The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 is all set to kick off on 9 April, when defending champions Mumbai Indians will take on three-time runners-up Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Arguably the biggest T20 league in the world, IPL has been responsible for unearthing some of the brightest talents since its inception in 2008. Only a select few, however, are privileged enough to receive call-ups from their respective international sides. India’s Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan are among the latest examples of those who have received their international call-ups after years of delivering in crunch situations for their franchise and performing well in the domestic circuit.
The likes of Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Rahul Tewatia impressed in the previous edition and will continue to be vital cogs for their respective franchises. The competition is intense and players such as these will sense another golden opportunity for them to prove their might to the selectors.
Last, but not least are the likes of Shahrukh Khan, Marco Jansen, Lukman Meriwala and Chetan Sakariya – players who will hope to come off as surprise packages and become household names by the end of the upcoming edition.
On that note, we take a look at 10 uncapped players to watch out for in IPL 2021:
Consistency speaks volumes for the 20-year-old Devdutt Padikkal. After finishing as the leading run-getter in both the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament last season, the southpaw carried his rich vein of form in IPL 2020, striking 473 runs – the most by an uncapped Indian in a debut season.
Scoring runs all around the park, playing risk-free cricket and consistently getting RCB off to solid starts has almost assured him of the opening slot in IPL 2021, with skipper Virat Kohli as his partner.
His rollicking form in the recently concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy, where he finished as the second-highest run-getter with a staggering average of 147.40, bodes well for him and RCB.
‘The Emerging Player of the Year’ from IPL 2020 has already turned heads and another successful season will surely bolster his case for an India call-up.
CSK finished near the bottom of the table, ahead of only RR, in IPL 2020 but Ruturaj Gaikwad emerged as one of the positives for the franchise. Skipper MS Dhoni was criticised for not giving sufficient chances to youngsters and backing experienced players, in spite of their poor performances.
The right-hander became the first uncapped Indian to score three half-centuries on the trot, averaging 51 while maintaining a decent strike rate of 120.71 overall. The 24-year-old is expected to be much more integral to Chennai’s plans this time around.
IPL 2021 will be another opportunity for Gaikwad to shine and prove that he belongs at this level, when he walks to open for CSK.
He has been featuring in the IPL since 2014 but one night is all it took for him to become a household name. Last season, the left-hander dominated headlines by hammering five consecutive sixes off Sheldon Cottrell to help RR pull off the highest successful chase in the league’s history.
He featured in as many as 14 games for RR in IPL 2020, his best season to date. A clean striker of the cricket ball, he averaged 42.50 with the bat while maintaining a strike rate of 139.34. Besides his role as a middle-order batsman, Tewatia was also handy with his leg-spin and scalped 10 wickets.
The Haryana all-rounder was among the few promising cricketers who were named for India’s T20I series against England. However, like off-spinner Varun Chakravarthy, he failed to clear the fitness tests.
After coming this close to getting an India cap, the 27-year-old will be keen to improve on the fitness front, while aiming to dish out swashbuckling batting performances to keep him in the reckoning.
Marco Jansen, along with his brother Duan, got an opportunity to bowl to Virat Kohli and Co in the nets during the team’s South Africa tour in 2017/18. They also drew praise from head coach Ravi Shastri and the other Indian players.
While the left-arm seamer did get a call-up from the South African team during their recently concluded Pakistan tour, he didn’t get a Test cap. Besides swinging the new ball up front, the youngster can also chip in with the bat down the order.
And now, Marco is set to don the jersey of Mumbai Indians, the most successful franchise in the league’s history. While he was bought for his base price of Rs 20 lakh, MI owner Akash Ambani said that they had been tracking the 6ft 8inch pacer for the past two years.
As a franchise, MI is known for having a fantastic talent scout program and moulding talented youngsters into potential match winners. This bodes well for Marco, who might well have the chance to bowl at some of the world’s biggest batsmen and create an impact.
Tamil Nadu’s big-hitting batsman, whose name resembles Bollywood actor and KKR co-owner, created a buzz at the auction table and was eventually bought by Punjab Kings for a whopping 5.25 crore.
He turned heads during the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, where his 19-ball 40* sealed Tamil Nadu’s victory in the quarter-final match against Himachal Pradesh. Later. in the final against Baroda, he scored an unbeaten 17 off 8 balls during the chase, helping his team lift the title.
