This list is easy bait in IPL cricket. The names don’t change every season. In 11 years, there are certain batsmen that can’t not make this list. There’s always, say, a Virat Kohli or a Rohit Sharma here. Or an AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle (not so much now), Robin Uthappa, Suresh Raina or even a Shane Watson. The big names are obvious. But it’s the younger ones that excite. Not always the ones that score the big runs or open the batting. The surprises that can take a season by storm, in one innings or more.
Let’s take a look at five names that can turn T20 games in a split second:
Jos Buttler (Rajasthan Royals)
The England wicketkeeper gave us a glimpse of just how destructive he can be in the shortest format last season when he was promoted to opener by Ajinkya Rahane. The season immediately turned for the Royals. Buttler scored five aggressive half centuries in a row, swatting bowlers everywhere and turning his career up a notch. Ever since then, he has been on a high, and will look to use IPL this season to tune up for what is perhaps England’s most important World Cup campaign yet. Buttler will begin the IPL by opening, so the Royals don’t have to wait till later to discover his magic. Expect to be entertained.
Andre Russell (Kolkata Knight Riders)
There is Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn in the top order. But nobody and nothing can match the madness that Russell can unleash in the middle order. The burly West Indian is probably the most effective T20 player in cricket today. He has repeatedly proven his worth with KKR as a bowling all-rounder, but they must learn to use him as a batting all-rounder now. His strike rate was an astounding 185 last season for the 315 runs he scored. The bat looks like a club in his hand, and the bowlers look like prey, especially in the final few overs. KKR needs to find a way to make him bat between overs 12-20 as much as possible.
Shreyas Iyer (Delhi Capitals)
The focus will be on Rishabh Pant and Prithvi Shaw, two of India’s youngest and most exciting recruits. But it will be captain Shreyas Iyer out to prove a point and drag his team from mediocrity to some kind of redemption. We know he has the shots, but his temperament has kept him from climbing to the heights we know he can achieve in IPL cricket. He looked brilliant at the crease at times last season. Now to see if the responsibility of leading the team forces him to switch gears as a batsman and stake his claim to the selectors in the long run.
Mayank Agarwal (Kings XI Punjab)
India’s new Test opener entered last season’s IPL on the back of a record-shattering Ranji season. This year, he is an international Test opener with two fifties in his first Two Tests in Australia as part of a rare winning team abroad. Agarwal failed in his stint with Kings XI last year, scoring only 120 runs in 10 games at the top of the order. But he will be confident and better equipped this year, especially mentally, to succeed and partner the prolific (but iffy) KL Rahul. Agarwal has always had the potential in T20 cricket – he showed sparks of it as an opener for RCB for a few seasons. This is his chance to make T20 cricket his own.
Kane Williamson (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
Nobody expected it. After being on the bench for many games in IPL 2017, Kane Williamson was not just batsman but captain for the ailing SRH side in 2018 following the ban of captain David Warner. Williamson, a technically “correct” batsman who is well on his way to becoming New Zealand’s greatest ever, batted at 3 for his team, and finished with a stunning 735 runs with 8 fifties and an average of 52 in the season. SRH reached the final on basis of his form, and depended on his creativity to overcome their reliance on Warner to prove that they are actually an all-round team that adapts better than most. Most of all, Williamson proved that the shorter format is just another format for him. All he needs to do is see ball and hit ball. With Warner back, it’ll be interesting to see where he stands…in the crease.
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