The T20 extravangaza that is the Indian Premier League is back next week. Matt Harris looks ahead at what we can expect from this year's tournament and picks some high priced outside bets in the top batsman, top bowler and outright winner markets.
"The Warriors failed to make the playoffs in 2012 but since then, key players in the squad have enjoyed a prolific 12 months with either bat or ball."
Last year's beaten finalists the Chennai Super Kings are favourites to lift the IPL trophy this season at [5.5] and having claimed the title in 2011 and 2010, MS Dhoni's men are looking strong once again. Chennai have a powerful overseas contingent but crucially, they contain the best in local Indian talent with Dhoni heading a squad that contains Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Murali Vijay and the IPL's all-time leading run scorer Suresh Raina.
Chennai are obvious favourites but the outstanding outside pick here are the Pune Warriors. They failed to make the playoffs in 2012 but since then, key players in the squad have enjoyed a prolific 12 months with either bat or ball.
England's Luke Wright was welcomed back by the national selectors to make his country's highest score in an international T20 while Marlon Samuels has finally matured to produce the talent to back up his immense potential.
Elsewhere, Tamim Iqbal, Yuvraj Singh and new signing Ross Taylor will bolster the batting while Sri Lanka's mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis is rediscovering his best form just at the right time. The bowling attack will be headed by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashok Dinda who have both made significant international breakthroughs in the last twelve months.
Pune have been hit by the news that Michael Clarke is likely to miss the tournament through injury but there is enough batting talent in this squad to cover for the loss of the Aussie skipper. The Warriors are out at a generous [12.0] outright win market and are a sound option at [3.05] for a top four finish.
Recommended Bet: Back the Pune Warriors at [12.0]
Chris Gayle of Royal Challengers Bangalore is a clear favourite for the top run scorer bet at [4.3] and after he topped the IPL run charts in 2012 and 2011, it will be hard to see past the powerful Jamaican in this market. However, the left hander has been uncharacteristically inconsistent over the last 12 months.
There have been low points - at the end of 2012, Gayle made just 72 from five ODI innings against a weak Bangladesh attack - but there have been incredible highs as well. In February this year, he made a memorable 114 from just 51 balls for Dhaka in the BPL to underline his potential for a third successive win in this IPL market.
However, a strong outside bet is Gayle's Royal Challengers team mate Cheteshwar Pujara. The 25-year-old is primarily known as a patient and prolific run scorer who has yet to win a full limited overs cap but Pujara proved in the final innings of the fourth test against Australia that he can score quickly.
As India chased down a potentially testing target of 155 to win, Pujara made an undefeated 82 from 91 balls in a game with no fielding restrictions. He's similar to other players such as Hashim Amla and Alastair Cook in that he can score heavily in all forms of the game and at odds of [26.0] he looks a superb option for this bet.
Recommended Bet: Back Cheteshwar Pujara at [26.0]
Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga is the favourite at [2.42] in 2013's top bowler market after finishing third in the table last season with 22 victims from 14 matches. 'The Slinger' is the all-time leading wicket taker in IPL cricket with 83 and as recently as December 2012, he took the incredible T20 figures of 6/7 for Melbourne Stars in Australia's Big Bash.
Malinga is a natural favourite but it's a little surprising to see Sunil Narine out at [3.6] in this market after the Kolkata Knight Riders' star man finished ahead of Malinga in second place last season. Like all 'mystery spinners' Narine has been through a difficult period where wickets haven't fallen as frequently as they have done in the past.
2012 saw the 24-year-old make his entry into Test cricket but modest returns and the emergence of Shane Shillingford suggests that he is some way away from a return into the five-day game.
However, in IPL cricket, teams will have to get after Narine - meaning more false shots - and he is destined to bowl the important overs at the start and death of an innings when wickets tumble more frequently. At those odds of [3.6] he could be the bargain bet of this whole tournament.
Recommended Bet: Back Sunil Narine at [3.6]