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IPL 2021: 5 player battles to watch out for 

Jos Buttler and Anrich Nortje. Pic: IPLT20.COM
Jos Buttler and Anrich Nortje. Pic: IPLT20.COM
ANALYST
Modified 08 Apr 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

Every year, the IPL sees some high-octane clashes that enthrall fans and keep them hooked. The Mumbai Indians vs. Chennai Super Kings battle in the IPL has achieved iconic status.

Within the matches, there are individual contests between two players that often define the end result. In IPL 2019, Kagiso Rabada bowled an unplayable yorker that rattled the stumps of dangerous KKR big-hitter Andre Russell in the Super Over. The Delhi Capitals went on to win the thrilling match.

Last season, T Natarajan bowled a brilliant delivery to knock back AB de Villiers' stumps as the Sunrisers Hyderabad eliminated Royal Challengers Bangalore from IPL 2020.


5 player face-offs that can light up IPL 2021

The latest edition of the Indian Premier League is set to get underway on April 9. We build up to the tournament by previewing five player battles that could significantly impact their respective franchises' fortunes.


#1 T Natarajan vs Sam Curran

T Natarajan and Sam Curran. Pic: IPLT20.COM
T Natarajan and Sam Curran. Pic: IPLT20.COM

Seen this before? Of course. In the final ODI of the series between India and England in Pune, it all came down to the battle between T Natarajan and Sam Curran.

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England needed 14 off the last over to clinch a famous come-from-behind win. Curran was in a blazing mood, hitting it all over the park. However, the humble left-arm pacer from Tamil Nadu had the last laugh. He fell back on his tried and tested ally, the Yorker, and pulled off a victory for India.

The duo could come face to face again in the IPL. Curran is with the Chennai Super Kings, while Natarajan is back with Sunrisers Hyderabad. The English all-rounder has been used as a floater in the CSK batting lineup. He can either open the innings or come in later on during the slogging phase.

Either way, Curran could meet Natarajan running in to bowl at him. There is some unfinished business here and Curran will be keen to prove a point. Natarajan, with his crafty variations and the lethal yorker, will be silently confident, though.

CSK vs. SRH matches in IPL 2021: April 28 and May 7


#2 Jasprit Bumrah vs. Shikhar Dhawan

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Jasprit Bumrah and Shikhar Dhawan. Pic: IPLT20.COM
Jasprit Bumrah and Shikhar Dhawan. Pic: IPLT20.COM

Delhi Capitals met Mumbai Indians four times in IPL 2020. On all four occasions, MI emerged triumphant and in dominant fashion.

One of the chief reasons DC failed to make an impact against Mumbai was because they could never get off to a good start. In fact, in all four games, Delhi lost at least one wicket in the first over. In the Qualifier, they were three down without a run on the board in the second over.

The defining image of the MI vs. DC clashes in IPL 2020 was Jasprit Bumrah demolishing Shikhar Dhawan’s stumps with a fast, swinging yorker that left the southpaw’s stumps in tatters in the 1st Qualifier.

The DC opener was enjoying an impressive tournament. Dhawan created history by becoming the first batsman to hit successive hundreds in the IPL. However, that unplayable delivery by Bumrah dented Dhawan and jolted the DC camp, shattering their hopes of getting the better of Mumbai.

Can Dhawan come back hard at Bumrah when last year’s finalists meet again?

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MI vs. DC matches in IPL 2021: April 20 and May 23


#3 Virat Kohli vs. Rashid Khan

Rashid Khan and Virat Kohli. Pic: IPLT20.COM
Rashid Khan and Virat Kohli. Pic: IPLT20.COM

Leg-spinners are beginning to get a measure of India and RCB skipper Virat Kohli. And no one would be more aware of that fact than Kohli himself. The Indian captain was troubled by England’s Adil Rashid right through the recently concluded limited-overs contest in India.

There is no Adil Rashid in IPL 2021, but there is another Rashid that Kohli will encounter during the course of the T20 league. SRH leggie Rashid Khan loves the challenge of getting the better of the best in the business. Kohli, too, thrives on proving critics wrong time and again.

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When the two teams met in the IPL in 2020, Kohli did not last long enough to engage himself in a one-on-one with arguably the tournament's best spinner. The RCB captain goes into IPL 2021 on a high, having discovered his form against England with some brutal knocks.

Kohli, who has confirmed he will open in the IPL, is well aware of the talk surrounding his weaknesses against leg-spinners. And while he will be keen to prove the doubters wrong, the crafty Rashid will have his own plans in place.

RCB vs SRH matches in IPL 2021: April 14 and May 9


#4 Anrich Nortje vs. Jos Buttler

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Anrich Nortje and Jos Buttler. Pic: IPLT20.COM
Anrich Nortje and Jos Buttler. Pic: IPLT20.COM

Anrich Nortje and Jos Buttler were involved in ‘the’ battle of IPL 2020 when Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Capitals met in the 30th match of the tournament last year. Chasing 162, RR got off to a flyer, racing to 21 in two overs.

Shreyas Iyer turned to Nortje in what turned out to be the over of the tournament. Buttler welcomed the South African pacer in the third over by launching him over long-on for a maximum. After a couple of dot balls, the aggressive opener scooped Nortje to short fine leg for back-to-back fours.

Nortje, however, had the last say. The final delivery of the over was fast and straight. The usually unconventional Buttler tried to play an unorthodox stroke down the ground, only to see his furniture disturbed.

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Even as he was getting hit, Nortje kept bowling at speeds in excess of 150kph. The fifth ball of the over, delivered at 156.2kph, remains the fastest ball in IPL history. RR could not recover from the Buttler setback and went on to lose the clash by 13 runs. Nortje was man of the match with figures of 2 for 33.

Nortje vs. Buttler part II is a mouth-watering prospect in the offing.

RR vs DC matchein IPL 2021: April 15 and May 11


#5 KL Rahul vs. Pat Cummins

Pat Cummins and KL Rahul. Pic: IPLT20.COM
Pat Cummins and KL Rahul. Pic: IPLT20.COM

KL Rahul had an unforgettable season as a batsman for the Punjab Kings. He amassed 670 runs in 14 games at a strike rate of 129.34, with one hundred and five fifties. Despite the captain’s heroics, Punjab Kings failed to qualify for the play-offs.

While Rahul was amazing with the bat throughout the IPL, he failed to assert his dominance completely. Unsurprisingly, the franchise ended up choking in a few close games.

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In a game against KKR, Punjab lost while chasing a target of 165 runs despite needing only 20 off the last two overs. Rahul was bowled for 74 from 58 in the penultimate over. Punjab won off the very last ball in the next match despite needing just two off the last over with nine wickets in hand.

One cannot be too critical of Rahul, but it would help the franchise if he bats with greater authority. KKR pacer Pat Cummins is in a similar position. He failed to go all out last year despite being the team’s lead pacer.

The Aussie fast bowler blew hot and cold, finishing with 12 wickets in 14 matches, with his best of 4 for 34 coming against the Rajasthan Royals. Cummins will be keen to make a greater impact in the IPL this time around.

With Rahul and Cummins sailing in a similar boat, it will be intriguing to see who comes out on top when they meet.

KKR vs. PBKS in IPL 2021: April 26 and May 15

Published 08 Apr 2021, 12:51 IST
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