The IPL offers a perfect mix of youth and experience. While contrasting characters like KL Rahul and Chris Gayle can gel nicely in one franchise, a legend like MS Dhoni can act as the perfect guide to a promising Ruturaj Gaikwad.
With age though, question marks begin being raised about your ability if you don’t perform. And rightly so. In sport, there is no place to rest on past laurels.
You either keep performing, or move aside and allow the next generation to take over. Past performances can earn you a longer rope, but you need to take those opportunities to stay relevant.
Can these veterans revive their IPL careers?
A number of veteran cricketers will be under pressure owing to their sinking returns in recent IPL seasons. We profile five such players who have point to prove.
#1 Suresh Raina
Suresh Raina was the original batting superstar of the IPL. The left-hander’s ability to clear the field saw him notch up many big scores.
He held the record for being the leading run-getter in the T20 league, before RCB captain Virat Kohli overtook him. Raina still occupies the No. 2 slot among among all-time run-scorers in the IPL, with 5368 runs from 193 matches.
Since IPL 2014 though, he hasn’t crossed 500 runs in an edition even once. He got over 400 runs in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, but IPL 2019 was quite disappointing for his standards. Raina scored 383 runs in 17 games. Significantly, his strike rate, one of his biggest assets as an attacking batsman, fell to 121.97.
Despite having skipped IPL 2020 due to personal reasons, CSK have retained Raina for the upcoming edition. The southpaw can ill-afford a poor season.
#2 Kedar Jadhav
At one point of time, Kedar Jadhav was a reliable member of the CSK batting outfit. He even won a few matches for the franchise with his innovative batting. Jadhav enjoyed the confidence of MS Dhoni, and it reflected in his performances.
The story has been rather bleak for the Maharashtra batsman in the last few seasons. Having been dropped from the Indian side after a string of poor performances, his international career seems over.
Jadhav was also released by CSK ahead of the IPL 2021 auction, and his recent record in the T20 league is nothing to write home about.
Jadhav played only one match in IPL 2018 before being ruled out of the entire season due to an injury. He featured in the 2019 and 2020 editions, but had forgettable returns - 162 runs in 14 games in IPL 2019 and 62 runs in 8 matches in IPL 2020. In both seasons, his strike rate was under 100.
Jadhav was lucky to be purchased by SRH for a base price of INR 2 crore. If he gets an opportunity, he will be under genuine pressure to perform.
#3 Ajinkya Rahane
Team India’s Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane has been reasonably successful in the IPL despite his obvious limitations when it comes to playing attacking cricket.
Twice in his IPL career, he has amassed over 500 runs - 560 in 2012 and 540 in 2015. Over the last few editions, however, his numbers have been falling significantly.
In the 2017 and 2018 IPL seasons, Rahane’s strike rate was under 120. He managed only three fifties in the two seasons combined, and totaled under 400 runs in both the editions.
The right-hander roared back in IPL 2019 with an unbeaten 105 from 63 balls for the Rajasthan Royals. Despite the century though, he still ended the season with under 400 runs.
Rahane’s poor show for the Delhi Capitals last season means he will definitely be under the scanner. The 32-year-old tried to be aggressive early in his innings, but kept falling cheaply. 113 runs was all he managed in nine games, 60 of them coming in one innings.
#4 Dinesh Karthik
Dinesh Karthik was appointed KKR skipper in IPL 2018, and he handed over the captaincy to Eoin Morgan in the midst of last season. It has been a topsy-turvy ride for Karthik.
Kartik had an impressive season in IPL 2018, totaling 498 runs from 16 games at an impressive strike rate of 147.77. However, his fortunes have been shrinking tremendously since.
In IPL 2019, the year when Andre Russell went berserk, Karthik struggled with the bat, managing only 253 runs from 14 games - 97 of which came in one knock. The captain’s woes mirrored those of the franchise as KKR struggled for consistency.
Kolkata retained their faith in Karthik for the IPL 2020 season, but did not reap the desired rewards. The wicketkeeper-batsman had a torrid time with the bat, and only managed 169 runs in 14 games at a strike rate of 126.11.
Karthik tried hard to go after the bowling, but apart from one innings, found little success. In many ways, this could be a perform-or-perish season for the unpredictable cricketer.
#5 Harbhajan Singh
Although it has been years since Harbhajan Singh last played for India, he has continued to remain an integral part of the IPL. In fact, he had featured in every edition of the IPL before skipping the 2020 season due to personal reasons.
Released by CSK, the 40-year-old was a surprise pick by KKR at his base price of INR 2 crore. Harbhajan has a prolific IPL record, with 150 wickets in 160 games. He also won multiple IPL titles, first with the Mumbai Indians and then with Chennai in 2018.
However, if one looks at his bowling returns over the past four seasons he has played in, they are a clear indication that the Turbanator’s IPL days are numbered.
After claiming 18 scalps in IPL 2015, he has picked up only 40 wickets from IPL 2016 to IPL 2019. During this period, the veteran off-spinner has featured in as many as 49 games.
The zip that made Harbhajan a dangerous wicket-taking bowler at his peak has been clearly missing. Bhajji is a feisty character and will go all out to prove critics wrong. But the question is whether he still has it in him to perform at this level.