Young Players to Watch This IPL 2021
As IPL 2021 is set to start, here’s a look at some of the young players who could make a mark this season.
The Indian Premier League - once termed ‘tamasha cricket’ - has fast emerged as a serious platform for young players to showcase their skills against the best in the world. The tournament has played a huge role in polishing the flaws in young guns and making them into finished products. The last few months have been a fairy tale for the Indian cricket team as upcoming talents combined with experienced campaigners to help the side script memorable wins.
Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Washington Sundar, Mohammad Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Prasidh Krishna, T Natarajan, Shubman Gill and Krunal Pandya played pivotal roles in the Men in Blue’s recent success, and there is no denying that the IPL toughened the players for international cricket.
We look at a few youngsters who will be eager to grab onto their opportunities in the upcoming season of the edition.
Lalit Yadav (Delhi Capitals)
The 24-year old could be the X-factor in the Delhi Capitals line-up as he provides batting depth lower down the order. Yadav has a batting strike rate of 149.33 at an average of 37.33, which is evidence of his range and his consistency.
The all-rounder ended the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy campaign for Delhi with 152 runs in 5 innings and strike rate of an astonishing 197.40 - the highest among cricketers in the tournament who batted in at least five innings.
Consistently coming in at number six or seven, Lalit ensured that his side ended the innings on a high, and finished the season with knocks of 36 (19), 23 (14), 52 (25), 20 (9) and 21 in 10 deliveries.
The Delhi team, in five games in the edition this year, scored 200 on two occasions, besides amassing 192 for 5 against Puducherry and 182 for 4 against Haryana (all when batting first), and the fiery finishes by Lalit did play its part.
The cricketer is also a handy off-break bowler and has picked up 27 wickets at an economy rate of 6.86 in 34 innings. His presence in the Delhi Capitals line-up will help in easing the pressure off Rishabh Pant and Marcus Stoinis, and will add depth with Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin being reliable batters as well.
Riley Meredith (Punjab Kings)
Speedster Riley Meredith might not be a first-choice starter in the Punjab Kings set-up that also has Big Bash League’s highest wicket-taker Jhye Richardson, but the former is expected to get his chance sooner than later. He first made headlines in 2019 after dismissing Steve Smith twice in the span of four days and then fractured his Tasmanian teammate Jordan Silk’s wrist during a practice session just a week later.
Named as a bowler to watch out for by the legendary Shane Warne, Meredith, who can consistently bowl at 150 clicks an hour, is a treat to watch when he is swinging the new ball at high speeds. The youngster, who made his T20I debut for Australia last month, got the dream wicket of New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson in his maiden game when he trapped the batsman LBW for nine after he had shuffled across to hit to leg.
Bought for INR 8 crore, up from his base price of INR 40 lakhs, Meredith has been called a “horrible bowler to face” by Glenn Maxwell, and he will be eager to leave his mark in conditions that are expected to test him.
Shahrukh Khan (Punjab Kings)
Punjab Kings were let down by an almost non-existent middle order in IPL 2020, which meant that the momentum that they gained in the first half of the innings was often robbed by the end of the 20th over. In a bid to overcome the weakness, the franchise bought on board a number of middle order big-hitters in the 2021 auctions, the most exciting of whom is Shahrukh Khan.
Despite batting in only four innings in the recent SMAT with a high score of an unbeaten 40, the youngster played a huge role in Tamil Nadu’s triumphant run this season.
Coming to bat in the middle order, Shahrukh started the competition with a quick 12 off just 4 balls and followed it up with an unbeaten 18 in 10 deliveries against Odisha. His 40* off 19 balls came in the quarterfinals when his side was struggling at 66 for 15 in 13 overs. Smashing five fours and two maximums, the 25-year old helped his team over the line, and replicated his feat in the finals as well, as he scored a crucial 18* in just 7 deliveries to help Tamil Nadu win the title.
Shahrukh, thus, adds the much-needed aggression lower down the order in any team, and he could be the solution for Punjab’s batting woes at the death in 2021.
Finn Allen (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
Picked up by RCB after opening batsman Josh Phillipe opted out of IPL 2021, Finn Allen has been the talk of the town for his big hitting skills and his ability to destroy bowlers in the powerplay overs. An aggressive right-hander, the player stamped his authority in the 2018 Under-19 World Cup, where he smashed 338 runs at an average of nearing 68 and a strike rate of 119.01.
Allen was in exceptional form in the Super Smash, where he struck 512 runs at a strike rate of 193.93.
Playing for the Wellington Firebirds, the 21-year old displayed his brute power as he helped his team to the trophy, and then carried forward his form into the Ford Trophy as well, where he struck a jaw-dropping 59-ball 128 against Otago with the help of 11 sixes, which was also his maiden List A ton.
Though Allen has only played 15 T20s in his career, all of which have been in New Zealand, he could be the surprise element in the team. While Virat Kohli takes time to get his eye in and get going, Allen, at the other end, could play his shots, which will lay a solid foundation for the likes of AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell.
Vaibhav Arora (Kolkata Knight Riders)
The Himachal Pradesh pacer announced his arrival in style as he went past the defence of Cheteshwar Pujara to knock off the latter’s middle stump in his debut Ranji Trophy game against Saurashtra in 2019-20. A yorker specialist, Arora was selected as a net bowler for
Punjab Kings last season, and caught the eye of Abhishek Nayar, KKR’s assistant coach, two weeks before the auction due to his stump-to-stump bowling and accurate lengths at the selection trials in Thane.
The youngster helped his team to the quarterfinals of this year’s SMAT, where he picked up 10 wickets in six games, and then got his maiden hat-trick against Maharashtra in the Vijay Hazare Trophy that followed.
Kolkata Knight Riders have never shied away from throwing young pacers into pressure situations (Prasidh Krishna, Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti have been excessively backed by the franchise) and Arora could be the latest fast bowler from the franchise who could make lives miserable for the rivals.
(The author is an English Literature graduate who has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of sports to a few thousand words.. A strong believer in the fact that Kohli and Paes are the greatest Indian superstars!)
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