His explosiveness was evident from his strike rate of 220, the best in the tournament. While Punjab is likely to use him as a middle-order batsman, Shahrukh is also capable of bowling off-spin.
Shreyas Gopal has been on the scene in domestic cricket since 2013/14, his debut season when he played a vital role in leading Karnataka’s victorious Ranji Trophy campaign. He was picked by Mumbai Indians in the past but only after coming to Rajasthan Royals has he enjoyed greater responsibility and game time.
The leggie has picked up 48 wickets from 45 matches in his IPL career while conceding 7.85 runs per over, his best figures being 4/16. Notably, he also a hattrick to his name, which he scalped against RCB in 2019. Besides, he can also chip in with the bat down the order. Gopal has a knack for striking at crucial junctures of the game. In the past, he has spun a web around the likes of Kohli and AB de Villiers, accounting for them on multiple occasions.
In the recently concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy, he picked up 13 wickets from five matches along with an economy rate of 5.71. A definite starter in RR’s playing XI, the 27-year-old will aim to make the upcoming season his best as he continues his quest for the India cap.
The youngster, a net bowler for Royal Challengers Bangalore during the previous edition, entered the 2021 auction at his base price of Rs 20 lakhs and was picked up by Rajasthan Royals for Rs 1.2 crore.
Being a left-arm seamer could help his cause as they are in great demand during IPL. During IPL 2020, left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat failed to provide adequate support to Jofra Archer, RR’s premier speedster who is likely to miss the upcoming edition due to an elbow injury. Given these factors, Sakariya is more than likely to feature in a few games for the franchise.
Having scalped 12 wickets from five matches, the Saurashtra seamer had a terrific SMAT 2021 campaign, his best coming against Vidarbha when he bowled a spell of 5/11. The 23-year-old varied his pace well and bowled with good control, ending the domestic T20 tournament with a brilliant economy rate of 4.90, the best among the top 10 leading wicket-takers.
Krishnappa Gowtham is not new to the IPL, having represented RR, MI, Punjab Kings (formerly KXIP) in previous seasons. He has delivered time and again with his all-round abilities and his demand in the 2021 auction made it clear that he is a valuable T20 proposition. This year, he had a base price of Rs 20 lakh and was picked up by CSK for a staggering Rs 9.25 crore, making him the most expensive uncapped player in IPL history.
As far as his IPL career is concerned, Gowtham has played a total of 24 matches, scoring 186 runs at a strike rate of 169. A handy off-spinner with 13 wickets to his name, he has got crucial breakthroughs for his franchises. Overall, he has played 62 T20s, amassing 594 runs and scalping 41 wickets in them.
Much like other players that CSK invest in, one of the major reasons they have shelled out a massive amount on Gowtham is his experience. In order to receive an India call-up, however, the 32-year-old would be expected to make some serious impact and he will be fully aware that he has limited time on his side.
Baroda’s left-arm seamer Lukman Meriwala played a pivotal role in leading his side to the finals of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, snaring 15 wickets from eight matches to finish as the tournament’s second-highest wicket taker.
He also registered the tournament’s best figures (5/8) and troubled the Chandigarh batsman, generating good pace and bounce. That brilliant spell and his 3/28 against Punjab in the semi-finals is probably what prompted DC to bag him at his base price of Rs 20 lakh.
It won’t be easy for him to get game time considering DC’ power-packed bowling line up, but in case he does, the 29-year-old will have to make it count if he wants a shot at the highly sought-after India cap.
One of the finds from the Under 19 World Cup, Kartik Tyagi impressed drew attention with his ability to generate good pace, upwards of 140 kmph, and bowling threatening inswingers and yorkers on occasion.
Backing the young talent, RR gave him as many 10 matches, but he proved expensive, finishing with an economy of 9.61 along with a total of nine wickets. A major area where the youngster needed grooming was his control.
Later, he was named as a net bowler during India’s tour of Australia. Having played alongside some of the best in the business, the 20-year-old will aim to come off as a much more disciplined and wicket-taking bowler in IPL 2020. And support from Jofra Archer and Chris Morris, two of the most renowned quicks in T20 cricket, will once again serve as a major learning curve for Tyagi.
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Neesham, however, thinks there are no chances of the remaining 31 matches of the Indian Premier League happening in India this year
The biggest loss for BCCI is the money it gets from Star Sports for the broadcast rights of the tournament.
Several media houses had reported that BCCI was considering the possibility of shifting all the remaining IPL 2021 matches to Mumbai in order to complete the season.