped from the ODI side after the Pakistan series in December-January, Sehwag will know the team still needs to firm up its opening options. He has not had enough time in domestic cricket to command a return, so he will be hoping for a bumper IPL season to remind the selectors of his existence before he is written off.
Gautam Gambhir, Kolkata Knight Riders
Hasn't lost his ODI slot yet, but is under pressure (one fifty in eight ODIs this season). Will have the added responsibility of the Knight Riders' captaincy. A solid showing with the bat and another strong performance from Knight Riders might be the best chance for him to keep his ODI place.
Rohit Sharma, Mumbai Indians
Rohit had a horrible limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka last year, which cost him his bench-warming privileges in Tests too. He has since come back with an innings of 83, opening against England, but that knock surely doesn't guarantee him a place in the side?
Ishant Sharma, Sunrisers Hyderabad
Ishant made his ODI comeback only because of injuries to other fast bowlers, and 12 wickets in eight matches on his return don't quite make him a certainty to hold down his place. However, he will have Waqar Younis and Dale Steyn by his side in the IPL, and that can't be a bad thing.
Unmukt Chand, Delhi Daredevils
An outsider, but Chand is a name that has been around for a long time, courtesy his under-19 performances, which include leading India to a World Cup victory. More recently, he scored back-to-back hundreds in the domestic Twenty20s.
First-timer foreign playersDarren Sammy, Sunrisers Hyderabad
Big hitter, steady bowler, exceptional fielder, captain of the world champion side, bought for the first time, and now playing for a relatively low-profile IPL team, Sammy should get enough opportunities to make an impact.
Samuel Badree, Rajasthan Royals
Conceding 4.83 an over, Badree owns the best economy rate among bowlers who have bowled a minimum of 300 balls in Twenty20 cricket. It is surprising that it took this long for Badree to make his way into the IPL. Royals play their home matches on a slow pitch surrounded by a big outfield, so he should enjoy the experience.
Kusal Perera, Rajasthan Royals
Perera's last two international innings are 64 and 56 and, before that, 336 and 97 in first-class cricket. With a batting style resembling quintessential limited-overs man Sanath Jayasuriya's, he could be just the man Royals need.
Quinton de Kock, Sunrisers Hyderabad
Considered by many the best young player in South Africa, de Kock has averaged 38 at a strike rate of 141 over 36 T20 games. In JP Duminy's absence, de Kock - who can keep wicket when needed - has a good chance to make the starting XI in more than a few games.
Sachithra Senanayake, Kolkata Knight Riders
After their success with Sunil Narine last year, Knight Riders have signed another spinner who is difficult to pick. Expect turning pitches at Eden Gardens, and don't be surprised if both of the overseas spinners feature in home clashes.
- Rahul Dravid
- Sachin Tendulkar (who will turn 40 on April 24)
- Adam Gilchrist
- Brad Hogg
- Muttiah Muralitharan
Under the radarManprit Juneja, Delhi Daredevils
Only the fourth Indian to have scored a double-century on first-class debut, Juneja has phenomenal statistics after a little more than a year of big-time cricket. He averages 74 in first-class cricket, and his sedate first-class strike rate of 46 takes a turn for the spectacular in T20s. After 12 games, he is averaging 43 at a strike rate of 152, and recently scored a 50-ball 108 to take Gujarat to the final of the domestic T20s, which they won.
Sachin Baby, Rajasthan Royals
Named, according to legend, after Sachin Tendulkar, though he was born a year before the latter made his Test debut. Twenty-four years later, Baby could be playing against Tendulkar in the IPL. Baby doesn't have the stats so far, but there must be something in his attacking left-hand batting and part-time offbreaks that has attracted the interest of the franchise.*
Pravin Tambe, Rajasthan Royals
The most fascinating story leading up to this IPL. A 42-year-old legspinner from Mumbai, he has hardly played any official cricket, was picked for Mumbai's one-day side this year without getting a debut, and has now been picked by Royals. What was that line again, about legspinners maturing late?
Parvez Rasool, Pune Warriors
First came 594 runs and 33 wickets for this offspinning allrounder in the 2012-13 Ranji season, then a chance to bowl in the India nets, and eventually a place in the tour match against the Australians, where he took 7 for 45. Now he has an IPL contract with Pune Warriors, and a chance to enhance his reputation as the best-known cricketer from the troubled state of Jammu & Kashmir.
Baba Aparajith, Chennai Super Kings
Like Sachin Baby, Baba Aparajith and his brother Indrajith were born to a cricket-loving father. The twins are nicknamed Sachin and Sunny. Aparajith, who bowls with an action similar to R Ashwin's, is a useful allrounder, who played a crucial part in India's Under-19 World Cup triumph.
- Ricky Ponting captaining Harbhajan Singh and Sachin Tendulkar
- Virat Kohli's first taste of captaining a senior side fulltime, especially since he is widely regarded as the heir apparent to MS Dhoni
- Chennai will not host Sri Lankan players. How much will it affect teams like Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils who rely heavily on Sri Lankans?
- Raipur in Chhattisgarh and Ranchi in Jharkhand are the newest outposts for the IPL
- And then there is the newest team, Sunrisers Hyderabad, who have inherited most of the Deccan Chargers players but have brought in a new and impressive coaching staff that includes Tom Moody and Waqar Younis
Missing in action
- Sourav Ganguly. Just ask the people of Kolkata what they think about this
- Alfonso Thomas. With 211 wickets, the most successful T20 bowler, one ahead of Dirk Nannes' 210
- Mitchell Starc. May be injured now, but this bowler of a deadly yorker and handy hitter down the order didn't put himself up for auction
- Vernon Philander. Before he became one of the most phenomenal Test debutants, he paid his bills through T20 specialisation for Cape Cobras
- Doug Bollinger. Had become Chennai Super Kings' own, winning them matches with sheer pace and bounce, until they released him and no other team bought him
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo