Considering the longevity of the Indian Premier League (IPL), it is natural for every franchise to start their campaign with a few experiments. However, this year's IPL occuring after the pandemic break has altered their strategies completely.
As the 5-6 month break has caused a virtual form-refresh to the players, almost every team has played with their best playing eleven right from game one. Still, a few teams dropped some of their big players in the first two weeks of this year’s IPL.
Let us look at the 3 big players who are warming the bench in the IPL so far.
#1 Chris Gayle
It is no secret that the 41-year-old Jamaican is a very popular cricketer across the globe and especially in India. The ‘Universe Boss’ not being picked in the playing eleven is indeed a talking point of this IPL so far. Particularly when Kings XI Punjab have lost 3 of the 4 games they have played.
Chris Gayle’s 175 not out is the highest individual score in IPL and he also holds the record for having scored the most number of sixes in the IPL, 326 huge ones. To keep such a prolific player out of the playing eleven is indeed debatable. Even during last season's IPL, he aggregated 490 runs for the same team, opening alongside KL Rahul at an average around 40.
However, this season, the destructive opening pairing of previous seasons was changed by Punjab’s new skipper KL Rahul himself. Opening alongside Mayank Agarwal instead of the Universe Boss made no big difference as both the Karnataka stars have staggered over 200+ runs each, within 4 games.
Both have got a century as well. Though their performances have been above par, the team hasn’t got the desired results. So, it is highly likely for Gayle to come into the playing eleven instead of Neesham or Maxwell. This would also mean that KL Rahul or Mayank would play at number 3 or 4 thereby strengthening the middle order.
Can we expect a Gayle-storm anytime soon?
#2 Ajinkya Rahane
Though it has been 4 years since Ajinkya Rahane played a T20I for India, it is indeed unfair to see a player of his caliber on the bench. Indian test team’s vice-captain is warming the bench this season, having scored 3800+ runs in 140 IPL matches at an average of 32.93, including 2 centuries and 27 fifties.
Rahane, who turned 32 recently, has expressed that he is available to bat at any position the team requires in a bid to make a limited over comeback for India. However, Rahane has batted only thrice below No. 4 in the limited-overs format of the game.
It is an indisputable fact that the Delhi Capitals (DC) already has a formidable batting quartet at the top order comprising of Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer, and Rishab Pant. Rahane was bound to be out of the playing eleven at least at the initial stages of the long tournament.
Fans are still hoping that the Shreyas Iyer-led Delhi Capitals, coached by the Australian veteran Ricky Ponting, would have plans for Rahane, who was traded in from the Rajasthan Royals (RR).
Who would have expected that RR captain Rahane, who scored a ton against DC last year, would get picked by the same team just to keep him away from match time this season?
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#3 Imran Tahir
The Pakistani-born South African spinner mocked the aging process when he became the World No.1 bowler in the shortest format of the game, as a 37-year-old. Ever since his IPL debut, Tahir has been a game-changer for whatever team he has represented; a couple of years for the Delhi Daredevils, a couple of years with Rising Pune Supergiants, and now a 3rd year with the Chennai Super Kings.
Fondly called the 'Parasakthi Express' by CSK fans for the way he celebrates by sprinting all over the ground for each of his dismissals, people were shocked to see him dropped from the side for the first 4 games of this season. This is extremely surprising as he completed the previous season by winning the Purple Cap for picking the most number of wickets in the season, 26 wickets.
Different conditions and not having the home advantage could be the reasons for not including the veteran leggie in the starting eleven. However, with the Indian spin department of the side not delivering well as they used to, the Dhoni-led CSK would be looking to somehow bring Tahir into the team.