Big-buck earners: Tendulkar and Dhoni are a marketer's dream
Limited-overs cricket returns to its spiritual home, now the sport's world economic powerhouse and home to the most expensive cricketers in the game's history.
The tournament is also likely to be the great Sachin Tendulkar's final bow - no player has scored more runs in the competition and, with 1,796 to his credit, his landmark will be very difficult to surpass.
WORLD CUP RECORD
One of only five teams to win the tournament, the Indians are thirsty for success on home soil after missing out in 1996, when their exit from the tournament at the hands of Sri Lanka in the semi-finals caused a near-on riot at Eden Gardens. Their 1983 victory at Lord's against West Indies remains one of the greatest underdog victories in the game - the nagging medium pace of Mohinder Amarnath and Roger Binny up against the willow-wielding might of Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Clive Lloyd and Desmond Haynes. The hosts will be desperate to erase memories of the 2007 competition, when a defeat by Bangladesh saw them crash out of the group stages with barely a whimper, while they reached the final in South Africa in 2003, only to suffer an utter thrashing by Australia.
It's almost impossible to cross a street, buy a soft drink or read a newspaper or magazine in India without Mahendra Dhoni's face staring right back at you. He is everywhere - and for good reason too. Since taking over as Indian one-day captain in September 2007, Dhoni has presided over 52 victories as well as taking his country to the top of the Test rankings. Astute and shrewd, the 29-year-old is an accomplished tactician whose brain is constantly ticking to strangle runs on the field. With the bat, he is one of the most destructive players around - most teams have had to deal with a Dhoni onslaught at some stage. More of the same will be expected in front of his home crowd.
There is a very good reason why Yusuf Pathan is the second-most expensive player in IPL history ($2.1m to the Kolkata Knight Riders since you ask). His six-hitting exploits are legendary - he has hit 36 in 45 one-dayers batting in the lower mid-order. Add his off-breaks into the equation and his safe hands in the field and it's easy to see why Kolkata shelled out top dollar.
Semi-finals at least. Ask an Indian and nothing less than lifting the trophy will do. Their home form is ominous too - they have only lost twice in India in their last 14 matches. However, doubts still linger about the composition of the pace attack - currently Zaheer Khan and two of three others. India are full of match-winners with the potential to deliver the fairytale ending for Tendulkar.
India squad: Mahendra Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag (vice-capt), Ravichandran Ashwin, Piyush Chawla, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Sreesanth*, Sachin Tendulkar.
*Called up as a replacement for Praveen Kumar