There are certain things that are guaranteed in every edition of the Indian Premier League. Big name players will set the stage alight; paeans will be sung to any slightly older cricketer who does well with anchors falling over themselves to declare that "Twenty20 is not just a young man's game"; Chris Gayle will be the epitome of cool and will win matches for Royal Challengers Bangalore; there will be a major controversy or three; and somewhere within the cricket being played, there will be a space for a previously unknown player to shine.
While Gayle being Gayle is always worth dropping everything else for, it is the last possibility that will keep me most glued to the action this year.
Before the season began, every franchise signed up several uncapped domestic players, and nearly each one has at least one name - often more - who I hoped would get a chance to shine at some point in the tournament.
These are men picked because of their performances in the domestic season just gone by, and paradoxical thought it may seem, it will be satisfying to see them do well in the IPL. Not because they need the validation of IPL performance, but because it's a fact that in terms of reach and visibility, the Ranji Trophy is not a patch on the IPL.
There is too, the unquantifiable fact of performing in front of audiences - in the stadiums as well as in front of television sets - that rival an international match, and the experience of big-match atmosphere gained therein, as well as facing some of the best bowlers in the world, even if for a brief while.
'Days cricket', as it's called in India, is the go-to format for most of them to get a semblance of recognition if they do well. For many of them, opportunities aren't going to be plentiful in the IPL, unless they do a Manan Vohra and grab the first chance with such force that future appearances are guaranteed. But Vohra also benefitted from being in a side that lacked big name Indian batting talent, and it was easier for him to get a chance to shine.
What of men like Jalaj Saxena and Rishi Dhawan, part of the Mumbai Indians, a powerhouse of a squad if there's one? True, they did give young Jasprit Bumrah a go, but to break into the XI of a side that is good enough to keep a domestic stalwart like Dhawal Kulkarni on the bench, or not have room for a Pragyan Ojha when only one spinner is required, will be tough on Saxena, who has batted well and bowled tidy offspin, or for Dhawan, who is good enough to average over 42 with the bat and 25.48 with his right-arm medium pace bowling in first-class cricket.
Delhi Daredevils have Manpreet Juneja, who made a double century on debut for Gujarat against Tamil Nadu in 2011-12, and passed 50 six times in 13 innings last season. Juneja's played couple of games, but when Virender Sehwag returns, he's not likely to get too many chances in the starting XI. Kedar Jadhav, who is also part of Delhi, hasn't got a game yet, and when he couldn't get one with Sehwag absent, the chances of his playing later on don't seem all that bright. Jadhav has been considered good enough to be part of the 30-man probables squad for the Champions Trophy, and with good reason. His List A average is 52.34 with a stunning strike-rate of 108.1. True, not all his runs might have been scored against high quality attacks, but he was good enough to hit 52 not out off 50 balls for India A against an England attack of Steve Finn, Jade Dernbach, Tim Bresnan, Chris Woakes and James Tredwell in England's first warm-up match before their One-Day International series in early 2013. Impressively, the innings was full of good cricketing shots and not agricultural heaves.
Rajasthan Royals have signed on Sachin Baby, an exciting talent from Kerala. In the opportunities he's got, Baby has shown a remarkable aptitude for the limited-overs game in minimising dot balls and having the ability to put the bad balls to the fence and beyond. Rajasthan have found space for Stuart Binny, who has already done well, carrying on from a good season for Karnataka.
Elsewhere, Pune Warriors India have Parveez Rasool, who is relatively better known than most other uncapped players, but hasn't got a game so far. Chennai Super Kings have the immensely talented Baba Aparajith, one of India's heroes in the Under-19 World Cup, and one of the few who has shown the promise to make a successful step up from U-19 cricket to higher grades.
Among the candidates for India's next generation of pace bowlers, Pune have Ishwar Pandey, Chennai have Mohit Sharma and Delhi have Siddharth Kaul. Pandey will have to compete for a starting spot in a line-up that already has Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashok Dinda, while Kaul is in a side whom Morne Morkel will join soon, with Umesh Yadav and Irfan Pathan already there.
Not all of these players will get a game, and not all will shine even if they do get one. But I'll be watching eagerly for when they get a game, and it will be immensely gladdening if they do well.
If not, there's always Gayle. After his Man of the Match performance in Bangalore's first match, he was asked at the presentation ceremony if he would have bowled for Bangalore if he hadn't injured his leg while batting. "Yes I would have," Gayle deadpanned. "And I would have given just ten runs in four overs because I'm the best offspinner in the world."
Gayle's cricket, his one-liners and a chance to see a promising domestic talent do well. There's an IPL I can get on board with.