Any Indian player participating in the Indian Premier League this season can succeed, but some have a better chance at succeeding than others. Well-known stars would be expected to make an impact, but can 2021 throw in a Pravin Tambe? Here are five Indian players who can light up the 14th season of IPL.
1. Bhuvneshwar Kumar: The 31-year-old left-arm seamer will be coming back to top-level cricket after spending much of 2020 recuperating from a sports hernia surgery. Bhuvneshwar has been the bedrock of Sunrisers Hyderabad’s seam attack in recent years, and he will eager to make a significant contribution for his side this season. He will be fresh, too, unlike some of the other Indian stars who would be drained out by the gruelling Test and limited-overs rubbers with Australia and England. The T20 and the ODI series against England just before the IPL served as the right warm-up for him.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar. – K. V. S. Giri
Bhuvneshwar showed in the 2020 season that he hasn’t lost his sharpness, registering an economy rate of 6.98 in the four matches he played before being omitted from the tournament due to a thigh injury. This time, he will want to touch the highs of 2017, when he took 26 wickets at 14.19 and a strike-rate of 7.05.
2. Ravindra Jadeja: Good form, Australia tour, good stats in 2020 – maiden half-century – but bowling stats not good.
The ‘rockstar’ makes an impact with the bat, ball or in the field. He made useful contributions with the bat during the ODI and T20I series in Australia, his unbeaten 44 in the first T20I of the three-match series proving a significant contribution to an unlikely Indian win.
Jadeja was useful with the bat in the 13th edition of the IPL, scoring 232 runs at 46.40 and a strike-rate of 171.85. En route, he registered his first-ever IPL half-century against Sunrisers Hyderabad. His performances with the bat were a lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal campaign for the Chennai Super Kings.
Jadeja underwent surgery after having been struck on the thumb during the recent Test series against Australia. He will be keen on lifting the Super Kings to greater heights when he returns to action during the IPL.
3. Jasprit Bumrah: This freak bowler remains an enigma and could be the x-factor for Mumbai Indians this time, too, as the team bids to retain its title. Bumrah is fast, accurate, and deadly; his yorkers and bouncers are hard to negotiate for any batsman. He was so irresistible with the ball last season that he went on to become the second-highest wicket-taker (27) at an excellent average (14.96), economy rate (6.73) and strike-rate (13.33).
Bumrah has been busy playing Tests in recent months and has had mixed success. He took six wickets to help India beat Australia in the Melbourne Test of December 2020 but wasn’t very effective in the recently-concluded Test rubber against England in India.
He gets some time off before the IPL, though, and will be fresh to hurl some thunderbolts once again.
4. Hardik Pandya: Hardik has enjoyed a good run in top-level cricket since returning from a back injury, for which he underwent surgery in October 2019. He played three T20Is and as many ODIs since his return to cricket, and shone through in both formats, scoring 288 runs overall. He won the player of the series award in the T20I series against Australia, an award he handed over to T. Natarajan as a gesture of appreciation.
Hardik Pandya has been destructive with the bat in the death overs. – BCCI/IPL
So the signs are promising; will he be able to take his form to the IPL? If he is as effective during the tournament and Bumrah is as potent as ever, Mumbai Indians would be hard to stop. Hardik was handy with the bat during the previous IPL as well, but his more successful year was 2019; he scored 402 runs at a strike-rate of 191.42.
With Pandya bowling in the T20s and the final ODI against England, his economical spells can be an even greater asset to his team.
5. K. L. Rahul: There are many promising batsmen and good strikers of the ball who could succeed this season, but it’s hard to look past K. L. Rahul as he is a complete batsman, possessing a full range of strokes in his arsenal, a calm head, capable of flamboyance as well as the graft. Brian Lara describes him as “just class.” He was the top run-getter last season, scoring 670 runs at an average of 55.83 and a strike-rate of 129.34, with five fifties and a century.
What has he done since? He participated in the T20Is and ODIs in Australia as a wicketkeeper-batsman, scoring two half-centuries in six matches. Following a lean patch in T20s against England at home, he roared back to form with an ODI hundred against the same opponent. Another prolific season could be on the cards.