Twenty20 is a batsman’s format, and the Indian Premier League (IPL) bears no exception.
While the IPL has witnessed a series of remarkable performances in all departments over the years since its inception in 2008, the batsmen have particularly made merry on the lively Indian surfaces that are rendered all the more helpful with a number of venues having relatively short boundaries. That the endless supply of quality batsmen that Indian cricket has been enjoying for quite some time now makes the life of a bowler all the tougher in this league.
With the 14th edition of the cash-rich tournament around the corner, this time taking place in its usual April-May slot in the cricketing calendar as well as on home soil, fans can expect the participating players to dish out another set of dazzling batting displays as Indian cricket takes a break from international assignments and witnesses its city-based teams locking horns in what undisputedly is the biggest T20 event in the world.
Taking multiple factors into account including recent form, we now take a look at some of the batsmen who are likely to make a statement in IPL 2021:
Sam Curran (Chennai Super Kings):
One could point their finger at recency bias as far as this selection is concerned, but the brave 95 not out that Curran dished out in the final one-dayer against India is certain to make the England all-rounder one of the most talked-about players going into the 14th edition of the tournament.
Sam, the younger of the Curran brothers in the England team, was described to have a “shades of MS Dhoni” in that innings, which almost guided his team home from a near-impossible position. It is a knock that the CSK team management would have taken note of with great interest given Thala’s time as a player is nearing its end and the franchise will want someone to pull off the kind of finishing touches that he brought to the game at the peak of his powers.
Suresh Raina (Chennai Super Kings):
His absence in last year’s edition was all the more pronounced in Chennai Super Kings’ dismal season as the three-time champions desperately missed Suresh Raina’s calming influence in the middle order. The southpaw, who pulled out of the tournament last year before a delivery was bowled due to “personal reasons”, will hope to make up for his absence and play his part in the team’s quest to redeem themselves after enduring their worst-ever campaign.
Raina, who was recently overtaken by Virat Kohli as the all-time leading run-scorer, represented his native Uttar Pradesh in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy recently, scoring an unbeaten 56 against Punjab in what was his first competitive appearance since the 2019 IPL final in Hyderabad. He then followed it up with an unbeaten 36 off 23 in a successful chase against Tripura six days later, highlighting that the former India batsman still had it in him.
Prithvi Shaw (Delhi Capitals):
One of the two leading names in the Delhi Capitals camp who looked off colour last year, but pretty well set to collect truckloads of runs this season if recent performances are any indicator. However, unlike Rishabh Pant who has become the talk of the town after his exploits against Australia and England, Prithvi Shaw has had to toil it out and get the big scores after getting dropped from the Indian team.
Shaw led Mumbai from the front in the recently-concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy and was in a different league altogether. The diminutive right-hander topped the batting charts with 827 runs against his name with four centuries and a solid 39-ball 73 in a successful 313-run chase against Uttar Pradesh in the final. Shaw’s Vijay Hazare exploits should once again make him the leading contender for the opener’s slot alongside Shikhar Dhawan this season.
Rishabh Pant (Delhi Capitals):
Pant’s fairy-tale run both as a batsman and a keeper since getting selected for the second Test against Australia at Melbourne culminated in him bagging the job of leading the Delhi Capitals in their quest for a maiden IPL title this season.
Pant, one of the most destructive batsmen in the league with a stunning league strike rate of 151.97 at a healthy average of 35.24, will hope to make the most of the supreme batting form that he finds himself in right now, and lead the franchise which finished runners-up for the first time last year from the front.
The wicketkeeper-batsman didn’t quite score the volume of runs he would’ve hoped to last year, collecting just one fifty in 14 games with a total of 343 runs. Given the way he’s tonking the ball all over the ground at the moment, a place in the top 10 certainly seems likely. And much like Shreyas Iyer, whose shoulder injury ruled him out of IPL 2021, and India skipper Kohli, Pant will hope the added pressure of captaincy doesn’t affect his batting mindset and instead brings out the best in him.
Ishan Kishan (Mumbai Indians):
The southpaw has had quite a few performances of note in the Mumbai Indians jersey over the years, his presence in the side lending balance to what is a power-packed batting lineup as well as a useful option for an opener.
