It's that time of the year again. From blazing sixes to tense, hot evenings to cheer girls, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is set to make an eleventh appearance next month. Over the last 10 years, the unabating anticipation of watching stars from across the globe on one platform has dominated the hot Indian summers.
Like every other T20 league out there, each IPL season brings with it a number of newcomers. This year the expectations are sky high from some of the IPL debutants who have excelled in other leagues across the planet. Here we put together a list of five of those newcomers who could own the IPL with their performances this year.
Mujeeb Zadran (Kings XI Punjab)
Bought for a whopping Rs 4 crore at the auctions, 16-year-old Mujeeb Zadran is a match-winner in his own right. The teenage Afghan sensation is the youngest player in IPL history and could well be the find of the tournament too, going by his recent exploits at international level.
He made his Afghanistan debut last year after some serious performances at the under-19 level, and with his mix of off-spinners, leggies and googlies, proved to be a menace in the company of Rashid Khan. He starred in the country's historic under-19 Asia Cup win with a five-wicket haul in the finals, where they beat Pakistan.
At Punjab, he will have an enthusiastic Ravichandran Ashwin to teach him the nuances of spin bowling and given his maturity and slew of skills at such a young age, Mujeeb could well be the x-factor in the tournament.
D’Arcy Short (Rajasthan Royals)
A Western Australian player, D’Arcy Short made rapid strides in T20 leagues after a bombastic run in the 2017-18 edition of the Big Bash League (BBL), where he topped the run charts with 572 runs in 11 matches at 57.20, including a hundred and four half-centuries. Representing Hobart Hurricanes, Short smashed the record for most runs in a single season with a display of brute power and smart batting.
It is perhaps his stunning strike rate of 147.8 from the top of the order that attracted Rajasthan Royals to this swashbuckling batsman. From a base price of Rs 20 lakh, Short went up to Rs 4 crore before Rajasthan snapped him up. His ability to bowl decent chinaman wrist-spin also makes him an enticing option.
On the flat-baked batting tracks in India, Short should be a huge threat for the bowlers with his power-hitting. He owned the Big Bash League last year and there is no reason why he couldn't make his IPL debut as memorable.
Shubman Gill (Kolkata Knight Riders)
The Virat Kohli of under-19 cricket, youngster Shubman Gill impressed in India's successful U-19 World Cup campaign in New Zealand with a series of consistent performances. He finished the tournament as the 'Player of the Series' after scoring 372 runs in five matches at a whopping average of 124 and a strike rate of 112.38.
Gill is as classy as they come these days and is touted for big things even by critics. At Kolkata, where there is a shortage of top order batsmen, Gill could get quite a few games to impress. He isn't all about big bat swings and 360-degree shots, with his maturity and tenacity evident in his semi-final hundred against Pakistan at the under-19 World Cup.
Gill could turn quite a few more heads if he can maintain his form in the all-important IPL. After all, heroes are made and wrecked in this two month extravaganza and Gill’s time could arrive early given his outrageous talent.
Jofra Archer (Rajasthan Royals)
The most outrageous talent in T20 cricket at the moment, Jofra Archer earned a name in the BBL after coming in as a replacement player. A West Indian-born fast bowling all-rounder who plays for Sussex and hopes to qualify for England, Archer made headlines with his mind-blowing fielding and foot-breaking pace in the BBL.
He finished with 16 wickets in 12 matches in the season, conceding runs at a rate less than eight. But more than the numbers, it was his sheer impact in the field and with the ball that gave him a cult status in the Australian league. He has since played in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) and the Pakistan Super League (PSL), impressing as much with his unmistakable talent.
Rajasthan Royals dished out a stunning Rs 7.2 crore for the talented West Indian but it seems worth the money given how well Archer has played in leagues across the globe. At 22, the world is at Archer's feet, and nothing could give his career a major boost like the IPL. Expect him to turn up confidently and own the league as he did at the Big Bash.
Kamlesh Nagarkoti (Kolkata Knight Riders)
The screaming teenage Indian pace bowler hit headlines during the under-19 World Cup in New Zealand with his scorching pace. He clocked speeds in excess of 145 kmph in the very first game of the tournament, sending shivers down the spines of opposition batsmen.
He bowled in short bursts, swung the ball, bowled extremely good lines and virtually made scoring a tough task. In six matches, Nagarkoti picked up nine wickets at an economy of 4.12, utilising the pace and bounce on New Zealand wickets to full effect.
The Kolkata wicket too should offer something for the young Nagarkoti. Last year, the venue was a hotspot for fast bowlers and if they remain similar, the youngster could well wove a haven right at Eden Gardens, where he would play his home games. His claim to stardom isn't too far off and IPL 2018 could present him with the ideal opportunity.