The fast-bowling department of IPL franchises often plays a pivotal role in how the team fares during a season.
A good pacer has the ability to take wickets and limit the flow of runs, especially in the crucial powerplay overs and at the death. The very fact that teams are ready to shell out the big bucks to procure the services of the best pacers in the T20 format is a testament to that.
During the 2021 IPL auctions, Punjab Kings spent INR 14 crore to get the services of Jhye Richardson and INR 8 crore to have Riley Meredith on board. Meanwhile, lanky speedster Kyle Jamieson went to RCB for INR 15 crore, while MI got Nathan Coulter-Nile for INR 5 crore.
On that note, let's have a look at an analysis of the pace-bowling arsenals of all eight teams in IPL 2021.
#8 IPL 2021 Team: Chennai Super Kings (CSK)
CSK were unable to make it to the playoffs for the first time in IPL history last year.
It was by far their worst performance in the blockbuster T20 tournament. Stephen Fleming's troops managed to win only six of their 14 league matches, ending at a dismal seventh position in the points table.
Ahead of their IPL 2021 campaign, MS Dhoni's side suffered a major blow when Australian fast bowler Josh Hazlewood withdrew from the tournament citing bio-bubble fatigue. CSK are yet to name a replacement for him.
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Meanwhile, Proteas pacer Lungi Ngidi is also set to miss CSK's tournament opener against the Delhi Capitals, as he'll be serving his mandatory 7-day quarantine period.
During their woeful IPL 2020 campaign, Ngidi only made it to the playing XI in 4 matches. While he clinched nine wickets, his economy rate of 10.43 was on the expensive side. The 25-year-old, who was reportedly unhappy with his lack of game time, is likely to get more chances this time around.
Among the Indian pacers in the CSK unit, Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar are expected to play the most games.
In IPL 2020, Chahar scalped 12 wickets in 14 matches at an economy rate of 7.61. while Thakur took ten scalps in nine matches. The Indian duo could play a key role for CSL in IPL 2021 too.
Meanwhile, KM Asif and Harishankar Reddy will be the reserve Indian fast bowlers for the three-time IPL champions.
All-rounders Sam Curran and Dwayne Bravo are also good options available for MS Dhoni and co., as they can chip in with some crucial overs. Curran will be brimming with confidence after his good run against India in the bilateral series.
The Englishman picked up 13 wickets in 14 IPL matches for CSK last season and was the pick of the bowlers. However, none of CSK's bowlers featured in the top 14 wicket-takers in IPL 2020.
It remains to be seen how the pacers fare for CSK in the IPL this year.
#7 IPL 2021 Team: Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)
RCB’s lack of quality pacers has always one of their areas of weakness. In a bid to change that, the RCB management broke the bank to bring Kyle Jamieson on board for INR 15 crore.
The lanky New Zealand pacer is expected to be RCB's go-to man in IPL 2021; the franchise would hope that he turns out to be their trump card this season. The 26-year-old has limited international experience but has been highly impressive in recent games. He picked up 11/117 in a Test match against Pakistan in January.
However, Tests and T20s are a different ball game. So the speedster could be raring to justify his fat paycheque in IPL 2021. Kyle Jamieson is also a handy lower-order batsman and has the ability to score a few quick runs.
RCB suffered a huge blow in IPL 2020 when Kane Richardson pulled out of the tournament. However, this time, they would have the services of the Australian speedster at their disposal.
Saini picked up just six wickets in 13 matches for RCB in IPL 2020, while Siraj took 11 scalps in nine matches. The two could have a point to prove in IPL 2021, as it is also the year of the Twenty20 World Cup.
Yuzvendra Chahal was the only standout bowler for RCB last season. The chances of him getting good support from the pace arsenal seem much better in 2021.
Meanwhile, all-rounder Daniel Sams could be a good option in the pace unit. But he will be missing the first few games of RCB's IPL 2021 campaign after testing positive for COVID-19.
In his absence, RCB could utilise the services of experienced campaigner Dan Christian. The Australian has loads of experience in T20s and might make the RCB playing XI in the first few games in IPL 2021.
Overall, RCB's pace department looks much better than it did last season, at least on paper. If they had a specialist death bowler in their ranks, they could have been a little higher up the rankings.
#6 IPL 2021 Team: Kolkata Knight Riders
Kolkata Knight Riders have failed to make the playoffs in their last two campaigns, finishing fifth in both IPL 2019 and IPL 2020. The two-time champions will hope to get a lot of support from their bowling department in IPL 2021.
Pat Cummins took 12 scalps in 14 games for KKR last season, doing so at an economy rate was 7.86. While Cummins' performance may seem satisfactory, KKR would expect a lot from their marquee overseas signing in IPL 2021.
Supporting Cummins would be Indian speedster, Prasidh Krishna. The lanky bowler set the stage on fire during his ODI debut against England recently, as he picked up four wickets for 54 runs in 8.1 overs. The youngster especially played a crucial role in India's win in the first ODI of the series.
Krishna seemed to be enjoying himself on the international stage and is brimming with confidence coming into the 2021 IPL. He could be the frontrunner to start in the playing XI ahead of Kamlesh Nagarkoti, who picked up five wickets in ten matches for KKR last season.
Sandeep Warrier and Vaibhav Arora form the backup Indian options in the squad. All-rounder Venkatesh Iyer can also make the ball talk, and he has been impressive in KKR's practice matches in the run-up to IPL 2021.
Meanwhile, all-rounders Andre Russell and Shivam Mavi could also bolster the pace unit of KKR in IPL 2021. Kiwi speedster Lockie Ferguson was impressive last season and could play a key role in KKR's IPL 2021 campaign too .
The key for KKR in 2021 would be to get their bowling combination right early on in the tournament. They also have a potent spin department with the likes of Sunil Narine, Varun Chakravarthy, Kuldeep Yadav, and Harbhajan Singh in their ranks.
It remains to be seen if KKR's speedsters help the Shahrukh Khan-owned franchise end their seven-year title drought.
#5 IPL 2021 Team: Punjab Kings
The pace department of the Punjab Kings is spearheaded by Indian stalwart Mohammed Shami.
Shami was the pick of the bowlers for the team in IPL 2020, taking 20 wickets in 14 matches at a brilliant strike rate of 16.1. His economy rate was slightly on the upper side, though, which the seasoned campaigner would look to bring down in IPL 2021.
Arshdeep Singh assisted Shami well in IPL 2020, snapping up nine wickets in eight matches. He could look to do the same this time around as well. Meanwhile, Ishan Porel and Darshan Nalkande would form the backup Indian options for the Punjab-based franchise in the fast-bowling department.
Jhye Richardson, who earned an enormous bid of INR 14 crore from Punjab, has been great for Australia in international cricket. He would look to replicate that form in the IPL and justify his big paycheque.
Riley Meredith has further bolstered the Punjab Kings' pace-bowling department after he was roped in for a massive INR 8 crore in the 2021 IPL mini-auctions. The Australian fast bowler could be looking forward to making a memorable debut in the IPL.
Meanwhile, Chris Jordan, who took nine wickets in as many IPL matches last season, could be another useful overseas fast-bowling option for the Punjab Kings this year.
Moises Henriques, who recently led Sydney Sixers to the recently-concluded Big Bash title, is a veteran all-rounder and has decent T20 experience, especially in the IPL.
Overall, head coach Anil Kumble has plenty of options at his disposal in the fast-bowling unit. It remains to be seen which fast bowlers, especially the overseas ones, gets to play the most games for the team in IPL 2021.