With around three games to go for each team, it’s more or less clear already which four teams could qualify for the playoffs – Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians, Rising Pune Supergiants and Sunrisers Hyderabad – with there being quite a gap between these teams and the chasing pack. But, of course, anything can happen, given that the favorites (Kolkata, Hyderabad) lost their last game, and will look to arrest their slide in momentum.
On the way, however, like in most years, a few Indian uncapped youngsters seem to have made their mark amidst the circus of international stars and tense battles. Whatever one may say about the tournament, it has consistently introduced new local talents to the world – some of who go on to capitalize on their platform, while the others may just fade away. It’s up to these kids now to decide where they want to go from here.
Here are five of them:
RAHUL TRIPATHI (RISING PUNE SUPERGIANT)
The 26-year-old Pune opener has propelled himself into the spotlight, all the more magnified given the repeated failures of Ajinkya Rahane at the top, and the absence of regular opener Faf du Plessis. Not much was known about Tripathi as he entered the season, except that he looked quite promising for Maharashtra in the first-class season and that he was a useful all-rounder. But Steve Smith seems to have given him the license to dash, with Tripathi now fifth in the highest run-getters list this year – with six thirties out of the nine innings he has played in. Almost every time, the army kid blazes away to a start, and he finally converted against a shocked Kolkata Knight Riders team on Wednesday while chasing: a brilliant 92 sealed the deal for his team, who’re enjoying their second and last season in the tournament (Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals will be back next year). Tripathi has smashed 16 sixes, and has slowly become the top Indian surprise of the league, after he was initially under the shade of a left-handed Indian kid named…
NITISH RANA (MUMBAI INDIANS)
The team’s new no. 3 is an aggressive Delhi batsman who has proved his mettle for them in the Syed Mushtaq Limited overs trophy last season. He didn’t get many opportunities for the Mumbai Indians last year, but started this year as the most consistent and top-scorer till midway through the league. He may have tapered off a bit in the last few games, but his hunger and technique have come to the fore repeatedly, lending batting form to his team when captain Rohit Sharma was out of touch for the first seven games. Rana has three fifties already, but will want to make it count if he is to captivate the imaginations of selectors eagerly looking for the next generation of batsmen to replace Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni or even Shikhar Dhawan at the top.
BASIL THAMPI (GUJARAT LIONS)
The 23-year-old right-arm seamer was sold for INR 85 lakhs in the auction, raising eyebrows and expectations. He started the tournament a little unlucky, and went wicket-less for the first three games, as the Lions struggled to find their bowling sequence. But Thampi has impressed a lot with his yorkers and variety in his death bowling recently, picking up five wickets in his last two games – both losses – against Mumbai Indians and Pune. Ben Stokes may have flayed him in his last over, but the experience is only serving him well for the future, as he toyed with Dhoni at the crease, and has showed the kind of skill and heart that has been missing from other Indian bowlers this season.
SIDDHARTH KAUL (SUNRISERS HYDERABAD)
The strong 26-year-old bowler who plays for Punjab in domestic cricket has been around this tournament – Hyderabad is his third team after Delhi and Kolkata. Though Kaul was brought in after four games, he has impressed with his six performances (eight wickets), only failing against Pune, even picking up three in Mohali at his ‘home’ ground. He has added a lot, and will learn even more, bowling in the best line-up of the tournament – with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rashid Khan and Ashish Nehra. They will need more of him, though, as they struggle to keep up with the top three, with their batting too dependent on David Warner, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar bound to lose a little form at some point.
KRUNAL PANDYA (MUMBAI INDIANS)
For the second consecutive season, the younger Pandya has stolen the limelight from his internationally capped brother – bowling up a middle-over storm, and serving as his team’s crisis man with the bat as a finisher while chasing. He may look like a veteran by now to those familiar with the league, but he is yet to be selected by India. It’s only a matter of time, though, given his all-around abilities. His 140 runs and 10 wickets (so far) have been crucial for the Indians leading the table, and his temperament has only improved since last year. With Kieron Pollard becoming less of a bowler every passing day, Pandya’s economical overs in the middle and his hold over AB de Villiers has proven to be perhaps the greatest boon for a team notoriously famous for performing only when their backs are against the wall.
Washington Sundar (Rising Pune Supergiant), Ishan Kishan (Gujarat Lions)