Kishan, who was sold to MI for a whopping Rs 6.2 crore (from his base price of Rs 40 lakh), enjoyed his best-ever season with the bat in the UAE last year as he smashed 516 runs (average: 57.33), nearly scoring his maiden IPL ton in the match against RCB.
And his stature only grew after a memorable India debut in the Twenty20 contests against England, smashing a 32-ball 56 and sharing a match-winning stand with skipper Kohli as India romped to a comfortable victory in the second game of the five-match series. A debut that would've only given him a fresh dose of confidence going into the new IPL season.
Suryakumar Yadav (Mumbai Indians):
After another stellar run with the bat for the Mumbai Indians last season, with Yadav finishing seventh in the top run-getters list with 480 runs (avg: 40; SR: 145.01), the clamour for his selection into the Indian team grew even louder and even the likes of India head coach Ravi Shastri had assured him that his time would soon come.
And boy did he make the opportunity count when handed his maiden India cap in the T20I series against England, smashing 57 on debut and following it up with a 17-ball 32 in the final T20I, his strike rate in the series a blistering 185.41. That in addition to a fine run in the Vijay Hazare Trophy before the England T20Is, in which he collected a century and two fifties in five games. All of which makes for an ominous sign for opposition bowlers this season.
KL Rahul (Punjab Kings):
Rahul was the leading run-getter in the previous season, and along with the likes of Mohammed Shami and Mayank Agarwal was one of the central reasons behind the Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab) showing any signs of competitiveness in what was otherwise a disappointing season.
After a decent run during the T20I series in Australia, the wicketkeeper-batsman had hit a lean patch in the 20-over contests against England, registering a double-digit score only once in the four games he played in the series. Just when questions over his place in the team were starting to grow, he silenced his critics in style during the one-dayers with an unbeaten 62 and 108, knocks which would come as great news for the franchise that continues to seek a maiden IPL title and have invested a lot of faith in their skipper to deliver on that front.
Devdutt Padikkal (Royal Challengers Bangalore):
Padikkal had an impressive run in his debut IPL season last year, winning the Emerging Player of the Season award after collecting 473 runs —13 more than what Kohli managed — at a strike rate of 124.80 with five half-centuries.
Padikkal continues to remain the toast of Karnataka’s batting performances as he scored more than fifty in each of his seven innings in the Vijay Hazare Trophy including four centuries on the trot — the first by an Indian batsman in the List A format. His tally of 737 runs at an astounding average of 147.40 would’ve easily made him the leading run-getter had it not been for Mumbai captain Prithvi Shaw putting up an equally brilliant show with the bat.
While the right-hand batsman should be an easy pick for the RCB think tank as far as the opener’s slot is concerned, a spot in the Indian team shouldn’t be too far away if he continues to bat in the same vein.
Glenn Maxwell (Royal Challengers Bangalore):
The ‘Big Show’ continues to attract the big bucks at IPL auctions despite being a batting star who somehow hasn’t quite been able to translate his international and Big Bash success into runs in the Indian Premier League. Barring the whirlwind 2014 season of course, in which he played a central role in KXIP’s run to the final.
The Aussie was among the top earners at this year’s player auction, with RCB shelling out Rs 14.25 crore for his services. That he showed a lot of promise in the 379 runs that he collected in BBL 10 at an average of 31.58 and a strike rate of 143.56 might have been a factor behind the big payday.
And like all his previous bosses, the team management that includes captain Kohli will hope for once Maxwell finds the kind of consistency that he has not been able to bring to the IPL for years now. Should he do that, he could be an invaluable addition to RCB’s middle order who could double up as a finisher.
Jason Roy (Sunrisers Hyderabad):
The swashbuckling Durban-born English opener was a late addition to the Sunrisers squad this season, coming in place of Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, who pulled out of IPL 2021 citing bubble fatigue.
Roy, who had been overlooked in the player auction earlier in February, thus was given a fresh opportunity to make a spot in an IPL franchise his own, this time in the “Orange Army’ after stints with the Gujarat Lions and Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) in 2017 and 2018 respectively, neither of which was too fruitful for him.
Roy was in good nick during the tour of India and while he didn’t quite go beyond the 40s during the T20Is, he did get his team off to quality starts more often than not in the company of Jonny Bairstow, who will be his teammate in the IPL as well as a competitor for David Warner’s opening partner.
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