While people normally associate T20 cricket, especially the IPL (Indian Premier League), with big hits and swashbuckling innings, it is as much a bowlers’ game as it is the batsmen's despite the format being slightly tilted in favour of the latter.
A cricketing adage says that a team inevitably wins if they manage to pick up all ten opposition wickets (twenty in case of a Test match). The same could not be more true for a T20 competition like the IPL as statistics across 12 previous editions of the popular T20 franchise league would suggest.
11 out of 12 Purple Cap winners – highest wicket-taker in an IPL season – helped their respective teams to qualify for the IPL playoffs that year. The only exception in this regard was Andrew Tye in 2018, whose team, the Kings XI Punjab, finished a lowly seventh that season.
Ahead of the 13th edition of the IPL due to start next month, let us take a look at five contenders for the Purple Cap honour.
5 bowlers who could win the Purple Cap in IPL 2020 (in alphabetical order):
1. Jasprit Bumrah (Mumbai Indians)
Jasprit Bumrah is definitely one of the finds of the IPL. Indian cricket and its fans should be forever grateful to the money-spinning league for giving Bumrah the chance to use his one-of-a-kind action against international players. The speedster managed to grab the opportunity remarkably well as he has gone on to become Indian captain Virat Kohli’s go-to bowler across formats.
Scouted at a very young age, Bumrah has been with the Mumbai Indians (MI) since 2013. He was a part of the team's IPL-winning seasons in 2013 and 2015, but he picked only 11 wickets in 17 matches across his first three seasons.
It was only in 2016 that the cricketing fraternity first took notice of the then 22-year-old when he picked 15 wickets in 14 IPL matches. He received an India callup that year and hasn’t looked back since.
Bumrah, who credits Lasith Malinga for mastering the ability to bowl yorkers in pressure situations, has been the first name in Mumbai Indians' team sheet in the IPL since 2017. He finished that season of the competition as the third-highest wicket-taker with 20 wickets, but equally importantly, bowled the second-most dots balls (122) as MI lifted their third IPL trophy.
Bumrah has never won the IPL Purple Cap, but he is always amongst the wickets and has the ability to deliver at any stage of an innings.
Though captain Rohit Sharma has been using him as a first-change bowler in recent times, Bumrah can also exploit the new ball to make early inroads. He is a very good option to check the opposition run rate in the middle period as well and is currently one of the best death bowlers in the world.
Jasprit Bumrah, who has the second-highest tally of wickets - 82 in 72 games - among players who have played at least 80 games in the IPL, is a complete package.
He has the unique ability to bowl yorkers, bouncers and good-length deliveries at over 140 kmph, and do the same while rolling his fingers over the ball as well. His consistency, accuracy and efficiency particularly stand out. In IPL 2020, he will be an ideal bowler on the UAE surfaces which are known to slow down as a game progresses.
After finishing as the fifth-highest wicket-taker – 19 wickets in 16 matches – in yet another IPL-winning season for MI last year, Bumrah went through a lean phase when India toured New Zealand earlier this year.
The COVID-19-enforced hiatus, thus, might have been a much-needed breather for the fast bowler. Bumrah must be charged up now, ready to hit the ground running and claim his first-ever Purple Cap in the competition when IPL 2020 starts on September 19th.
2. Yuzvendra Chahal (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
Yuzvendra Chahal is the epitome of a player who started at one place (read 'franchise') but found success somewhere else. Even though Chahal was a part of the Mumbai Indians squad that won IPL 2013, his career in the competition only took off after he moved to Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in 2014.
The leg-spinner picked up 12 wickets in his very first IPL season with RCB. Quite impressively, that has been his least prolific season thus far at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. He finished as the third-highest wicket-taker – 23 wickets in 15 matches – in IPL 2015, and with 21 wickets in 13 matches, he was second to Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the next edition of the competition.
Chahal has helped a side, not renowned for its bowling arsenal, reach successive playoffs in those two seasons of the IPL. Such was his impact that he made his India debut immediately after IPL 2016.
