While all the noise before an Indian Premier League (IPL) season tends to be around the international stars, both Indian and overseas, young cricketers have a unique opportunity to show their worth under pressure.
Although most of them have to scramble to get a spot in the playing XI, the ability of players to deliver when given those chances helps the IPL unearth the world's upcoming international stars.
To be eligible for the Emerging Player Award - given every year to the most promising young talent of that edition - a player must meet the following criteria. He must be under 25 years of age, must have played 5 or fewer Tests or 20 or fewer ODIs, must have played less than 25 IPL games and cannot be a past recipient of the award.
Here's a look at five players who could be contenders for the award in IPL 2021.
#5 Riyan Parag (IPL 2021: RR)
One of the younger players of the lot, Riyan Parag is not a newcomer - he made his IPL debut in 2019 - but he is still merely 19 years of age. A handy batsman and part-time leggie, Parag famously took the Rajasthan Royals home against the Kolkata Knight Riders in 2019, pushing the two-time champions further on their downward spiral.
RR did not have a good season last year, but the likes of Parag and Rahul Tewatia should be in line for more opportunities this season. Consistent middle-order knocks and a few contributions with the ball could make Parag a front-runner if he starts the season well.
Check out the latest IPL 2021 point table here!
#4 Ruturaj Gaikwad (IPL 2021: CSK)
After narrowly missing the award last season, Ruturaj Gaikwad could be one of the contenders during this edition as well. Likely to play for CSK in the top order, Gaikwad showed his talent last season when CSK had already been eliminated - after failing miserably during the early part of the season - and might get a long rope this time.
The Pune-born batsman has a good sense of timing and can be an anchor for CSK, with the likes of Moeen Ali or Robin Uthappa to go after the bowling from the other end. As long as he does away with his starting jitters, he should have a great season ahead of him.