Tushar Deshpande (Chennai Super Kings)
In an exhilarating season where the Chennai Super Kings secured a record-equalling fifth title, seamer Tushar Deshpande played an unlikely role in the lead cast. With his key pacer, Deepak Chahar, struck down in the first half due to injuries, captain MS Dhoni used Deshpande as a new-ball bowler and also as a death-bowling option, a move that fetched him 21 wickets from 16 matches, albeit at a cost.
In his first outing as the IPL’s maiden Impact Substitute, Deshpande conceded 51 for a solitary wicket against Gujarat Titans. He would end up with similar figures in the final—none for 56 in four overs. Deshpande also holds the dubious record for conceding the most runs in an IPL season (564). Nevertheless, the 28-year-old improved his economy rate in the closing half of the tournament with better returns in death overs.
Deshpande’s seaming-in delivery to clean bowl India and Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma early on in the league was a testament to his calibre, a bead of strength that may have tempted Dhoni to give the Mumbaikar a longer rope.
Stats in IPL 2023: Matches: 16, Wickets: 21, BBI: 3/45, Average: 26.85, Economy: 9.92, Strike Rate: 16.23. Auction Price: Bought for the base price of Rs 20 lakh in 2022 and retained by CSK before the IPL 2023 auction.
Akash Madhwal (Mumbai Indians)
Mumbai Indians’ frantic search for injured Jasprit Bumrah’s replacement ended briefly with the rise of Uttarakhand seamer Akash Madhwal in the second half of the league stage. The memories of a Shubman Gill onslaught in Qualifier 2, where he ended up with figures of one for 52 in four overs, may linger for a while. However, Madhwal’s sizzling burst in the lead-up made the headlines.
With shades of a sling in his high-arm action, Madhwal bulldozed through the Lucknow Super Giants top-order in the Eliminator, recording a sensational five for five in 3.3 overs—the joint-best bowling figures by an Indian and the most economical five-wicket haul in the IPL. It was preceded by a four-wicket haul in a must-win game against Sunrisers Hyderabad and a three-wicket charge against Gujarat Titans in the league stage.
Despite playing only eight matches, Madhwal was the joint-second-highest wicket-taker for MI with 14 victims. Madhwal has drawn confidence from his maiden white-ball captaincy stint in domestic cricket and prospered at the death under Rohit Sharma. He could emerge as an able ally for Bumrah and Co. in 2024.
Stats in IPL 2023: Matches: 8, Wickets: 14, BBI: 5/5, Average: 15.64, Economy: 8.58, Strike Rate: 10.92. Auction Price: Signed as a replacement player for Rs 20 lakh in IPL 2022 and retained by MI before IPL 2023 auction.
Sai Sudharsan (Gujarat Titans)
When Sai Sudharsan went airborne and uppercut Delhi Capitals quick Anrich Nortje over the wicketkeeper to reach his fifty in just his second outing of the season, the Tamil Nadu youngster announced his arrival in the IPL in brutal style.
If not for Kane Williamson’s agonising misfortune—an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury while diving in the Gujarat Titans’ opening match—Sudharsan would not have found an easy way in as GT’s top-order anchor. The left-hander backed up his regal 62 not out against Delhi with another fifty against the Kolkata Knight Riders. However, just five games in, Sudharsan was dropped by the Titans for a more aggressive batting formation.
Fitting in again is always a strenuous task. Brought back into the XI for the final stretch, the 21-year-old would have had doubts seeping in when he was forced to retire out on 43 against Mumbai Indians in the high-pressure Qualifier 2 match in Ahmedabad. Sudharsan reserved his riposte for the summit clash against the Chennai Super Kings. With a touch of old-school panache, Sudharsan cut and drove before exemplifying his slog-sweep range. He peaked with a magnificent 47-ball 96, the highest score by an uncapped player in an IPL final.
Stats in IPL 2023: Matches: 8, Runs: 362, HS: 96, Average: 51.71, Strike Rate: 141.40, 50:3, 4s: 33, 6s: 12. Auction Price: Bought for base price of Rs 20 lakh in IPL 2023 auction.
Jitesh Sharma (Punjab Kings)
Punjab Kings wicketkeeper-batter Jitesh Sharma may not have had a prolific run tally this season. However, the 29-year-old, who came close to an India T20I cap in early 2023, continued his aggressive batting with impressive efficacy in his second stint with PBKS.
Slotted as one of Punjab’s key finishers, Jitesh clobbered 21 sixes in 14 outings to notch up 309 runs at a strike rate of 156.09. He has not crossed the half-century mark, and his contributions may go under the radar if judged solely on numbers.
However, Jitesh crossed the 20-run checkpoint 10 times with three 40-plus knocks at strike rates over 150. Jitesh’s ability to clean the ropes from the get-go makes him a rare asset, one worth the investment in India’s lead-up to the 2024 T20 World Cup.
Stats in IPL 2023: Matches: 14, Runs: 309, HS: 49*, Average: 23.76, Strike Rate: 156.06, 4s: 22, 6s: 21. Auction Price: Bought for base price of Rs 20 lakh in 2022 and retained by PBKS before IPL 2023 auction.
Nehal Wadhera (Mumbai Indians)
Nehal Wadhera has had a memorable 2023 so far. The 22-year-old scored a century on his Ranji Trophy debut for Punjab in early January after being snapped up by Mumbai Indians in the IPL auction for his base price of Rs 20 lakh.
Making his T20 debut with the IPL, Wadhera was quick to attract eyeballs with a sprightly 12-ball 21 against RCB at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. With an injury sidelining Tilak Varma briefly, Wadhera moved to the frontline, impressing with successive fifties on contrasting turfs in the middle order in Chennai (64 versus CSK) and Mumbai (52 versus RCB).
For a rookie, the southpaw’s 241 runs from 10 innings with a 145-plus strike rate make for decent reading, and it will be worth watching what the sturdy kid has in store next season.
Stats in IPL 2023: Matches: 14, Runs: 241, HS: 64, Average: 26.77, Strike Rate: 145.18, 50: 2, 4s: 23, 6s:12. Auction Price: Bought for base price of Rs 20 lakh in IPL 2023 auction.