One of only two bowlers to be a part of the 100-wicket club in the IPL despite playing less than 100 matches in the competition, Chahal is a key member of RCB’s relatively fragile bowling lineup.
While he doesn’t necessarily bowl with the new ball in the IPL, he has provided breakthroughs for his team during the powerplay overs. Chahal’s biggest strength lies in not only keeping the opposition run rate in check, but also taking wickets in the middle overs. For the record, he has the second-best average – 23.18 – among bowlers who have played at least 65 IPL matches.
Chahal is not afraid to toss the ball up. In doing so, he lures batsmen to play big shots, something that tends to fetch him a lot of wickets in the IPL. If the surfaces provide turn, which they are likely to in the UAE during IPL 2020, Chahal could be a menace to batsmen.
Since RCB have leaked a lot of runs in the IPL death overs in recent times, captain Virat Kohli may use Chahal at the business end of opposition innings as well. The grounds in the UAE aren't as small as the Chinnaswamy, so Chahal could fancy tossing the ball up, drifting in and spinning it out to beat batsmen in the air.
With batting being the Bangalore side’s key strength, Chahal, who picked up 18 wickets in the IPL last season, knows that in the franchise's bowling department, a lot rests on his shoulders. If he is able to execute his plans and gets some support from the others in IPL 2020, he could very well win his first Purple Cap in the competition and help RCB become the newest IPL champions.
3. Rashid Khan (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
If there is one player who can deliver in all conditions anywhere in the world, it is Rashid Khan. Hailing from a country which was not a Test-playing nation before 2017, Rashid has established himself as one of the best T20 bowlers going around.
The leg-spinner from Afghanistan took the IPL by storm in his very first year in the competition in 2017. He has been instrumental in the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) making the IPL playoffs in every subsequent season of the competition since then.
Rashid had his best performance in the IPL in 2018 when he ended up as the second-highest wicket-taker with 21 wickets, almost singlehandedly helping SRH to finish as the runner-up that season.
In a side that arguably has the best bowling lineup in the IPL, Rashid Khan is the sort of bowler whom a captain invariably tends to turn to when in need of wickets. And he has not failed to live up to those expectations.
Rashid Khan can bowl with the field restrictions on; he can stem the flow of runs and build pressure on batsmen in the middle overs; he can bowl at the death, and he is still likely to not concede too many runs on each occasion. No wonder, he boasts the best economy rate – 6.55 – in IPL history and the third-best average – 21.69 – among bowlers who have played a minimum of 35 matches in the competition.
Impressively, Rashid Khan keeps chipping away with wickets in each of the three aforementioned periods of play. A bowler like him, whose deliveries tend to skid across to batsmen, becomes more dangerous when the surface aids turn.
With the pitches in the UAE likely to be slow turners, the slowness could provide Rashid Khan an edge as he likes to bowl his leg-spinners at a slightly quicker pace than most bowlers of his ilk.
Rashid Khan, who has picked up 18 wickets in 14 IPL matches last year, has come close to winning the Purple Cap in each of the three seasons he has been a part of the competition.
In IPL 2020, the SRH management and the fans will hope that Rashid Khan wins the coveted award and helps the team become IPL champions for the second time.
4. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
After he dismissed Mohammad Hafeez with a prodiguous inswinger back in 2012, many people incorrectly surmised that Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s swing and lack of pace could restrict him only to the longest format of the game. However, that didn't happen, and his Test career never really took off the way people expected it to.
In fact, Kumar is one of India’s first-choice bowlers in the white-ball setup and is the sixth-highest wicket-taker in IPL history with 133 wickets.
Not many know that Bhuvneshwar Kumar was with RCB in the 2009 and 2010 editions of the IPL, but it was only after shifting base to Pune the next year that things started to happen for him in the competition. He picked only eight wickets in 11 matches in IPL 2012, but the selectors were impressed enough to pick him for the national side that year.
