The 14th edition of the Indian Premier League [IPL] is all set to take the centre stage with defending champions Mumbai Indians going for the 3-peat.
Like every IPL season, there is a huge sense of anticipation among IPL fans about their favourite teams or players who will perform this season. Every year, a plethora of players capture the imagination of the cricketing folklore with their performances.
On that note, the Bharat Army takes a look at players to watch out for in IPL 2021-
IPL 2021: Young Indian Players to Watch out
Devdutt Padikkal (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
Devdutt Padikkal (Image Credit: Twitter/BCCI)
Devdutt Padikkal, the young Karnataka opener, proved to be the find of the last edition of the Indian Premier League. The young Indian southpaw proceeded to establish himself at the top of the order thanks to a string of consistent performances even as his fellow opening partners kept changing around him.
Padikkal announced himself with a classy half-century against a power-packed SunRisers Hyderabad bowling attack and never really looked back from thereon. Padikkal smashed a total of 473 runs in 15 outings at an average of 31.53 with five 50+ scores against his name but his strike rate of 124.90 left a lot to be desired.
The southpaw found it tough to press the accelerator post the powerplay, something that he and the RCB think-tank will hope that he improves on in IPL 2021.
Padikkal, though, has gone from strength to strength since his breakout IPL season. He smashed a total of 747 runs in just seven Vijay-Hazare Trophy encounters at an average of 147.4 and a strike rate of 95.96. The tally included four hundreds, all of them coming in successive games, which made him the first Indian to achieve the feat in List-A cricket.
The second IPL Season is usually the litmus test for any young uncapped player as opposition teams come well prepared after having seen them in their maiden outing. And, so it will be interesting to see how Devdutt Padikkal goes about his business this time around.
Ruturaj Gaikwad (Chennai Super Kings)
Ruturaj Gaikwad (Image Credit: Twitter/BCCI)
Ruturaj Gaikwad's IPL 2020 campaign perfectly mirrored his side Chennai Super Kings' fortunes in the competition. It started with a disaster in the first half as he contracted Covid-19 before the tournament began and when he did get a chance to play, he registered scores of 0 and 5.
But just like CSK, who ended their campaign with three consecutive victories, Ruturaj Gaikwad also ended his season on a high as he showed his precocious talent to the hilt and smoked three back-to-back half-centuries at the top of the order.
Gaikwad registered scores of 65*(51), 72 (53), and 62* (49) in his last three outings but more than the runs he scored, it was the manner he got them that caught the eyes of everyone.
He looked absolutely imperious against both pace and especially spin during the middle-overs, which had been CSK's nemesis in IPL 2020. Gaikwad is set to start the season as CSK's first-choice opener this time around and it will be interesting to see if he continues his last years' form or not.
T Natarajan (Sun Risers Hyderabad)
T Natarajan (Image Credit: Twitter)[/caption]
If the likes of Devdutt Padikkal and Ruturaj Gaikwad were the finds of the season with the bat, the same can be said about SunRisers Hyderabad pacer T Natarajan. Having championed the ability to bowl yorkers at will, T Natarajan turned heads with his calm demeanour and his ability to bowl at the death with remarkable consistency.
Natarajan hammered as many as 71 yorkers- the most by a pacer-in IPL 2020 and while doing that, he proceeded to dismiss quite a few high profile names like AB de Villiers and MS Dhoni. Natarajan ended up as SRH's second-highest wicket-taker and since then he has gone on to make his debut for Team India across all three forms of the game.
But just like batsmen, it's the second season that is the toughest for any rookie bowler as the opposition batsman will be better prepared to counter their threat after having seen them in their first season. And so, it will be interesting to see how T Natarajan responds to the challenge this time around.
IPL 2021: Experienced players to Watch out for
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (SRH)
The ICC Men's player of March 2021 is one of the experienced players that we will be interested to watch this season is veteran SunRisers Hyderabad seam and swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has suffered from persistent injury issues in the past three years. The champion fast bowler played just four games last year before he got ruled out due to injury.
Kumar made a brilliant comeback in the recently concluded white-ball Internationals (T20Is and ODIs) against England where he was comfortably the best bowler across two teams. Kumar managed 4 wickets in 5 T20Is and his spell of 2/15 in four overs in a game where close to 400 runs were scored exemplified his brilliance.
But more than his form, it is fitness and whether he managed to get through the entire season unscathed will be to watch out for in IPL 2021.
Yuzvendra Chahal (Royal Challengers Banglore)
Indian spin-bowling stocks in white-ball cricket are at an all-time low and one of the major reasons behind that is the poor form of their spearhead, Yuzvendra Chahal.
Chahal had a brilliant IPL 2020 in which he claimed as many as 21 wickets in 15 games at an average of 19.28 and an economy rate of 7.08 but his performances in international T20s in the past 1.5 years has left a lot to be desired.
He had a poor outing in the recent T20I series against England where he was benched by the management after dismal performances in the first three matches. The upcoming IPL will be crucial for Chahal not only for RCB's sake but also for his international future.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings)
IPL 2021 might be the last time we see the legendary MS Dhoni play competitive cricket.
The former Indian skipper and the three-time IPL-winning skipper MS Dhoni, just like his franchise, had a forgettable season last year. Having spearheaded CSK's batting unit in 2018 and 2019, Dhoni failed to repeat his heroics and the lack of game-time was truly evident last year.
Dhoni managed just 200 runs in 12 outings at an average of 25 and a strike rate of 116.27. The most damning stat from the last season was that Dhoni stroked just 7 sixes last year.
With IPL 2021 likely to be the champion stumper's last hurrah, will MS Dhoni roll back the glorious years for one last time? We'll wait and see.
IPL 2021: Foreign Players to Watch out for
Kyle Jamieson (Royal Challengers Banglore)
The Royal Challengers Bangalore broke the bank in IPL 2021 auction to claim the services of New Zealand pacer Kyle Jamieson.
Jamieson was picked for a whopping Rs 15 Crore despite his base price being just 75 Lakh. Jamieson has had a breakout start to his Test career but the same cannot be said about his T20I career.
The tall fast bowler was taken to the cleaners in his recent outing against Australia and with RCB no longer having the services of Chris Morris, the pressure will be on the Kiwi pacer to not only spearhead the bowling attack but also justify his hefty price tag.
Glenn Maxwell (Royal Challengers Banglore)
Glenn Maxwell has been a colossal failure in the IPL. Despite his exploits in T20Is and the Big Bash League, the 'Big Show' has proved to be a 'No Show' in the IPL barring the 2014 season where he racked up more than 500 runs.
Since then, the Australian swashbuckler has managed to breach the 200-run-mark in just one season (2017).
Maxwell's performances in the IPL hit the lowest point last season where he failed to hit a single six throughout his stint. He managed just 108 runs at an average of 15.42 and a strike rate of just over 100.
He was subsequently released by Punjab Kings only for RCB to break the bank for him once again.
Maxwell is due for a big IPL season as the law of averages should finally catch up. And, RCB will certainly hope that that's the case this time around.
Nicholas Pooran (Punjab Kings)
Nicholas Pooran is one of the most exciting young white-ball players going around in the current era.
Blessed with the ability to bash spin and fast bowling with equal disdain, Pooran will be a vital cog for Punjab Kings in the middle-order. Pooran had the best strike rate (169.71) among all players who stroked more than 300 runs in IPL 2020. In 14 outings, the southpaw smashed 353 runs at an average of 35.30 with two 50+ scores.
PBKS will hope that the West Indian breaches the 400 or even 500-run mark in IPL 2021.