The 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is almost round the corner and the buzz is aplenty. It has been 14 years for the league that started amidst paranoia and uncertain voices, with the purists of the game looking towards the amalgam of glamour and cricket with a skeptic’s eye. Cut to 2021, IPL has stamped its place in the hearts of billions with a force that no other league in the cricketing world has been able to even get close to.
Over these 14 years, the same tournament that many branded as mere commercialization of cricket has given the fraternity countless priceless talents, who could have been easily lost in ignorance had it not been for the big stage of the IPL. The upcoming edition will be no exception, with many franchises investing in promising talents, who might well go onto be the next big thing.
Here’s a look at the Top 5 debutants of IPL 2021:
1. Shahrukh Khan (Punjab Kings)
Named after the Bollywood fame Shahrukh Khan, the young Shahrukh has plenty more in him to watch out for than his name. The Tamil Nadu all-rounder who had a base price of 20 Lakhs was roped in by the rechristened Punjab Kings for a whopping sum of 5.25 Crores. While Shahrukh’s massive price tag caught some by surprise, it was not as much a surprise for those who have even remotely followed his domestic career.
The 6-feet-4-inches tall, hard-hitting all-rounder came into the limelight by finishing games for Tamil Nadu, although he was unable to break in the IPL straightaway. His toil paid off this season after he shone brightly in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and kept his nerves in the tense quarter-final game, where he smacked a 19-ball 40 to bail his team, which was reeling at 66/5 in a chase of 136, out of trouble.
He played another instrumental knock of unbeaten 18 from only seven deliveries in the final to take his team to the title. Having shown great temperament and skill in his short career so far, Shahrukh is one of the players to keep your eyes on in the upcoming edition.
2. Mohammed Azharuddeen (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
Hailing from a remote town of Kerala, Mohammed Azharuddeen’s breakthrough moment arrived when one of the most popular franchises of the tournament, Royal Challengers Bangalore, showed interest in him and acquired him at his base price of 20 Lakhs.
He turned all heads by smashing the second-fastest century in the recent edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, as he reached the landmark in only 37 deliveries against Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium. A record innings of 137 laced with 9 fours and 11 sixes led Kerala to accomplish their highest-ever chase in the tournament as they gunned down the target of 197 in merely 15.5 overs.
He finished the tournament with 214 runs from 5 innings and his stroke-filled, 137-run blitzkrieg proved enough to garner the attention of the franchise. While Virat Kohli, the RCB skipper, confirmed that he will be seen opening this year, Devdutt Padikkal turning positive for COVID-19 might be Azhar’s chance to get into the action straight away alongside the likes of Kohli, Ab de Villiers, and Glenn Maxwell.
3. Lukman Meriwala (Delhi Capitals)
Coming from Gujarat’s Sarnar village in the Bharuch district, Lukman Meriwala’s story is one to take inspiration from. With a dream of playing cricket while he used to cut and weld for a living, the left-arm pacer managed to make a space for himself in the domestic circuit after multiple failures. Consistent labor cemented his place in the Baroda team and he shot up his stocks after finishing as the leading wicket-taker in the 2013-14 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, which his side won.
Despite putting in the hard yards, a breakthrough moment for him remained elusive until the recent most edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Though Baroda lost in the final to Tamil Nadu, Meriwala finished as the second-leading wicket-taker with 15 wickets under his belt from eight games at a strike rate of 12.2. He was at his devastating best against Chattisgarh, where he returned with exceptional figures of 5/8.
In return for his exploits, he was able to attract a base-price bid of 20 Lakhs for himself from the Delhi Capitals, which will give him an opportunity to feature alongside the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, and Ishant Sharma.
4. Chetan Sakariya (Rajasthan Royals)
“My dad worked as a tempo driver and my mom was a housewife. Back then we didn’t earn enough money to meet our expenses. We lost him [Sakariya’s brother] to suicide two months ago, most of the responsibilities are on me. Now, I am the breadwinner of the house as my dad is bedridden”, Chetan Sakariya told to CricTracker in a chat last month.
The 23-year-old left-arm pacer has seen innumerous lows in life at a tender age but none of that deterred him from chasing his dream. Having made a cut in Saurashtra’s U-19 team, the big moment for Sakariya arrived when he joined RCB as a net bowler in the 2020 edition of the IPL, an experience which he calls “career-changing”.
Having honed his skillset under the supervision of Glenn McGrath at the MRF Pace Foundation, he had a fairly successful Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2021, where he finished sixth in the list of leading run-scorers, and with the ball, his economy rate of 4.90 stood out. As a result, he was able to secure a 1.2 Crore bid with the Rajasthan Royals and stands as one of the brightest prospects of the coming season.
5. Lalit Yadav (Delhi Capitals)
The 24-year-old Lalit Yadav is a lower-order enforcer who has the knack of hitting big from the word go. In a nascent T20 career of 35 games, Yadav has got 560 runs at 37.33 and a spectacular strike rate of 149.33.
In the recently-concluded edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he played a string of quick-fire cameos including a 25-ball 52* as he finished the tournament with 152 runs in 5 innings at a staggering strike rate of 197.40. Apart from his hard-hitting ability, Yadav is a handy right-arm off-break option who has 27 T20 wickets at an economy of 6.86 and 23.7, respectively.
His labor bore fruit when the Delhi Capitals opted to rope him in at his base price of 20 Lakhs. Owing to the team combinations, Yadav might not feature in all games of the season, however, he is certainly one of the players to keep an eye on.
Source: The source of this content is our cricket news platform Crictracker.
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