We take a look at certain young players who have taken IPL 2012 by storm- and made it a season for the ages already:
Ajinkya Rahane (Rajasthan Royals):
He is just one of the few young batsmen to have been misused by a major team for the last few seasons. Rayadu was often given the nod above Rahane at Mumbai, and only recently has Rahane shot onto the international scene with some eye-catching T20 performances as a replacement for Sehwag and Gambhir. IPL 2012 has seen the emergence of Team India’s future batting star, under the careful eyes of Rahul Dravid- who continues to discover and give to Indian cricket after retirement.
His 98 against Punjab and subsequent century against Bangalore had not one violent shot in them- with most of them textbook cricketing shots executed a little better than others.
Kevin Cooper (Rajasthan Royals):
7 wickets in his first two IPL games ever must have convinced the Trinidadian all-rounder that cricket isn’t so hard after all. His emergence is no coincidence, in the same Royals team that contains the best balance in the tournament. Unfortunately, the foreign player rule has limited him to the side lines on spin-friendly pitches that warrant the selection of 42 year old Hogg and 40 year old Hodge over him. Rest assured, though, the man will play a few more games- and is likely to be rotated with out of form Botha as the tournament moves forward.
Sunil Narine (Kolkata Knight Riders):
KKR are infamous for their mismanagement of a vast variety of riches (foreign players), but the only right decision they have taken so far is replacing Lee with Narine at Eden Gardens. The wily new West Indian star is a mystery spinner, just like KKR reject Mendes was- a few years ago. An impressive performance against Punjab (5-19) went in vain, thanks to a star-studded batting order choking at the very end. He might not play every game this season, but he has made his mark.
Ashok Dinda (Pune Warriors):
Under Sourav Ganguly, this pole-vaulter of a bowler is finally giving the world a glimpse of the potential that Dada has seen in him over every domestic season. What is impressive is not only his ability to take wickets, but his newfound ability to control the scoring rate with probing line and bounce outside off-stump. He is the only bowler that came away unscathed against Gayle and Co., and continues to be the highest wicket taker of this strong T20 team. His 4-for against Mumbai was the talk of the town, and it remains to be seen if he turns out to be the Rahul Sharma of IPL 2012.
Mayank Agarwal (Royal Challengers Bangalore):
His quickfire 30s against Chennai and then Rajasthan showed a glimpse of what this talented 21-year old is capable of. He remains one of the few players in the world to outscore Gayle in their opening partnerships- until considerable daftness by captain Vettori saw him move to number 3 when Dilshan came in for Murali against Pune. His timing is impressive- and he plays proper cricketing shots that often fool the opposition into submission with the unorthodox Gayle as his foil. Given an opportunity, he could be an exciting young talent in the years to come- and the RCB management should learn to manage him better than they did with Manish Pandey and Saurabh Tiwary.
Umesh Yadav (Delhi Daredevils):
Already a strike bowler in the test team, Yadav is learning to navigate the choppy waters of sub-continental limited-overs cricket. Bowling alongside world-class Morkel, this youngster is improving by leaps and bounds- as witnessed in his frugal 2-11 against Mumbai Indians. His pace continues to remain the same, unlike recent ‘tearaway’ fast bowler Munaf Patel who sacrificed speed for accuracy- which seems to only be paying off when batsmen try to attack him.
Steve Smith (Pune Warriors):
The blond leg-spinner comes with a difference- he is a very handy batsman who can play at any position, subject to the match situation. His urgency reminds us of a right-handed Bevan, and he could turn out to be Australia’s top all-rounders in the future if his bowling ability is paid more attention to. His swift 39 against Mumbai in the first game set the tone for Pune’s winning streak, and his match-snatching 44 against Champions Chennai was a sign of things to come for this eager finisher.
ABCD of South African Cricket
Faff Du Plessis (Chennai SuperKings):
Currently the only bright spot in a floundering Southern campaign, Du Plessis- who is originally meant to be a replacement for Hussey- will probably keep his senior colleague out of the IPL if he continues to time the ball so sweetly. His consistently good form has masked the continuous failures of Murali Vijay, but hasn’t been enough to rescue his entire team from sinking- except against Bangalore, where Albie Morkel provided the finishing touches to a delightful innings by Faff at the top.
Debabrata Das (Kolkata Knight Riders):
Still raw and unfinished, Das is proving to be a useful asset down the order after his more illustrious superstar colleagues for a usually-choking Knight Riders team. His clean 35 was not enough to rescue KKR from Punjab, for he probably lacked the finishing experience at the end. A few lusty blows against Delhi was indication enough that maybe he could be played around in the batting order, and given more opportunity.
Shikhar Dhawan (Deccan Chargers):
Three consecutive good scores establish him once against as a talented left-hander who gets a start, but fails to go on and hammer the nail into the opposition coffin. He has done with for 3 seasons now, with 3 different teams- and hence is yet to play that whirlwind innings that announces his intent to make it big. Which brings us to another player who does the same thing…
Robin Uthappa (Pune Warriors):
He was a lethal finisher with RCB before being shipped off to newcomers Pune- where he was given more responsibility at the top of the order. His first half-century, though, came 18 games into his stint with Pune- against Bangalore, after a large string of 30+ scores that have seen him become the most consistent T20 batsman in the IPL. Once he crosses 30 though, those cheeky suicidal reverse sweeps and Dilscoops come into play- and he decides to lose his mind and throw away his wicket. Being wicketkeeper, though, has only added to his utility this season.