The IPL is renowned for world-class players from across the globe showcasing their skills in the shortest format of the game. At the same time, the T20 tournament also presents an opportunity to upcoming players, especially from India, to rub shoulders against the very best.
However, not all players grab the limelight like the above-mentioned trio. Many players are happy donning a support act even as more illustrious names hog the headlines. Every now and then, though, these players produce performances that deserve praise.
Five underrated players to keep an eye on in IPL 2021
With the latest edition of the IPL all set to get underway, let's take a look at five players who might not make it to any top-5 list but could have stellar campaigns this year.
#1 Sandeep Sharma
A right-arm medium pacer from Punjab, Sandeep Sharma has been doing a commendable job for Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) as an opening bowler. He shot to fame by dismissing Virat Kohli a record seven times in the IPL.
Last season, when Bhuvneshwar Kumar was ruled out of the tournament due to injury, Sharma and T Natarajan rose to the challenge.
A bowler in the traditional mould, Sharma has the ability to swing the ball and can keep things extremely tight. Last season, he claimed 14 wickets in 13 games at a strike rate of 22.28 and an economy rate of just over seven.
In a brilliant exhibition of pace bowling in IPL 2020, he dismissed Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock and Ishan Kishan as SRH stunned Mumbai Indians by ten wickets. He was also the Man of the Match in a clash against RCB, where he delivered excellent figures of 2 for 20.
With Bhuvneshwar Kumar back in the mix and T Natarajan returning as a hero after his international exploits, Sharma could be happy to don a supporting role once again.
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#2 Rahul Tripathi
Rahul Tripathi, who plays for Maharashtra in domestic cricket, has been on the IPL scene for a few years now. He made his IPL debut for Rising Pune Supergiants in the 2017 season.
Tripathi impressed in his debut IPL campaign, smashing 93 off 52 balls against KKR as Pune won the match by four wickets while chasing 156. He had a reasonable IPL 2017 campaign, scoring 391 runs, with two fifties, in 14 matches.
The batsman caught the eye with his ability to strike the ball hard. Playing for Rajasthan Royals in 2018 and 2019, he endured two sub-par seasons, though, managing only 226 and 141 runs, respectively.
Tripathi was picked up by KKR for INR 60 lakh before the IPL 2020 season. Promoted to open the innings against CSK, he played a scintillating knock of 81 off 51 balls, winning the Man of the Match award for his exploits.
He couldn’t build on that knock, though, ending the season with 230 runs in 11 games. Nevertheless, Tripathi could make a splash in IPL 2021 if he manages to find some consistency in his performances.
#3 Rahul Chahar
Only 21, young leg-spinner Rahul Chahar has a long career in front of him. He has already played three T20I for India, making a mark with his resilient attitude.
For the Mumbai Indians, Chahar has done a reasonable job despite his inexperience.
In IPL 2019, he claimed 13 wickets in as many games at a strike rate of 21.69 while maintaining an excellent economy rate of 6.55. Last year, he picked up 15 wickets in as many games. Chahar’s economy rate (8.16), though, was on the higher side.
Beyond numbers, the youngster has impressed many with his attitude. Chahar does not mind bowling the tough overs. He has bowled inside the powerplay overs and has made an impact with his intelligent variations.
Even when he was going for runs in a few games, Chahar’s shoulders did not drop. The Mumbai Indians rate Chahar very highly, which is why he featured in 15 matches in IPL 2020, even though he wasn’t at his best.
It would be intriguing to see what IPL 2021 has in store for the leg-spinner with a big heart.
#4 Murugan Ashwin
Murugan Ashwin is yet to have a breakthrough campaign in the IPL.
He was a net bowler at CSK for a few years. But after an impressive 2015-16 Syed Mushtaq Ali campaign, in which he was Tamil Nadu's second-highest wicket-taker with ten wickets, he was picked up by the Rising Pune Supergiants for INR 4.5 crore.
Ashwin managed only seven wickets in ten games and was highly expensive, going at an economy rate of 8.45. Picked up by Punjab Kings before the IPL 2019 season, he managed only five wickets in ten games that campaign.
It was in IPL 2020 that the leg-spinner finally found some rhythm. He claimed ten scalps in nine games at an economy rate of 7.46. Apart from keeping his end tight, he also managed to make an impression on the batsmen.
Ashwin’s best figures of 3 for 21 last season came against RCB, with AB de Villiers being one of his victims. The 30-year-old likes to play on the batsmen’s patience and force them to make mistakes.
He impressed with 3 for 16 in a Syed Mushtaq Ali game against Odisha. It remains to be seen if he is able to bring that form into IPL 2021.
#5 Mahipal Lomror
Mahipal Lomror, a 21-year-old hard-hitting Rajasthan batsman, is a bright upcoming talent. A member of India's Under-19 World Cup in 2016, Lomror was picked up by the Delhi Capitals in the IPL 2016 auction for INR 10 lakh.
He has bought by Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2019, for whom he has featured in five games. Lomror’s standout performance in the competition came last year when he made an assured 47 off 39 balls in a game against RCB.
In that game, RR had lost their big three - Jos Buttler, Steven Smith and Sanju Samson - with a meagre 31 runs on the board. They were in serious danger of being bowled out cheaply, but Lomror’s knock took them to a decent total.
The left-hander's impressive innings came against a bowling attack comprising Washington Sundar, Navdeep Saini, Yuzvendra Chahal and Adam Zampa.
Mahipal Lomror arrives in IPL 2021 off the back of three consecutive half-centuries in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. He slammed an unbeaten 78 off 37 in the quarter-final against Bihar after scoring 86 off 88 in the previous match against Maharashtra. A game earlier, he complied 67 against Himachal Pradesh.