The Indian Premier League (IPL) has been the breeding ground for young talents from all over the world. The tournament, which started in 2008, has completely lived up to the golden words inscribed on its trophy - 'Where talent meets opportunity.'
A couple of international stars, including the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya, made their first impact in the franchise-based tournament. As before, IPL 2021 is also expected to provide the limelight to some lesser-known players, who have the pedigree to make it big in international cricket.
A few cricketers - both from India and abroad - will attract a lot of attention when the action begins in the 14th edition of the IPL.
On that note, let us take a look at five lesser-known players who can set the IPL 2021 stage on fire:
Chetan Sakariya - Rajasthan Royals
With the IPL 2021 auction in the backdrop, the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, which was played in January 2021, was the perfect stage for youngsters to give themselves a shot at an IPL contract. Chetan Sakariya, Saurashtra's left-arm fast bowler, was no different.
The 23-year-old didn't disappoint, picking up 12 wickets from five games at an economy rate of 4.90. However, it was not easy for the youngster as he lost his younger brother, who died by suicide, during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Picked up for ₹1.2 crores by Rajasthan Royals at the IPL auction, Chetan Sakariya wants to add a few more variations to his armory going into IPL 2021. Reflecting on his days at the Royal Challengers Bangalore nets, Sakariya expressed gratitude to Simon Katich and Mike Hesson.
He also thanked former Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath, with whom he worked for three years at the MRF Pace Foundation, for helping him grow as a fast bowler.
The left-arm is expected to draw a few eyeballs and will be the front-runner to share the new ball with Jofra Archer in the Rajasthan jersey.
Mohammed Azharuddeen - Royal Challengers Bangalore
Mohammed Azharuddeen grabbed the limelight when he struck a blistering century against Mumbai in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy at the Wankhede Stadium. He smacked 137 runs off just 52 deliveries, helping his side Kerala to chase down a mammoth total, and earning praise from all quarters.
While he was expected to earn a lot of bids, Royal Challengers Bangalore were the only franchise to bid and roped him in at his base price of ₹20 lakhs. The 26-year-old can bat at any position and will certainly give Bangalore a boost in the lower-order alongside AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell.
After his recent heroics in the domestic T20 competition, all eyes will be on this wicket-keeper batsman in the upcoming IPL season.
Shahrukh Khan - Punjab Kings
The lower-order batsman from Tamil Nadu was one of the hottest picks during the IPL 2021 auction in Chennai. While everyone is going gaga about the recently-concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, where a 40-run blitz against Himachal Pradesh took his side to the semifinals, Shahrukh's hard work and stories of getting overlooked started long ago.
He was a superstar in his state during every age group in cricket, grabbing the headlines often. After starring with both bat and ball in the Cooch Behar Trophy leading to the ICC U-19 World Cup in 2014, Shahrukh expected a call-up to represent his country.
Despite scoring 634 runs and picking 18 wickets, that call never came which stunned the all-rounder.
But he worked his way forward, under the guidance of Tamil Nadu skipper and India international Dinesh Karthik. He lit up the stage in Tamil Nadu Premier League with his hard-hitting capabilities and also earned a couple of trials from IPL teams but found no takers at the auction.
But as everyone says, 'hard work pays off'. Shahrukh Khan has finally got his dues as Punjab Kings (formerly known as Kings XI Punjab) roped him for a whopping sum of ₹5.25 crore.
Excited to be playing with Chris Gayle, Shahrukh can solve Punjab's perennial problem of struggling in the death overs due to the lack of a consistent striker in the side. Besides, he is also a very handy bowler and skipper KL Rahul will have his eyes set on the new star.
Virat Singh - Sunrisers Hyderabad
If your name is Virat, you are bound to get noticed and hopefully, for all the right reasons. The left-handed batting prodigy from the eastern part of India, Jharkhand, is leading by example and is carving a niche for himself, having playing under Ishan Kishan.
Having made his domestic debut at the age of 18, Virat has become one of Jharkhand’s batting mainstays. He is a natural stroke-maker and boasts some serious T20 records.
He has been in stellar form with the bat and recently slammed a blistering hundred against Assam in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He boasts a strike-rate of over 125 and can be a reliable middle-order batsman for Sunrisers Hyderabad, who struggled in IPL 2020 due to a lack of consistent run-scorers.
A diehard fan of former India skipper MS Dhoni, Virat possesses all the capabilities to set the IPL big stage on fire with a run-scoring spree.
Marco Jansen - Mumbai Indians
The search engines went ablaze soon after defending champions Mumbai Indians roped in a rookie fast bowler from South Africa at the IPL auction. An unknown commodity, people went onto Google to search about the left-arm pacer - Marco Jansen.
The 20-year-old left-arm fast bowler from South Africa has been one of the most talked-about pacers in the country scalping 52 wickets in just 12 matches at an average of 20.51. So much so, Mumbai’s Director of Cricket Operations, Zaheer Khan was shocked that they got him at his base price - ₹20 lakhs.
He also expressed disappointment that barring Mumbai, no other IPL franchises showed interest in him.
Jansen first impressed the Indian contingent when he turned up at the Indian Cricket Team's practice session during the 2017-18 tour as a net bowler. He also played in India when he toured with the South Africa U-19 side in 2020.
Back from his first international stint where he warmed the benches, Jansen is expected to share the new ball alongside Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult. All eyes will be on this youngster when he turns up for Mumbai Indians in IPL 2021.