By Nishad Pai Vaidya
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is a platform that brings together players from around the globe. For the unknown players who enter the tournament from near obscurity, it is the ideal opportunity to make an impression and aim for higher honours. It isn’t just the Indian domestic players who use it to make a name, but there are those from overseas who return home as superstars.
Here is a list of the relatively little-known players who made it big during the IPL 2012.
1. Sunil Narine
Coming into the IPL, Narine had played only 10 games (eight One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and two T20 Internationals) for the West Indies. When Kolkata picked him up at the auction for a huge sum of $ 700,000, the general opinion was that it was an inflated price for someone who is an unknown commodity. Little did anyone know that Narine was to inflict misery on the batsmen in the IPL and be one of the chief architects of Kolkata’s triumph. None of the batsmen were able to decipher his mystery as they were bamboozled by his variations. In his debut season, he led an attack that had more established names and emerged as the biggest star. The Player of the Tournament award was well deserved for his tremendous efforts and he leaves India with a huge reputation.
2. Kevon Cooper
Narine’s Trinidad & Tobago teammate, Cooper all-round skills were more than useful for the Rajasthan Royals. An injury cut-short his IPL otherwise he may have been amongst the highest wicket-takers in the tournament. It isn’t just his medium pace that can make waves, but his fearless batting is a thrill to watch. He dispatched the first delivery he faced in the IPL for a massive six over third-man. Rajasthan would want to use him for the whole season next year. But for now a West Indies call-up for the World T20 may be possible.
The Rising Star of the tournament, Mandeep was one of the many players Kings XI Punjab discovered during their spirited campaign. In the absence of Adam Gilchrist and Paul Valthaty’s poor form, Mandeep was asked to open the batting. The most impressive thing about Mandeep was that he continued to play his natural game despite finding himself in a new role. A striking feature of his batting was that he maintained a balanced position while executing a stroke – the head was very still at the point of contact. The bat comes down straight and even when he plays the horizontal strokes, there is some class about him.
A country that has seldom produced genuine tearaways found hope with the emergence of Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. Awana is another bowler who promises to live up to that hope as his performances for the Kings XI Punjab were encouraging. Having done well in the domestic season, the IPL outing has done wonders to Awana’s career graph. Not only has he made a name for himself, but has also earned a berth in the India A squad for the tour to the Caribbean. Economy rate aside, he was impressive as he ran in with energy and found wicket-taking form during the IPL. A good performance for India A and he may find himself knocking the doors of the Indian team.
While Morne Morkel stole the show for the Delhi Daredevils, there were others who supported him well and created the pressure on the opposing batsmen. Early in the tournament, the young left-arm spinner Nadeem was the star as he made a huge impact with accurate bowling. He troubled the batsmen with flight and had numerous variations to leave them in a tizzy. However, his form slipped and he found himself out of the eleven later in the tournament. Nevertheless, he had a good outing and would certainly be in Delhi’s scheme of things in the near future.
6. Pawan Negi
The IPL 2012 seemed to be a golden one for left-arm spinners in T20 cricket. Negi was no different as he played a similar role to Nadeem for Delhi. He took Nadeem’s spot once the latter’s form dropped and continued to bowl tight lines and lengths. The 19-year old’s most memorable performance came against Rajasthan when his four wicket haul derailed their charge after a rollicking start. His victims included quality batsmen - Ajinkya Rahane, Shane Watson and Brad Hodge.
The tall off-spinner from Haryana, nicknamed “doorknob” by his teammates delivered a spell that changed his life. In the encounter against Pune Warriors India, Chandila picked up a hat-trick early during Pune’s run-chase. He comes in with a high-arm action and used his fingers to turn the ball. Rahul Dravid showed tremendous faith in him and gave him the chance to bowl with the new ball. The challenge for him would be to maintain consistency and deliver more sterling performances next season.
Cometh the hour cometh man - Bisla turned on the heat when it mattered the most for Kolkata. Although, he has played a few seasons of IPL, not many would have known his name before the recent final. His scintillating 89 laid the platform for a memorable victory and shot him into national limelight. Bisla’s journey is interesting as he started off as a promising under-19 player and lost his way. In fact, he hasn’t played domestic cricket since the 2010-2011 season. The brilliant performance in the final should help him resurrect his domestic career and give him a more permanent place in the Kolkata line-up.
Gurkeerat may not be amongst the highest run-scorers in the tournament, but his temperament and grit won him the hearts of many. In the limited opportunities he got, he displayed his precocious batting talent. His unbeaten knock of 29 against Deccan Chargers would be etched in memory as he fearlessly took on Dale Steyn and also finished the game himself despite David Hussey being at the other end. That performance reflected the confidence he had in his ability and Punjab added one more name to their line of promising youngsters.
10. Debabrata Das
Kolkata Knight Riders’ Das is a former India under-19 player who has the ability to use the long handle. He didn’t bat too many times, but gave ample evidence of his hard-hitting talent. In the game against Chennai Super Kings, Das finished the game for Kolkata after a stutter which prompted captain Gautam Gambhir to give his man-of-the-match award to him. The Kolkata top-order has some big names and with Bisla’s recent success, it would be difficult for Das to get a promotion. For him to make a bigger impact, he needs to bat higher and face more deliveries – something he didn’t get to do a lot in IPL 2012.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)