Piyush Chawla to Banton: 8 Dark Horses to Watch Out For in the IPL
We look at one under-rated player from each team who can steal the show in the upcoming season of the league.
Every season of the IPL throws up a number of cricketers who impress with their temperament, skills and ability under pressure. Though they are not the biggest names, they play pivotal roles for their respective franchises and earn applause for their street-smartness and consistency.
While cricketers like Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya and Andre Russell steal away all the attention, others like Suryakumar Yadav and Nitish Rana often go unnoticed despite executing their roles to perfection.
We look at one under-rated player from each team who can steal the show and play a crucial role in the upcoming season of the league.
Moeen Ali (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
The fact that Moeen Ali was just one of the few players that RCB retained ahead of the IPL 2020 season gives a glimpse of how the management views the England cricketer. A flamboyant batsman lower down the order, Ali is also a shrewd off-spinner, which can make him a real threat in the conditions in the UAE.
The left-hander has batted at various slots in the line-up, which allows Virat Kohli the option of being flexible. With a high score of 121* in T20s and 19 fifties to his name in domestic T20 matches and a strike rate of 140.60, Ali is a proven match-winner with the bat in hand.
However, it is his off-spin bowling that gives him the edge. Over the years, RCB have struggled massively in their bowling department, with hardly any effective partner alongside Yuzvendra Chahal in the middle overs. Ali’s economy rate of less than eight and his repeated success against big players in international cricket makes him a player to watch out for.
Nicholas Pooran (Kings XI Punjab)
Expected to bat at number 5 or 6 this IPL, the West Indian is one of the rising stars from the country, who will have a huge role to play for the Punjab team. Though the franchise has an impressive top-order, consisting of players like KL Rahul and Chris Gayle, their Achilles Heel has been the middle order, and the team would hope that Pooran can raise his game and finish off matches more often than not.
Equipped with a smooth style, effortless timing and the skills to play both pace and spin well, Pooran is arguably one of the finest upcoming white-ball cricketers. The 24-year old might have struggled in T20 Internationals, but has a superior record in T20 domestic games, with one century and 13 fifties at a strike rate of nearing 142.
Keemo Paul (Delhi Capitals)
One of the few players retained by the Delhi Capitals team for this year’s IPL, Keemo Paul had a decent outing in 2019, finishing with nine wickets from eight matches. The West Indies is also known for his finishing skills with the bat, along with his ability to bowl in the death overs. Paul’s deceptive slower balls could be handy on the dusty wickets in the UAE, while his searing yorkers always make it difficult to play him when the rivals are eager to push up the run rate.
Though Paul got limited chances with the bat last year and could manage just 18 runs, he can smash the ball a long way if needed, and could prove to be a handy player lower down the order.
Abdul Samad (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
Widely backed by former all-rounder Irfan Pathan, who called Samad a “player to watch out for in IPL 2020”, the left-armer was snapped up by Sunrisers Hyderabad after impressive outings in domestic cricket for Jammu and Kashmir.
The youngster smashed a mammoth 36 sixes in last year’s Ranji Trophy when no other batsman could even hit 30 in the competition. Samad also had a decent outing in last year’s Vijay Hazare Trophy, smashing 237 runs at a strike rate of 125.4 with three fifties and 15 sixes.
The SRH team is yet another top-heavy unit, which has failed to find consistent match-winners who can finish off games for the side after players like David Warner, Jonny Bairstow and Kane Williamson set a solid foundation. Samad’s fearlessness with the bat and his effectiveness with the ball makes the leg-spinning all-rounder a potential MVP.
Piyush Chawla (Chennai Super Kings)
The Chennai Super Kings were dealt a massive blow when Harbhajan Singh ruled himself out of the IPL due to personal reasons. The team that takes the “spin it to win it” mantra a tad too seriously, however, have another quality player in their ranks, who could be as effective as Bhajji would have been on the slow tracks in the UAE.
Piyush Chawla, who has played 157 IPL games has picked up 150 wickets at a strike rate of 20.82 and an economy rate of just 7.82. He is the third highest wicket-taker in the league and needs just seven more scalps to lead the charts, and his economy rate is applause-worthy as well, despite bowling in the powerplay overs.
With a deceptive googly and a quicker one that is in the 120s, Chawla can be a threat alongside Imran Tahir and Ravindra Jadeja.
With more drifts on the ball, the 30-year old emerged as a smart operator for KKR over the years, and Chennai would hope he can replicate the same for them this year as well.
Tom Banton (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Kolkata Knight Riders have a problem of plenty when it comes to their top-order, with Shubman Gill, Sunil Narine and Tom Banton all vying for the opener’s slot. The young Englishman, at just 21 years of age, is being touted as the next big star and could do serious damage with the bat in the upcoming Indian domestic league.
With a number of innovative shots in his arsenal, Banton has already plied his trade in the Big Bash League and the Pakistan Super League, and will be eager to impress in his maiden outing in the IPL.
The youngster bagged the spotlight after an impressive showing in last year’s Vitality Blast, where he hit 487 runs at a strike rate of 161.8 and an average of 40.58. Overall, he has played 40 T20 matches with one hundred and eight fifties to his name at a strike rate of over 154, and, if given consistent chances, he could end up as a match-winner for KKR.
Yashasvi Jaiswal (Rajasthan Royals)
The highest run-scorer of the ICC Under-19 World Cup that was held in South Africa earlier this year with 400 runs, Yashasvi Jaiswal is one of the most talked-about players ahead of IPL 2020.
Expected to open the innings alongside big-hitter Jos Buttler, the youngster can set the stage on fire with his technique and textbook shots. Jaiswal has already made waves in domestic cricket, and even has a double hundred to his name in the Vijay Hazare Trophy against Jharkhand against an attack that comprised of bowlers like Shahbaz Nadeem and Varun Aaron.
The youngest to score a double ton in List A cricket is also a handy leg-spin bowler, and can be a trump card for the Royals as they look for their second IPL title.
Nathan Coulter-Nile (Mumbai Indians)
In the absence of Lasith Malinga, who too will miss the upcoming season due to personal reasons, the fast bowling duties will be shared by Jasprit Bumrah and Nathan Coulter-Nile. The underrated T20 bowler has played 120 games in his career, picking up 140 wickets at an economy rate of just 7.76. The fact that the Aussie has a strike rate of 18 in domestic T20 games indicates that he often returns with a wicket in every match.
Coulter-Nile also packs a punch as a lower order batsman, striking the ball in the mid-130s with a high score of 42*. The pacer last played an IPL season in 2017, when he finished with 15 scalps at a strike rate of just 11 and average of 15.2.
(Sarah Waris is a postgraduate in English Literature has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words.)
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