It’s quite ironic. Though the “Dad’s team” Chennai Super Kings are the ones topping the table and looking remarkably set, quite a few Indian youngsters – some of them uncapped, some touted as future Team India fulcrums – have taken the Indian Premier League by storm this season. The eleventh edition has been one of contrasts. Experience is leading the way, but not without brilliant sparks of young talent that have consistently reminded us that there is no better platform for cricketers in the world right now. Perhaps it’s the Rahul Dravid influence – the U-19 coach has always promoted young talent even in his stint with the doomed Delhi Daredevils, even at the cost of the franchise performance. This time, however, he has been the prime supplier; most of his U-19 stars and India ‘A’ stalwarts are beginning to make a vast country take notice. With many like Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni and others now in their 30s, it’s time to start looking at the not-so-distant future.
With that in mind, let’s look at 11 young Indian players who have shown the potential to jive with the very best in IPL-11:
PRITHVI SHAW (DD)
The supremely confident 19-year-old Mumbai batsman, who is opening for the underperforming Delhi Daredevils in his first IPL season, has already captured imaginations with his short, stocky stature at the crease and a familiar MRF bat. Sachin comparisons aside, Shaw has been touted as the next big thing for more than half a decade now. And for once, he has been given a world platform – and he is thriving. In four innings, he has exhibited the kind of unwavering confidence and all-around shot-making ability that very few his age exhibit. He is a little hot-headed in his eagerness to score runs off every ball though, something that will temper with age and experience. With one fifty, a quick 20 and an electric 47 to his name already, Shaw will be looking for the big one now.
ISHAN KISHAN (MI)
The 19-year-old wicketkeeper, now batting at 3 for the bottom-placed defending champs Mumbai Indians, has been given an opportunity by Rohit Sharma – who is batting at 4 behind him – to spread his wings and lead a fragile Mumbai top order. As a result, the team has been getting good starts, only to squander it in the final overs due to a lack of experience below Sharma and a misfiring Pollard and Hardik Pandya. Kishan has been doing his job well. With a couple of ducks and half centuries to his name, though, he will want to be more consistent in order to begin a decade-long battle for a place as Indian keeper with Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson in the post-Dhoni era.
SHREYAS IYER (DD)
The new captain of Delhi Daredevils has been leading the way with the bat at number 3 in one of the most exciting young batting lineups this season. The team has won 2 out of 3 games under him – in both, he has scored blistering fifties. He has already scored five fifties in nine innings this season. But Iyer isn’t as young as the others. At 23, the Mumbai Ranji batsman has already played for India after having a fantastic IPL season in 2016 and has suffered a few dips in form too. Finally, responsibility seems to be bringing out the best in him. He has a long way to go as a leader, but he is a smart talented batsman who might well be the core of an international batting lineup very soon.
RISHABH PANT (DD)
After an attention-arresting 2017 IPL season, the Daredevils keeper has stepped it up a notch after realizing that MS Dhoni – the man he is primed to displace in the Indian team soon – has roared back to form this year. Pant has played a few T20 games for India, but it’s his performance this season for Delhi that will go a long way in keeping him on the radar. He has timed the ball sweetly, almost always off balance, and is currently the Orange Cap holder in an IPL filled with high-scoring batsmen. For a 20-year-old to be such an intimidating, consistent hitter at number 4 – an example is his blitzkrieg against Rajasthan Royals on Wednesday night – bodes well for Indian selectors over the next few years. There is, after all, an extra keeping spot up for grabs for the 2019 ICC World Cup in England.
NITISH RANA (KKR)
The resourceful Delhi batsman made a splash with Mumbai Indians last year, after combining with Rohit Sharma to hold down a solid middle order in a winning campaign. This season, with the Kolkata Knight Riders, he has impressed many with his all-round capabilities – picking up wickets with his part-time bowling and holding the Orange Cap during the first 5 games of the season with his prolific scoring. Due to the schedule, KKR didn’t play a game for one week, and he seems to have lost out on some momentum there. But Rana needs to be considered seriously because of the way he paces his innings, and the maturity he shows in a bits-and-pieces middle order. AT 24, he is hungry, and could well be the difference along with Andre Russell as far as KKR’s fortunes go.
SANJU SAMSON (RR)
It feels like Samson, India’s next big thing five seasons ago, has been around for ages. But the wicketkeeper is only 23 and has already endured a loss of motivation and form in his short career. His talent continues to shine occasionally, and there is no better Indian sight in cricket than watching Samson smoke some into the stands. He has gone down the pecking order behind Dhoni, Karthik, and Pant as far as the Indian wicketkeeping hierarchy stands, but Samson can be chosen on his batting talent alone – such is his craft on his day. He played his first and last T20 international for India in Zimbabwe in 2015 and will be aching to make a comeback soon.
DEEPAK CHAHAR (CSK)
He might be injured right now, but the 25-year-old pacer has been around. As an 18-year-old for Rajasthan in Ranji cricket, he made his debut with stunning figures of 8 for 10 against Hyderabad. But his body hasn’t supported his talent. Chahar has been in and out of many teams and many bouts of form. This year, for Dhoni’s CSK, he blew away a Sunrisers team with a stunning top-order 3-wicket haul: a spell that will long be remembered as a reminder of his ability. CSK will miss him for another week; he was the only youngster in a team overdosing on experience and vintage form.
MAYANK MARKANDE (MI)
As per MI tradition, the 20-year-old Punjabi leg-spinner, much like Bumrah some years ago, has been picked out of obscurity to become the team’s lead spinner. Markande held the Purple Cap after five games and has impressed many with his attacking line and risk-taking awareness. He destroyed the Sunrisers line-up with a four-wicket haul early in the season, setting the stage for yet another leggie to become a household name in a country desperate for new heroes.
ANKIT RAJPOOT (KXIP)
The unheralded Uttar Pradesh fast bowler has been in the IPL for a while – and has played for CSK as well as KKR before his stint with Kings XI this season. The 24-year-old remains the only bowler this year to have taken a 5-wicket haul – he did so in only his third game, destroying the Sunrisers batting lineup only to end up on the losing team. His 7 wickets in 3 games have made him a key cog in the KXIP bowling order – what with his variations and smart death bowling combining well with the versatility of Andrew Tye.
SIDDHARTH KAUL (SRH)
He isn’t “young” per se, but the 27-year-old Punjab pacer’s story has been one of endurance, spirit, and redemption. He has hit the high notes as part of the tournament’s best bowling lineup – picking up wickets toward the death that briefly gave him the Purple Cap for a few games. Kane Williamson has shown faith in him at every point of the innings. His 3-wicket haul, combining with Rashid Khan, against Mumbai Indians while defending a paltry 118 has gone a long way in cementing his place in the eyes of selectors looking for bowlers in shorter formats.
BASIL THAMPI (SRH)
The 24-year-old Kerala bowler, who previously bowled well for Gujarat Lions last season, has replaced the injured spearhead Bhuvneshwar Kumar in a fantastic SRH bowling lineup. Thampi has played three games so far, picking up 5 wickets while defending low totals. He has outdone himself while partnering Kaul and the spinners, thriving on three different pitches in Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Jaipur. Thampi might have to make place for Bhuvneshwar when he returns, but he could well be swapping spots with Kaul as the second pacer through the team.