Less than two weeks after the climax of the 2015 Cricket World Cup, the 20-over version of the game will take prominence with the start of the eighth edition of the Indian Premier League. The annual event, which begins on Wednesday, is the most watched and most lucrative of the Twenty20 domestic competitions, and has again attracted stars from around the world.

The Kolkata Knight Riders begin IPL 8 as defending champions after beating Kings XI Punjab in a thrilling final last June. And Kolkata have kept the basis of their victorious lineup in place, with a team centered around domestic talent added to by Australians Brad Hogg and Pat Cummins. The hopes of Gautam Gambhir’s side have been given a boost by the news that key spinner Sunil Narine has been given the green light after his bowling action was tested for its legality.

But the team they beat in last year’s final also remain strong. Captained by the man who led Australia during Michael Clarke’s absence, George Bailey, Kings XI can also count on the big-hitting of Glenn Maxwell and the experienced bowling of another of Australia’s World Cup winners, Mitchell Johnson. And Bailey has said that he and his teammates are now fully focused on the IPL and the task of going from a surprise package to one of the known contenders.

“We obviously enjoyed the success [in the World Cup] but most of the guys have shifted their focus to IPL and we will be coming across each other as opponents now,” he told Indian news agency PTI. “The big change this season will be about meeting the standards we set last year. In our first year, we surprised a lot of other teams. This year, we are one of the hunted teams.”

It is the most successful team in IPL history, with two wins and three other final appearances, Chennai Super Kings, who begin the tournament as favorites, however. And it is easy to understand why, with the team led by India’s limited overs captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and boasting the firepower of the man who just took New Zealand to the World Cup final Brendon McCullum.

The most eye-catching batting lineup, though, is surely possessed by the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Along with captain and India star batsman Virat Kohli, they can again call upon South Africa captain AB de Villiers and the man who holds the record for T20 centuries around the world, the West Indies’ Chris Gayle. But Kohli believes it is the improved support around the star trio that could be key.

“This season is pretty different for us because for the last three or maybe four years myself, Chris and AB have played under a lot of pressure because the batting revolved around the three of us,” he said, reports the Indian Express. “We had to be cautious and at the same time look to score runs which sort of put us under pressure at times but this time around we have got Dinesh Karthik, Darren Sammy, [Subramaniam] Badrinath and youngsters like Mandeep Singh coming into the batting lineup.”

Among the rest, 2013 winners Mumbai Indians will be captained by India’s Rohit Sharma and feature Sri Lankan bowler Lasith Malinga. The man who was so instrumental in Australia’s World Cup triumph, Steve Smith, is back for the Rajasthan Royals, alongside compatriots Shane Watson and James Faulkner. After a last-placed finish a year ago, the Delhi Daredevils will hope for better with a team featuring India’s leading wicket taker during the World Cup Mohammed Sami as well Yuvraj Singh and Angelo Matthews. Rounding out the eight sides, the Sunrisers Hyderabad boast an opening pair of Australia’s David Warner and India’s Shikhar Dhawan.

The IPL will feature the eight teams each playing each other twice in a round-robin format, with the top four then qualifying for the playoff rounds.

Betting odds (provided by bovada.lv):
Chennai Super Kings 5/2
Royal Challengers Bangalore 7/2
Kings XI Punjab 5/1
Sunrisers Hyderabad 6/1
Kolkata Knight Riders 6/1
Mumbai Indians 13/2
Delhi Daredevils 11/1
Rajasthan Royals 12/1

Schedule (all times EDT)

