The celebrations that followed West Indies's stunning victory over England in the World T20 final are yet to die down, but preparations for the ninth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) have already begun. The Twenty20 carnival goes on for another couple of months, and this time the scene shifts to India’s billion-dollar baby!
The latest edition of the T20 extravaganza will be a significant one — we will not get to see Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, and in their place are two new franchises: Gujarat Lions and Rising Pune Supergiants.
While we will miss the services of a stars like Virender Sehwag (who has retired and is now mentoring Kings XI Punjab) and Mitchell Starc (out with a foot injury), we can definitely look forward to a few new faces who could sweep us off our feet in the coming days.
So here goes our pick of the six most exciting cricketers in the world right now who are yet to conquer the IPL, though that is very likely to change in the next six weeks:
Carlos Brathwaite (West Indies)
“Carlos Brathwaite! Remember the name!” screamed Ian Bishop from the commentary box after the Bajan all-rounder smashed four consecutive sixes in the final over of the World T20 2016 final. If there is one moment, or an over, that defined the tournament, it was that. It was the moment when the world stopped in its tracks, and took notice of the 27-year-old cricketer.
For quite some time now, Brathwaite has been marked as one of the most talented cricketers in West Indies. Despite making his limited-overs debut five years ago, it was only recently that he finally came into prominence.
Braithwaite is one of the most eagerly anticipated cricketers in the league. His hard-hitting abilities, his calmness under pressure and his handy bowling abilities should give the Delhi Daredevils (who purchased his services for Rs 4.2 crore) hope for producing a turn around this season.
Jos Buttler (England)
England have shown a tremendous improvement in limited-overs cricket since their disastrous first-round exit in last year’s World Cup, much credit for which could go to a new set of adventurous limited-overs specialist players.
These including wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler, who was among the highlights of his side’s second-place finish at the recently-concluded World T20.
Buttler sparkled with the bat during the two-match T20I series against South Africa as well, smashing an unbeaten 32 followed by a brave 54. His 30 in the Super 10 match against West Indies helped his side reach a competitive total, while his unbeaten 66 single-handedly ruined all the hard work the Sri Lankan bowlers put in earlier to restrict his team’s progress.
Buttler has been purchased for Rs 3.8 crores by Mumbai Indians. Given the form he is in, Buttler, one of the three England players in the IPL, will be eager to leave an impact.
Kyle Abbott (South Africa)
Abbott has made rapid strides in international cricket since making a sensational debut with figures of 7 for 29 in the third Test against Pakistan in Centurion in 2013. His progress since then has been primarily in limited-overs cricket, and he was among South Africa’s most economical bowlers in last year’s World Cup as well.
Of late, Abbott has become one of South Africa's key bowlers, with an ability to bowl in all stages of the game, including the crucial death overs. His consistent wicket-taking ability will make him a key weapon for Kings XI Punjab, which bought his services for Rs 2.1 crore.
Though Abbott was part of the Chennai Super Kings squad last year, he does not have any playing experience. The 27-year-old Durban lad will hope to change things come 9 April.
Colin Munro (New Zealand)
Despite being included in Mumbai Indians's squad as a replacement for Aaron Finch in the previous IPL edition, Munro mostly was confined to warming the bench and carrying drinks to the field. It was not long before Mumbai Indians dumped him.
Almost immediately after that, Munro smashed the fastest T20I century of all time in January, beating the record that teammate Martin Guptill had broken earlier in the same innings.
Mumbai's loss could turn out to be Kolkata Knight Riders's (KKR) gain, after the two-time champions purchased him for Rs 30 lakh. Munro may finally get the opportunity to earn big time in the cash-rich league with his power-hitting.
Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh)
The Bangladeshi pace sensation is symbolic of his national team's meteoric rise in international cricket since their quarter-final finish in the 2015 World Cup. From a memorable ODI debut, where he picked five and six wickets in his first two games respectively, to a superb run in the recent World T20, Mustafizur has come a long way.
Now in the IPL after being purchased for Rs 1.4 crore, where Shakib Al-Hasan is the only other Bangladeshi to have excelled, Rahman will look to add some more firepower to an already excellent Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling line-up that boasts of the likes of Ashish Nehra, Trent Boult, Barinder Sran, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, etc.
Samuel Badree (West Indies)
Samuel Badree ensured West Indies barely missed the presence of ace spinner Sunil Narine, turning out to be their leading wicket-taker as well as the most economical bowler in the tournament, opening the bowling for his side on all occasions.
His destruction of the Sri Lankan batting line-up ensured they never made a comeback in the game. Early wickets against England in the final pushed them on the back foot, ensuring they finished on a total shorter than one that would have given their bowlers confidence.
Despite his calibre, Badree has not exactly reaped success in the past editions of the IPL. While he played only one game for Rajasthan Royals in the 2013 edition, in which he conceded 34 runs without taking a wicket, he played four games for Chennai Super Kings in the subsequent edition, and was literally nowhere in the top wicket-takers' list, taking only two wickets in the entire tournament while going for runs.
However, an injury scare clouds Badree's participation in the IPL 2016 and if he is unable to regain fitness in time, he might miss out. While diving to take a catch in the final of the World T20, he hurt his shoulder and that has caused him to head back to Trinidad.
There are questions over his fitness at the moment, and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have been worried about their bowling options, especially since Australian pacer Mitchell Starc has also been ruled out. If Badree plays, he could turn out to be RCB’s key weapon with the ball. And that is a massive ‘if’.