'Where talent meets opportunity'
That's the motto of the IPL since its launch in 2008, and over the past decade the tournament has proven to be a breeding ground for upcoming stars of the game, from India or elsewhere.
Season 12 was no different. It gave wings to the dreams of several rookies, who in turn took their flights of fancy to etch their name on the vast landscape of the premier T20 competition in the world.
We take a look at the five stand-out young guns from IPL 2019, but a disclaimer before that — in keeping with the methodology of the Emerging Player award that is given by the tournament organizers, this list doesn't include youngsters who have already done enough to make a mark for themselves in the global game. Which is why you won't find Jofra Archer or Prithvi Shaw in this selection.
1. Shubman Gill (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Matches 14 | Runs 296 | Average 32.88 | Strike Rate 124.36 | 50s 3 | Best 76
Where better to begin, than the official Emerging Player of IPL 2019. Numerically, Gill's maiden IPL campaign from last year reads better (average 33.83, strike rate 146.04), but for impact — and future glimpse — this season was much more valuable for the 19-year-old.
It began in the shadow of big Dre Russ; twice in the opening four games, Gill was at the other end as Andre Russell scripted the two most improbable heists witnessed in the IPL — in the first, Gill's contribution was quite significant, hitting two sixes in a 10-ball 18.
But the fear was that the teenager was being wasted batting at number six or seven. That changed for the majority of the second half of the season. Gill opened the batting in five of KKR's last seven games, and he struck three half-centuries in them — among the most visually-pleasing of all the big innings from this IPL.
A 65 off 39 against Delhi Capitals laid a platform which his teammates didn't make use of, a 45-ball 76 set KKR on their way to a gigantic total versus Mumbai Indians, and an unbeaten 65 off 49 marshalled a successful chase in a must-win against Kings XI Punjab.
2. Riyan Parag (Rajasthan Royals)
Matches 7 | Runs 160 | Average 32.00 | Strike 126.98 | Wickets 2 | Economy 8.64
If the Emerging Player award was only handed out to uncapped players, Riyan Parag would have been a frontrunner for it. The 17-year-old played just seven games for Rajasthan Royals, but made enough of an impact to announce himself to the big leagues.
We learned via commentary that his leg-spin bowling was something he had only figured out in the nets weeks ahead of his debut; Parag had been an off-spinner in the limited cricket he had played before that.
The real charm, however, was in the batting. Twice, the teenager scored 40s in successful chases that kept the Royals alive — against Mumbai Indians and away at KKR — but he saved his most impressive effort for the final game, even though it came in a losing cause. With the rest of the order hurtling down, Parag kept one end safe at Delhi displaying maturity well above his years to become the youngest half-centurion in IPL history. It had the glimpse of level-headedness that makes him an exciting prospect for the future.
3. Nicholas Pooran (Kings XI Punjab)
Matches 7 | Runs 168 | Average 28.00 | Strike Rate 157.00 | Best 48 | Dismissals 1
The numbers don't look all-too-impressive, especially for a Rs 4.2 crore price-tag, but there's more to it than what meets the eye. Nicholas Pooran batted just six times in IPL 2019, and only twice in the first month of the competition.
It was only in the final four games of the league stage that he got a consistent run in the Kings XI lineup, and scores were 46(28), 21(10), 48(27) and 36(22). For someone with a 30+ score every 3.5 innings and a strike rate above 145 in his T20 career, the 23-year-old from West Indies was grossly under-utilised by his franchise.
A strike rate in excess of 160 in those last four outings suggests what Punjab failed to tap into. He very nearly pulled them out from the brink in a 200+ chase at Bengaluru, provided fierce impetus in a brief cameo in another 200+ chase at Hyderabad, resurrected Punjab's innings (albeit eventually in a losing cause) at home against KKR, and successfully took on the tournament's best spin attack in CSK.
Kings XI realized this season that David Miller is not quite the impact performer he has been over the years, although a little belatedly for Pooran's case — he is unlikely to be wasted on the bench come IPL 2020.
4. Shreyas Gopal (Rajasthan Royals)
Matches 14 | Wickets 20 | Economy 7.22 | Strike Rate 14.4 | Runs 63 | Strike Rate 136.95
The best-performing Indian spinner from the season gone by. He could have made this list just for his mastery over two of the finest batsmen this generation has seen, but it's not like his overall record was any less eye-catching — among all bowlers to bowl more than 40 overs in IPL 2019, only Kagiso Rabada had a better strike rate than Gopal.
The 25-year-old conceded just 7.22 runs per over in a Rajasthan Royals setup where only one other regularly-used bowler leaked less than 9.50. That figure becomes even more stupendous when you factor in the amount of 'tough' overs his captains had him bowling, be it early on in the Powerplay, or towards the back-end of the innings.
Mesmerising variations and a courageous ability to flight the ball make Gopal a prime candidate to invest in over the coming years. Oh, and just to finish where we started: he's dismissed Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers seven times in a combined total of 40 balls. Yes.
5. Rahul Chahar (Mumbai Indians)
Matches 13 | Wickets 13 | Economy 6.55 | Average 23.69 | Strike Rate 21.6 | Best 3/19
Arguably the find of the season, which is a special feat for someone who didn't bowl a single over in the last campaign. The younger of the Chahar cousins ended with the title, and while he may have been well behind big brother Deepak on the wicket charts, Rahul has more than his own to hold once they're back home — of all the bowlers who delivered more than 10 overs this season, only Rashid Khan and Ravindra Jadeja had a better economy than the 19-year-old.
Only twice did Chahar concede more than eight per over, which is truly exceptional for someone who played half his games at the run-fest that is the Wankhede Stadium.
Most impressively, he saved his best for the toughest opponent, and the biggest stage. In two playoff games against Chennai Super Kings, including the final, Chahar's combined figures read 8-0-28-3. An economy of 3.50, in the season's biggest games, against a seasoned batting lineup, tells you there's a long road ahead for the young leggie.