Yet another season of that cricketing ‘circus’, the Indian Premier League is done and dusted. After the action which went on for nearly 2 months and with 76 matches played, a high number of them nail-biters, we have a new champion, the much-maligned and former ‘minnows’, the Kolkata Knight Riders. The Gambhir-led team were one of the most consistent sides throughout the tournament and held their nerve when it mattered most, putting in a commanding performance against table-toppers Delhi to reach the final and then delivering under pressure to topple the two-time defending champions Chennai in a humdinger of a final.
This IPL has seen it all; from some high-quality cricket on the field to a number of off-field controversies, the ‘marriage of cricket and Bollywood’ as the IPL has been termed has probably never been more apt with controversies like the Luke Pomersbach molestation scandal, the spot-fixing allegations and SRK’s much-publicized fight with the Wankhede guards and his subsequent ban from the stadium providing ingredients for a perfect Bollywood ‘masala’ film. However, one of the things the IPL also promised to Indian fans when it was announced by Lalit Modi back in late 2007 was to unearth Indian talent and provide them opportunities to rub shoulders with the best in the world. Names like Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Manish Pandey and even to an extent Suresh Raina have become household names due to their success in the IPL and this season has been no different, with some memorable performances by a few youngsters, keen to make their mark in Indian and international cricket. Here’s a look at 5 of the top young Indian performers at this year’s IPL.
1. Mandeep Singh (Kings XI Punjab, Runs: 432, Strike Rate: 126.31)
The 20-year-old from Jalandhar was impressive at the top of the order with his partner Nitin Saini, providing a solid start on more than one occasion for the Kings XI Punjab who were predicted to struggle at the beginning of the tournament, but ultimately ended up just one win away from a playoff spot. With the likes of David Hussey, Shaun Marsh and Azhar Mahmood filling the middle-order of the Kings, a good start always nearly meant a strong batting performance from the Punjab side who impressed one and all with their attractive cricket and team spirit throughout the tournament. Mandeep, who has impressed on the domestic circuit as well, having scored three first-class centuries, played in all 16 of the Kings matches, with his 48-ball 75 against the Deccan Chargers being the highlight of his tournament. As a reward for his impressive performances, Mandeep was awarded the Citi Rising Star award for the best U-23 player of the tournament and was also hailed by his captain David Hussey as ‘a future India player in all three forms’.
2. Ajinkya Rahane (Rajasthan Royals, Runs: 560, Strike Rate: 129.33)
There could have been no better experience for the 23-year-old Rahane, as he got to open with his idol Rahul Dravid throughout the IPL, forming one of the most consistent opening partnerships of this year’s edition. Rahane, who made his ODI debut for India on the tour of England last year, found himself out of favor with the selectors before this tournament after fading away following a promising start and was determined to get himself back in the reckoning. The Rajasthan Royals have always been a side that ‘punched above their weight’ and this season was no different, with Rahane kick-starting their season with a blistering 98 in their opener against the Kings XI Punjab. A string of impressive performances followed, most noticeably a stunning 103 not out against the Royal Challengers Bangalore where he stitched together a partnership with Owais Shah, stunning the Challengers in their own den. Rahane is definitely back in the reckoning for the Indian side and could well fill in the vacant spot left by his idol Dravid in the Indian Test side.
3. Parvinder Awana (Kings XI Punjab, wickets 17, economy 7.91)
Another player from a team which didn’t make the playoffs, Awana was undoubtedly the pace bowling find of the tournament. The 25-year-old who represents Delhi in the Ranji Trophy came into the tournament on the back of a domestic season in which he took 57 wickets and proved to be the trump card for David Hussey’s men on more than one occasion. The youngster generated impressive pace and bounce, producing his best performance of the season against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, taking 4/34 in what ultimately turned out to be a losing cause. With the Delhi Daredevils’ Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron also generating some serious pace through the tournament, the future of Indian fast bowling looks to be in very capable hands if nurtured properly.
The young left-arm spinner from Dhoni’s home state of Jharkhand turned heads with some eye-catching performances for table-toppers Delhi Daredevils this season. With the Daredevils having to drop the vastly more experienced South African Roelof Van Der Merwe due to the limit on the number of foreign players in the playing 11, Nadeem was drafted into the eleven. Instrumental in the team’s victories over Mumbai and especially against the Deccan Chargers, Nadeem was also hailed for his economical bowling, going for only 7 runs an over throughout the tournament. A measure of how much impact he had had came to the fore when there were questions asked about his omission in the qualifier against Chennai as Virender Sehwag opted to play the uncapped Sunny Gupta instead of Nadeem. Playing Nadeem in the crunch game could have made the difference for the Daredevils, who ended up conceding 220+ runs in that match and bowed out of the tournament.
5. Umesh Yadav (Delhi Daredevils, wickets: 19, economy 7.42)
Another player who was a top performer for the Daredevils, Umesh Yadav continued to impress as he, along with Morne Morkel, combined to form arguably the most formidable opening bowling pair in this year’s IPL. Yadav had been one of the few positives from India’s disastrous tour Down Under earlier this year and adapted to the Twenty20 format easily, turning in a number of good performances for his side. Working along with an experienced bowler like Morkel is sure to have done him a world of good and if he stays fit, we could have our next pace bowling star on the horizon.