One of the core tenets behind the establishment of the Indian Premier League (IPL), other than crushing the Indian Cricket League of course, was nurturing Indian cricketing talent by getting them to play alongside some of the top names in the sport globally.
In the nine editions that have passed since the league's inception in 2008, the tournament has helped discover a number of gems, both for the Indian team as well as overseas. For those who manage to struggle their way up the ranks in domestic cricket, getting to play alongside superstars of the game is a dream come true, and is an experience that helps build the foundation for a successful career ahead.
A couple of pertinent examples in this regard would be the likes of David Warner and Ravichandran Ashwin (who unfortunately misses out this year), both of who emerged in the early years of the tournament. Training one's focus on the recent years, there are names such as Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal that emerge.
On that note, let us now take a look at some newcomers who will look to make a mark in the upcoming tournament:
Basil Thampi (Gujarat Lions): "IPL is a good platform for young domestic players, who get a chance to play with and against international players, and for me its a big opportunity," was how Thampi reacted after being picked up by the Rajkot-based franchise for a sum of Rs 85 lakh (more than what Manpreet Gony and Munaf Patel managed to get despite their experience) in the recent player auction in February.
Thampi’s domestic career can be described as still being at its nascent stage, with his experience amounting to 11 First-Class games and 29 combined appearances in the limited-overs formats. Despite his relative inexperience, his inclusion in the franchise has been described by Gujarat’s assistant coach Sitanshu Kotak as one that will bring balance into the bowling unit, along with the likes of Munaf and Gony.
Rovman Powell (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Among the purchases that the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) made in the recent player auction, which included some high-profile ones in Trent Boult (Rs 5 crore) and Chris Woakes (Rs 4.2 crore), not many would notice the name Rovman Powell, whose experience so far is largely restricted to the Caribbean.
The bowling all-rounder, who currently is part of the West Indies squad that is squaring off against Pakistan back home, made an instant impact in his List-A debut by winning the Man of the Match, picking up three wickets and scoring 31 quick runs in a winning cause.
Since then, he has gone on to represent the Jamaica Tawallahs in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), and will now look for success in the Indian league where several fellow West Indian cricketers have carved a niche for themselves in the past.
Mohammed Siraj (Sunrisers Hyderabad): Siraj’s journey to the IPL is one that should inspire several youngsters at the grassroots level, even if there is a long road that lies ahead of him.
A classic rags-to-riches tale, Siraj hails from a lower middle-class family, with his father having worked as an auto driver all these years in his hometown of Hyderabad. From a cash prize of Rs 500 in his first club game, the medium-pacer has come a long way to earning it big in the richest league in the sport.
Given the way he has progressed so far, Siraj will now be looking to capture the attention of the national selectors to try and make it to the Indian team soon.
Billy Stanlake (Royal Challenges Bangalore):
Stanlake was in the news earlier this year when he made his international debut for the Australian team in the first ODI against Pakistan, becoming the tallest-ever cricketer to play for the current world champions.
Stanlake can be described as something of a Big Bash League (BBL) product, as his seven appearances for Adelaide Strikes in the tournament helped fast-track his selection into the side, with the pacer not having played too many First-Class and List-A games before.
With several high-profile names either pulling out or missing out on the first few games in the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Stanlake, who was bought for Rs 30 lakh, will be hoping to get his big opportunity soon.
Rashid Khan (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
Rashid’s inclusion has been historic from the league’s point of view from several angles. His inclusion, along with that of SRH teammate Mohammad Nabi (Rs 30 lakh) marked the inclusion of cricketers from associate nations, and a price of Rs 4 crore in Rashid’s case showed the amount of interest that the bidders were beginning to show in cricketers from these regions.
What remains to be seen is if the Afghan leg-spinner can justify his price tag by letting the ball do the talking. If his performances in the recent matches against Ireland are taken into account, then he stands a very good chance of accomplishing that.