IPL 10: Diamonds in the Coal Mine
As the IPL completes a decade the latest edition has turned the spotlight on some exciting new talent
The harsh reality of the cricketing world is that it doesn’t run on the reserve player platform. Unlike football or basketball, which have a strong foundation for the B-team or the second division at both country and club level, cricket has for many years sauntered on with the A-list players getting all the money and glory and the reserves toiling away in obscurity and penury. For the past few years, the BCCI has been organising international trips for the India A team but this consolation prize is not enough for the massive number of players who play domestic cricket for India both at the state and the regional level. It is in this regard that the IPL has been a platform of opportunity. At least in the 10 years of its existence, it has given a platform to the local players to rise to the occasion. Does anyone remember Paul Valthaty? He remains the only uncapped player to score a century in the IPL. His destructive batting approach grabbed the limelight in 2011 and soon lost its sheen to fade away into the darkness of obscurity.
This season too has thrown up a bunch of greenhorns who have grabbed the opportunity by both horns.
Rahul Tripathi: The 26-year-old soft-spoken lad from Ranchi is a perennial part of the Maharashtra domestic cricket team. Generally rated a technically sound batsman, Tripathi can go berserk and whack the bowlers out of the park with a cheeky smile on his face. Despite his erratic form in the Ranji Trophy, he was picked by the Rising Pune Super Giants at a base price of Rs 10 lakh. He started his IPL career as a middle-order batsman but was soon promoted to the opening slot by coach Stephen Fleming. His match-winning innings of 93 off 52 balls against KKR was a unique combination of authentic cricket shots and intelligent power-hitting. Also, Tripathi’s calm approach at the top has had a colossal impact on the fortunes of the team, which was once struggling at seventh place in the points table and was on the verge of another embarrassing exit. His 59 off 41 against Sun Risers Hyderabad and 45 off 31 against Mumbai Indians turned out to be decisive. Tripathi has shown more character and maturity than his senior opening partner, Ajinkya Rahane, throughout the tournament. The Ranchi lad has a reputation for hitting six sixes in local cricket matches. Who knows if he can do a Yuvraj-like stint on an international circuit in the future?
Nitish Rana: Another soft-spoken yet aggressive top-order batsman, from Delhi, who believes in hitting sixes out of nowhere. Rana’s ability to plan chases and build his innings according to the situation has been the turning point of Mumbai Indians (MI) campaign this year. The MI middle order has always been a jigsaw puzzle. Apart from Ambati Rayudu, no other batsman has successfully managed to overcome the rotation policy and regulate himself as the main batting stay in the middle order. Rana’s strength of hitting towering sixes and rotating the strike in the non-power play overs makes him a special player. So far he has hit 17 sixes, the most by any player in the MI squad, which has a long list of power-hitters including the likes of Pollard, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya and Joss Buttler. His successes include 45 off 36 balls against Sun Risers Hyderabad, 62 off 34 against KXIP along with the crucial cameos which led to victory against the Kolkata Knight Riders and Gujarat Lions. A part-time off-spin bowler and a quick runner between the wickets, he could be an ideal replacement for the aging and injury-prone Yuvraj Singh in coming days.
Rishabh Pant: He is making his presence felt by rising up the popularity charts with each passing day in Indian domestic cricket. The southpaw from Uttarakhand came into the limelight after his record-breaking 50 against Nepal followed by a century against Namibia in the Under-19 World Cup. He made his Ranji debut at the age of 18. In 2016-17, he smashed a spectacular triple century against Maharashtra and went on to score a 48-ball century against Jharkhand. Impressed by his on-field temperament and aggressive approach, the selectors declared him the captain of the Delhi side in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, ahead of senior pros Gautam Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan. Chasing 209 against Gujarat Lions, Pant stole the show with a breathtaking 97 off 43 balls to register the second-highest chase in the history of the IPL with 15 balls to spare. After declaring the Indian squad for the Champions Trophy, the chairman of the selectors, M.S.K. Prasad, had words of encouragement for Pant. “We are completely impressed by how Rishabh Pant is playing. It’s just combination because of which Pant missed out. He is one cricketer we are looking at for the future,” said Prasad.
Sanju Samson: Sanju Samson is not a new name on the Indian cricket scene. He has already made his T20 debut for the national side. Samson has been a constant performer in the IPL and his Ranji state team, Kerala. At 22, he is the youngest batsman to score 1,000 runs in the IPL with an average of 26.27 and a strike rate of 124.80 with seven fifties and one ton under his belt. He is also the youngest cricketer to captain a Ranji Trophy team. We hope to see more of this Kerala man in the blue jersey.
Krunal Pandya: Kunal’s case is not actually of a young emerging player, probably because younger brother Hardik has already cemented his place in the national side. However, the senior Pandya is the real find of the IPL. He came into the limelight in IPL 9, when he overshadowed Hardik’s power-hitting elegance with ease. He was frequently promoted ahead of Pollard and Hardik in the batting line-up and he proved his worth by playing the role of a reliable all-rounder. He has been invaluable with his slow left arm orthodox bowling. Pandya turns out to be the rare bowler who can boast of claiming A.B. de Villiers as his bunny. In four matches between them, Pandya has claimed de Villiers’s wicket four times, for just 33 runs at an average of 8.25. As of now, Ravindra Jadeja’s position in the Test squad is unchallenged but in the limited-overs format, with Pandya around, he has stiff competition.
Sandeep Sharma: The 23-year-old bowler from Patiala is a natural swing bowler who likes to keep it simple and accurate on most occasions. Moreover, he is a younger version of Bhuvneshwar Kumar with a bit of extra pace in the artillery. Sharma has represented India in two Under-19 World Cups. He was also part of the winning eleven which stunned the Australian team in the 2012 finals, picking up four wickets. After his World Cup heroics, he was picked up by Kings XI in 2013 and has been always retained since then. In IPL 10, he achieved the rare feat of dismissing Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and de Villiers in the same match. So far, he has 70 wickets under his belt in the IPL, with an average of 21.90 and an economy rate of 7.73. Like Samson, he has played one T20 international against Zimbabwe in 2015.
Washington Sunder: At the age of 17, Washington Sunder became the third youngest player to debut in the IPL. He was picked up by the RPS as a replacement for his citymate, Ravichandran Ashwin, one of the most successful off-spinners in Indian cricket history. It is quite surprising to see a 17-year-old youngster bowling with such maturity and intent and that too in front of the world’s best hitters in power play. In seven matches, Sunder’s economy rate is 7, which is level with KKR’s Sunil Narine – a feat in itself.
Mohammad Siraj: The 23-year-old lanky fast bowler from Hyderabad is taking the IPL by storm. The speedster was picked up by SRH at a whopping price of Rs 2.6 crore, thanks to his brilliant first-class season in which he picked 41 wickets in the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy. Siraj has a classy high arm action with a very deceptive bouncer. His ability to bowl toe-crushing yorkers in the death overs has been a treat to watch in the IPL. He effectively replaced the injured Ashish Nehra in the squad and completely bolted the door for Mustafizur Rehman, who was their most impressive bowler in the last edition.
(Other players to watch out for are Basil Thampi, T. Natarajan, S. Kaul, Ishan Kishan and K. Gowtham)