April 8 (10:30 a.m.)  Kolkata Knight Riders v Mumbai Indians

April 9 (10:30 a.m.)  Chennai Super Kings v Delhi Daredevils

April 10 (10:30 a.m.)  Kings XI Punjab v Rajasthan Royals

April 11 (6:30 a.m.)  Chennai Super Kings v Sunrisers Hyderabad

April 11 (10:30 a.m)  Kolkata Knight Riders v Royal Challengers Bangalore

April 12 (6:30 a.m.)  Delhi Daredevils v Rajasthan Royals

April 12 (10:30 a.m.)  Mumbai Indians v Kings XI Punjab

April 13  (10:30 a.m.)  Royal Challengers Bangalore v Sunrisers Hyderabad

April 14 (10:30 a.m)  Rajasthan Royals v Mumbai Indians

April 15 (10:30 a.m.)  Kings XI Punjab v Delhi Daredevils

April 16 (10:30 a.m.)  Sunrisers Hyderabad v Rajasthan Royals

April 17 (10:30 a.m)  Mumbai Indians v Chennai Super Kings

April 18 (6:30 a.m.)  Sunrisers Hyderabad v Delhi Daredevils

April 18 (10:30 a.m)  Kings XI Punjab v Kolkata Knight Riders

April 19 (6:30 a.m.)   Rajasthan Royals v Chennai Super Kings

April 19 (10:30 a.m.)  Royal Challengers Bangalore v Mumbai Indians

April 20 (10:30 a.m.)  Delhi Daredevils v Kolkata Knight Riders

April 21 (10:30 a.m.)  Rajasthan Royals v Kings XI Punjab

April 22 (6:30 a.m.)  Sunrisers Hyderabad v Kolkata Knight Riders

April 22  (10:30 a.m.)  Royal Challengers Bangalore v Chennai Super Kings

April 23 (10:30 a.m.)   Delhi Daredevils v Mumbai Indians

April 24 (10:30 a.m.)  Rajasthan Royals v Royal Challengers Bangalore

April 25 (6:30 a.m.)  Mumbai Indians v Sunrisers Hyderabad

April 25 (10:30 a.m.)  Chennai Super Kings v Kings XI Punjab

April 26 (6:30 a.m.)  Kolkata Knight Riders v Rajasthan Royals

April 26 (10:30 a.m.)  Delhi Daredevils v Royal Challengers Bangalore

April 27 (10:30 a.m.)  Kings XI Punjab v Sunrisers Hyderabad

April 28 (10:30 a.m.)  Chennai Super Kings v Kolkata Knight Riders

April 29 (10:30 a.m.)  Royal Challengers Bangalore v Rajasthan Royals

April 30 (10:30 a.m.)  Kolkata Knight Riders v Chennai Super Kings

May 1 (6:30 a.m.)  Delhi Daredevils v Kings XI Punjab

May 1 (10:30 a.m.)  Mumbai Indians v Rajasthan Royals

May 2 (6:30 a.m.)   Royal Challengers Bangalore v Kolkata Knight Riders

May 2    (10:30 a.m.)  Sunrisers Hyderabad v Chennai Super Kings

May 3 (6:30 a.m.)  Kings XI Punjab v Mumbai Indians

May 3 (10:30 a.m)  Rajasthan Royals v Delhi Daredevils

May 4 (6:30 a.m.)  Chennai Super Kings v Royal Challengers Bangalore

May 4 (10:30 a.m.)  Kolkata Knight Riders v Sunrisers Hyderabad

May 5 (10:30 a.m.)  Mumbai Indians v Delhi Daredevils

May 6 (10:30 a.m.)  Royal Challengers Bangalore v Kings XI Punjab

May 7 (6:30 a.m.)  Rajasthan Royals v Sunrisers Hyderabad

May 7 (10:30 a.m.)  Kolkata Knight Riders v Delhi Daredevils

May 8 (10:30 a.m.)  Chennai Super Kings v Mumbai Indians

May 9 (6:30 a.m.)  Kolkata Knight Riders v Kings XI Punjab

May 9 (10:30 a.m.)  Delhi Daredevils v Sunrisers Hyderabad

May 10 (6:30 a.m.)  Mumbai Indians v Royal Challengers Bangalore

May 10 (10:30 a.m.)  Chennai Super Kings v Rajasthan Royals

May 11 (10:30 a.m.)  Sunrisers Hyderabad v Kings XI Punjab

May 12 (10:30 a.m.)  Delhi Daredevils v Chennai Super Kings

May 13 (10:30 a.m.)  Kings XI Punjab v Royal Challengers Bangalore

May 14 (10:30 a.m.)  Mumbai Indians v Kolkata Knight Riders

May 15 (10:30 a.m.)  Sunrisers Hyderabad v Royal Challengers Bangalore

May 16 (6:30 a.m.)  Kings XI Punjab v Chennai Super Kings

May 16 (10:30 a.m.)  Rajasthan Royals v Kolkata Knight Riders

May 17 (6:30 a.m.)  Royal Challengers Bangalore v Delhi Daredevils

May 17 (10:30 a.m.)  Sunrisers Hyderabad v Mumbai Indians

May 19 (10:30 a.m.)  Qualifier 1 - TBC v TBC

May 20 (10:30 a.m.)  Eliminator - TBC v TBC

May 22 (10:30 a.m.)  Qualifier 2 - TBC v TBC

May 24 (10:30 a.m.)  Final - TBC v TBC

TV channel: For viewers in the United States, Dish and Mediacom will offer pay-per-view coverage, with subscriptions available through your set-top box or contacting your provider.

Live stream: ESPN Cricket will provide live-streaming coverage of every match via a subscription costing $79.99.