The 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is all set to get underway on April 9. Owing to the risk of Coronavirus, this year’s edition will also be played behind closed doors, in a bio-secure environment. The T20 tournament returns to India after being held in the UAE last year. IPL 2021 though will be played in a select few cities, with an aim to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Every year, the IPL sees young talent grab their opportunities and make a strong impression. In this feature, we look at five youngsters to watch out for in IPL 2021.
1. Devdutt Padikkal
Karnataka batsman Devdutt Padikkal will go into IPL 2021 high on confidence. He recently created history by smashing four consecutive hundreds in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, becoming the first India to do so in List A cricket. The left-hander ended the Vijay Hazare Trophy as the second-highest run-getter with 737 runs, behind only Prithvi Shaw. Padikkal will also be buoyed by the fact that he tasted amazing success in his IPL debut season last year. Even with superstars like Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers around, he made a significant impression, scoring 473 runs in 15 games to win the ‘Emerging Player’ award. Padikkal had five fifties to show for his effort. Will be one to watch out for again.
2. Mohammed Azharuddeen
In January this year, Kerala batsman Mohammed Azharuddeen became a sensation when he blazed his way to a hundred off 37 balls in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. The knock came against a Mumbai attack which had Dhawal Kulkarni in its ranks, and is the second-fastest hundred in the tournament, behind Rishabh Pant’s 32-ball effort. Azharuddeen ended up scoring 137 not out in just 54 balls as Kerala chased a target of 197 with ease. This innings must have gone a long way in RCB purchasing at the IPL 2021 auction, at his base price of INR 20 lakh. Azharuddeen has an impressive strike rate of 142.27 after 24 T20s.
3. Shahrukh Khan
He may share his name with the superstar of Bollywood but this Shahrukh Khan is keen on making his name as a cricketer. Khan was part of the Tamil Nadu team that won the 2020-21 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. His big-hitting ability was to the fore as he smashed 88 runs in four innings at a terrific strike rate of 220. His best of 40 not out came off merely 19 balls. Impressed by his aggressive stroke play, Punjab Kings purchased him for INR 5.25 crore at the auction. Khan has a worthy average of 44 after 25 List A games. Also, having played 31 T20s, he has managed to maintain a strike rate of over 130.
4. Marco Jansen
South Africa’s Marco Jansen will undoubtedly be one of the young bowlers who will be keenly followed during IPL 2021. The 6′ 8″ tall pacer was picked by Mumbai Indians at the auction for his base price of INR 20 lakh. The 20-year-old can bowl at a quick speed and has already claimed 50+ wickets at an average of under 23 in 14 first-class matches. Jansen impressed on his first-class debut, claiming a five-wicket haul for North West in the 3-Day Provincial Cup. Apart from his fast bowling ability, the youngster can also chip in with quick runs lower down the order. Back in 2018, Jansen and his twin brother Duan grabbed some limelight when they impressed Virat Kohli during an India net session, when India toured there.
5. Chetan Sakariya
22-year-old Chetan Sakariya’s story is a highly inspirational one. The son of a tempo driver, the Saurashtra left-arm pacer was picked by Rajasthan Royals at the auction for INR 1.2 crore. In this year’s Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Sakariya finished with brilliant figures of 5 for 11 in a match against Vidarbha. It was during this tournament that he lost his younger brother to suicide. Hence, when Sakariya bagged the IPL contract, he had mixed feelings. A net bowler with RCB for IPL 2020, Sakariya made an impression on Glenn McGrath when sent to the MRF Pace Foundation after some good performances in U-19 cricket. He claimed a five-wicket on debut against Gujarat in the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy, when Jaydev Unadkat got injured.