Preparations for the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2021) are very much underway. Cricketers who have completed their mandatory quarantine, necessitated by the Coronavirus threat, have already stepped onto the field and have begun training.
And those cricketers who were part of the India-England series, which ended on Sunday, joined their respective franchises less than 24 hours after a thrilling finish to the deciding ODI. The next step for the cricketers will be to gel with their team members and get into IPL mode as soon as possible. IPL 2021 is all set to get underway on April 9.
5 upcoming batsmen to watch out for in IPL 2021
Every year, the IPL springs new surprises in the form of some exceptional talent. Two of the league’s batting stars Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan, recently made their sparking India debuts. IPL 2021 will present a few other young guns to put their names in contention.
#1. Mohammed Azharuddeen
Once, India had Mohammed Azharuddin. And he turned out to be a special talent. As for 27-year-old Mohammed Azharuddeen, the Kerala cricketer has been putting up some striking performances in domestic cricket of late.
In January this year, Azharuddeen jumped into the spotlight after he smashed the second-fastest hundred in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He raced to his 100 off 37 balls, against a Mumbai attack led by Dhawal Kulkarni.
He missed the India record by five balls. Rishabh Pant has a 32-ball hundred to his name.
Azharuddeen’s brilliant knock of 137 not out from 54 balls saw Kerala chase down a target of 197 with 25 balls to spare. Opening the innings, Azharuddeen whacked nine fours and 11 sixes. RCB rewarded him by purchasing him at his base price of INR 20 lakh at the IPL 2021 auction.
The wicketkeeper-batsman has experience of 22 first-class matches and 30 List A games. Having played 24 T20s, he has strike rate of 142.27.
#2 Shahrukh Khan
It is often said, what’s in a name? But if you are Shahrukh Khan (the cricketer), you certainly cannot say so. Sharing his name with one of the most famous personalities in the country, who incidentally is also an IPL franchise owner, is a both a boon and a burden.
Punjab Kings, co-owned by another Bollywood star Preity Zinta, purchased Shahrukh at the IPL 2021 auction for INR 5.25 crore. Going beyond his name, they were definitely looking at his batting ability.
The 25-year-old cricket impressed many with his big-hitting talent for Tamil Nadu in the 2020-21 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, which the state won. Shahrukh blasted 88 runs in four innings at a stupendous strike rate of 220. His best during the series was 40 not out off only 19 balls.
Shahrukh has so far featured in five first-class matches and has scored 231 with two fifties. Also, in 25 List A matches, he has 484 runs to his name at an impressive average of 44.
For T20s, the youngster has a strike rate of 131.39 after 31 matches and has scored 293 runs.
#3 Devdutt Padikkal
After Azharudden and Shahrukh, it’s time to move to players with normal names but exceptional talents nonetheless.
Devdutt Padikkal made a massive impression in IPL 2020. Despite the presence of superstars like Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, Padikkal managed to make his own mark in the RCB line-up, so incredibly that he ended up winning the ‘Emerging Player’ award.
For the record, Padikkal amassed 473 runs in 15 games at a strike rate of 124.80. He crossed the half-century mark five times. Amazing numbers for someone playing in their debut IPL season.
More than he figures, it was the assured manner in which he took on some of the best bowlers in the world that stood out. Right from his first game in IPL 2020, the 20-year-old looked in the groove.
The elegant left-hander also enjoyed a fruitful season in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, amassing 737 runs. The golden run featured four consecutive tons, making him the first Indian batsman to achieve the feat in List A cricket.
The Karnataka batsman would undoubtedly go into IPL 2021 high on confidence.
#4 Ruturaj Gaikwad
For Maharashtra batsman Ruturaj Gaikwad, IPL 2020 began in the worst possible manner - he was diagnosed with COVID. By the time Chennai Super Kings’ disappointing season ended, though, Gaikwad was among the team’s brightest spots.
He began the tournament with three low scores and ended it with three consecutive half-centuries - 65 not out against Royal Challengers Bangalore, 72 against Kolkata Knight Riders and 62 not out against Punjab Kings. The change in fortunes couldn’t have more contrasting.
Heading into IPL 2021, CSK will be looking to rebuild their legacy. And with Shane Watson having retired, Gaikwad will have to carry on from where he left off last season.
One of the standout features of the 24-year-old’s performance last season was his mature presence out in the middle. When he returned to the playing XI after having been dropped, CSK were enduring their worst run in the IPL.
Gaikwad, himself, was under pressure, having not scored many in the first three games he played. But, he displayed great mental fortitude to turn things around for himself and his IPL franchise.
Gaikwad’s batting talent was on display in the Vijay Hazare Trophy as well, when he slammed a century against Himachal Pradesh in a winning cause.
#5 Yashasvi Jaiswal
He made a forgettable IPL debut for Rajasthan Royals in 2020 - 40 runs in three matches at a strike rate of well under 100. Yashasvi Jaiswal looked nervous in the middle and was clearly found out.
But the youngster should undoubtedly get another chance to prove his talent this year. After all, he is supremely gifted. Jaiswal is the youngest batsman to score a List A double century. He smashed 203 from 154 balls, playing for Mumbai against Jharkhand in the Vijay Hazare Trophy last season.
He then went on to amass 400 runs in the 2020 U-19 World Cup, where India were eventually stunned by Bangladesh. Jaiswal top-scored for India even in the final, with 88.
The 19-year-old was part of Mumbai’s victorious campaign in this year’s Vijay Hazare Trophy. While captain Prithvi Shaw stole the limelight with some incredible batting, Jaiswal did a decent job supporting him at the top of the order.
With Steve Smith having been released by RR, Jaiswal could figure more prominently in the franchise’s IPL 2021 plans. If that’s the case, Jaiswal should grab the opportunity with both hands.