By Ben Fleming
As the English domestic cricket season drew to a close with a rain-affected t20 finals day, avid fans have now turned their eyes to the sub-continent to fulfil their cricketing needs, if only for a couple of months, as the Indian Premier League gets under way.
Now approaching the end of its third week and the halfway point of the group games, it has always provided a worldwide stage for some of the best talents to showcase their abilities and this year is no different. And, whilst the established t20 stars like Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah continue to flaunt their skills with bat and ball, there is a wealth of young and new talent emerging onto the scene that are deserving of recognition.
In a season with such high scoring, starting fast has been imperative for teams looking to compete. Royal Challenge Bangalore would have pinned their hopes upon the Australian veteran Aaron Finch but, in fact, it has been Devdutt Padikkal, in his debut IPL campaign, who has stolen the headlines at the top of the order. In 5 innings he has raked up 3 half centuries, the joint-most in the competition so far.
Off the back of an impressive domestic season in India, the 20-year-old left-handed batsmen was handed his debut and has not looked back. What he lacks in power and strength, he makes up for in timing and technique, manipulating the ball into the spaces with such grace and ease for a man of his age. His match-winning innings alongside Virat Kohli against Rajasthan Royals demonstrated just this and, if Finch can up his level in the second half of the campaign, it will leave RCB with two strong openers and a solid chance at making the playoffs.
In the middle order, one must look no further than Caribbean maverick, Nicholas Pooran. The 25-year-old stole the spotlight with his last innings, a blistering 77 off only 37 balls, in an albeit unsuccessful run chase against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Enjoying his second season in the IPL, and off the back of a stellar tournament in the Caribbean Premier League, which included a 45-ball century, the left-handed batsmen is beginning to establish himself on the world stage. His strength lies with his power-hitting down the ground and his powerful slog sleep capabilities against seam but especially spin bowling.
The only disappointment for Pooran will be his lack of support from his fellow batsmen at Kings XI Punjab. Glen Maxwell brought in as an overseas star with a huge reputation, and captain K. L. Rahul have failed to impress and support Pooran, meaning Kings XI sit bottom with only one win so far. Needless to say, though, his abilities will not go unnoticed from now on after this tournament.
Although it has been a campaign that has largely seen bat dominate ball, there have been some notable performances and highlights from the bowlers in the IPL. Rashid Khan, despite being only 22 years old, has been one of the best leg spinners on the t20 circuit for a few years now and has continued to demonstrate why so far in this year’s competitions.
In his six games, he has taken 8 wickets and only conceded 4.83 runs an over. At Sharjah, a pitch that has seen average team scores of 219 (11 an over), Khan’s 1-22 of his 4 overs (5.5 an over) demonstrated his skill and trickery to deceive the batsmen. Against Kings XI Punjab, Khan, originally from Afghanistan, took 3-12, including a double-wicket maiden, a feat almost solely reserved for test cricket, but something that once more puts Khan right at the top of the pile when it comes to leg spinners in t20 cricket.
Finally, to give some credit to the fast bowlers of international cricket, look no further than South African Anrich Nortje, applying his trade for the very impressive Delhi Capitals, who sit right near the top of the table. In his first IPL campaign, and only featuring as a late replacement for Chris Woakes, Nortje has quietly, but impressively gone about his job, forming a key cog in the impressive Delhi bowling lineup alongside the likes of Rabada and Ashwin.
His economy rate of 7.25, whilst not as good as Khan’s, is a sterling effort for a fast bowler, who often bowl in the powerplay and at the death, leaving themselves most susceptible to the power hitters of their opposition. His 8 wickets have often come at crucial points and should he keep these performances up, he will undoubtedly be seen as one of the best value signings of the campaign.
Image: Royal Challengers Bangalore via Creative Commons