One of cricket’s most beloved events of the season, the 2018 India Premier League (IPL), has just kicked off in Mumbai, with eight teams from across the country bidding to pocket the equivalent prize money of $4 million

Reigning champions Mumbai Indians will look to retain their crown after their one-run win against Rising Pune Supergiant last year.

The 11th edition of the T20 cricket tournament will also see banned franchises Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals return after two years.

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For the first time, there will be 12 Englishmen participating in the competition, with the likes of Mark Wood, Alex Hales, Moeen Ali and Tom Curran making their first appearance.

Meanwhile, Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad will have to do without respectively Australian cricket team captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner, who cancelled their contracts following the recent ball-tampering scandal.

India Premier League’s highest-earning players

The eight running franchises tried to secure the best players on the market in a big-spending auction in late January.

England all-rounder Ben Stokes, was named as the most valuable player in the 2017 edition, securing a $1.9 million deal with the Rajasthan Royals.

Following January’s auction, Aussie stars Smith and Warner were the fourth and fifth highest earners after both being signed for $1.8 million, but will no longer take part in the competition.

Here are this year’s top earners.

1. Virat Kohli – $2.7 million

India captain and legendary batsman Virat Kohli bagged the most lucrative deal this year as Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) penned him down for a record-breaking $2.7 million.

Kohli has been the highest earner in the Indian Premier League for the past two seasons.

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But whether this is a good deal is still to be decided. RCB suffered a painful defeat to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in their debut match of the season, and captain Kohli took the blame for the result.

He will have to prove to be a real bargain at RCB’s next game against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP).

2. MS Dhoni – $2.4 million

The 36-year-old batsman is arguably the most popular cricketer in India and, as of January, a $2.4 million-worth Chennai Super Kings player. Dhoni was the third biggest earner in the IPL last year when Rising Pune Supergiant signed him for almost $2 million.

With him on board, CSK had a positive return to the India Premier League as they defeated Mumbai Indians in their first game of the season and then went on to beat KKR on Tuesday.

3. Rohit Sharma – $2.4 million

India vice-captain Rohit Sharma won the IPL trophy with the Mumbai Indians last year and renewed his contract for $2.4 million in 2018.

Sharma has played for the reigning champions ever since 2011 and was the sixth richest cricketer in the tournament in 2017.

MI lost by 1 wicket in the opening match of the season against CSK but will look to climb to the top as they face Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) on Thursday.

4. Suresh Raina – $1.7 million

Left-handed Indian batsman Suresh Raina joined CSK from the Gujarat Lions this year for a stunning $1.7 million fee.

Raina played for CSK between 2008 and 2015 before spending two years with the Gujarat Lions, which took part to IPL as replacement franchise in 2016 and 2017 – when he was the ninth highest paid cricketer.

5. Hardik Pandya – $1.7 million

MI landed Baroda all-rounder Hardik Pandya in 2015 and secured him for the 2018 tournament for $1.7 million.

Captain Pandya twisted his ankle during the first match of the IPL against CSK, though should be fit to return for the franchise’s upcoming match against SHR.

6. AB de Villiers – $1.7 million

Considered as one of the best batsmen in the world, South African AB de Villiers has played for RCB since 2011.

Despite a below-expectations performance against KKR on Sunday, RCB secured him for 1.7 million as he remains one of the most-wanted players on the market.

RCB’s upcoming match against KXIP could give him more space to show he is worth the money.