Bhuvi, as he is commonly known, has evolved over the years and has added a plethora of variations and deceptions in his bowling arsenal. He may not bowl 140 clicks, but he can consistently hit the right spot in any given condition on any given day.
No doubt, he is only the second bowler to win two IPL Purple Caps and the only one to win the honour in successive editions of the IPL, doing so in the 2016 and 2017 editions of the competition. In fact, 2016 was the year when Bhuvi's franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad won the IPL.
There is a lot more to the right-armer than just hitting the right line and length. He is someone who usually bowls the most difficult overs in the IPL - the powerplay overs and the ones at the death - but he bowls incredibly well in both phases.
Bhuvi can provide breakthroughs both at the start and end of an IPL innings. He can move the ball around, bowl slower bouncers, knuckle balls, off-cutters and even the occasional toe-crushers. Undoubtedly, he has the third-best average and strike rate – 23.71 and 19.63 respectively – among bowlers who have played at least 90 IPL matches.
Even when he is not picking wickets, Bhuvi makes sure that he does not give away too many runs by making the new-ball swing and by executing yorkers at the fag end of innings. He will likely be particularly effective in the UAE where the ball generally holds up on the surface but tends to zip through early in a match.
Despite his bowling prowess, Bhuvi has not been able to pick up only 22 wickets in 27 cumulative matches across the last two editions of the IPL.
Since taking ten wickets in six matches at the 50-over World Cup last year, Bhuvi has been nursing a sports hernia. The postponement of IPL 2020 (from April to September) has worked in his favour, though, giving him enough time to get back in shape.
As the 13th edition of the IPL kicks off next month, Bhuvi will look to script history by becoming the first bowler to win three 'Purple Caps’ in the competition.
5. Kuldeep Yadav (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Forming one half of the successful spin-bowling combination of Yuzvendra Chahal and himself with the Indian team, which is affectionately called ‘Kulcha’, Kuldeep Yadav is an experienced IPL campaigner.
The 25-year-old is a key component in Kolkata Knight Riders’ bowling lineup. Being a left-arm unorthodox spinner, Yadav comes with his own bag of mystery and deceptive deliveries to flummox batsmen and is a genuine wicket-taker in the side.
After making his IPL debut in 2016, Kuldeep Yadav became a regular in the competition in 2017. That season, he picked up 12 wickets in as many matches to earn his first India cap. His best IPL season, however, came the next year when he snared 17 wickets to help KKR make the playoffs.
Yadav likes to toss the ball up and might not be the ideal bowler to stem the flow of runs for that reason. But there is almost always a possibility that he may provide a breakthrough, either through his guile or by enticing a batsman to play a big shot, even if he concedes a few runs in the bargain.
The left-arm wrist-spinner has further enhanced his repertoire by bowling with MS Dhoni behind the stumps when playing in India colours. While he started out by predominantly bowling around the wicket, he now manages to catch the edges of batsman's bats by bowling googlies from over the wicket.
Kuldeep Yadav, who is the only Indian spinner to take two international hat-tricks, is not the go-to option in the IPL powerplay overs, though. He can, however, turn a match in his team's favour by bowling some tight overs in the middle period. By doing so at a brisk pace, the opposition batsmen tend to realise the same only after consuming a significant number of deliveries, by which time the pressure tends to mount on the batting side.
After an underwhelming return of just four wickets in nine games in IPL 2019 at an expensive average of 71.5, Kuldeep Yadav ceased to be a regular fixture in the Indian side. However, the COVID-19 lockdown would have helped him recharge his batteries and work on his game.
On the conducive UAE surfaces, where the ball is likely to grip and turn, Kuldeep Yadav might recover his rhythm and help KKR to the IPL playoffs and possibly beyond. Interestingly enough, it was in the UAE where Yadav first shot to fame by taking a hat-trick against Scotland in a 2014 U-19 World Cup game.Published 25 Aug 2020, 22:43 IST