IPL 9: 16 Indian cricketers who can target national comebacks

17 runs from the final over and the first two balls go — 4 and 6. The match is in India‘s plate and they win the series 3-0. The batsman to belt those boundaries was Yuvraj Singh. He showed he is far from over and throughout the season remained a vital cog in India’s successful T20I outings. An injury ended his campaign. It shows that the proven and the experience have enough firepower to still make a difference.

 Indian Premier League (IPL) has been a platform for several young cricketers to make it to big stage. Similarly, the established ones also get a platform to stage memorable national comebacks. Ahead of the ninth edition of the IPL, Suvajit Mustafi looks at 16 players who will look to forward to use this platform to remind national selectors their presence in their bid to comeback at international level.

1.  Yuvraj Singh will eye an ODI berth: Yuvraj had a good run in the domestic ODI competition and that earned him a spot in India’s T20I side. He had a decent run until an injury hampered his progress in the ICC World T20 2016. The injury has ruled him out of the first two weeks of IPL but once back, Yuvraj will be the key in Sunrisers Hyderabad’s (SRH) middle-order. With little T20I action coming up this year, many have speculated the end of Yuvraj’s international career but a good show here can see him pave his way to the national ODI side.

2.  Gautam Gambhir will eye Shikhar Dhawan’s spot: Gambhir has not set things on fire with the bat in the Indian domestic season but for a player of his class, it’s just a matter of time before he marks a turnaround. Shikhar Dhawan’s inconsistency has often hurt India and he was dropped from the XI in the semi-final of the World T20. IPL gives the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) skipper a good platform to serve the national selectors a reminder.

3.  Irfan Pathan: Once the ‘next big thing’ of Indian cricket, injuries have ruined a major part of his career. Irfan still has years of cricket in front of him. The Baroda skipper, who did not get to play a single game in the last edition of IPL for Chennai Super Kings (CSK), is now a part of the new franchise, Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS). Irfan had a brilliant domestic T20 season for Baroda where he ended up as the highest wicket-taker. He also had a few good outings with the bat. He is a proven performer for India in all formats and had come very close on getting selected in India’s World T20 2016 squad. A good show this season can help him walk into the national team.

4.  Stuart Binny: Hardik Pandya’s rise in stature has sealed many a doors now but cricket is a game of uncertainty. Binny has been picked by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Bangalore is the city where the all-rounder originally hails from. A mainstay for Karnataka for many years, Binny will get to play most of his matches in his home ground this season. If he delivers with bat and ball, he might just get another shot at the highest level.

5.  Wriddhiman Saha in ODIs? Remember the IPL final 2014? Saha with his brilliant hundred almost won Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) the tournament. Saha, India’s Test wicketkeeper, is more than a useful resource in limited-overs cricket. He has not batted well in Tests recently and Naman Ojha was picked ahead of him in the Rest of India side in Irani Trophy. So far, he has done a good job for KXIP and has the opportunity here to prove himself yet again and announce himself as MS Dhoni’s standby in limited overs internationals.

6.  Robin Uthappa, an MS Dhoni standby? Uthappa has been around the national team for over a decade now. An explosive batsman and a decent wicketkeeper, a bulk of Kolkata Knight Riders’ (KKR) fortune depends on him. Uthappa has performed consistently in India’s domestic season and is another contender to be Dhoni’s standby in limited-overs cricket.

7.  Parthiv Patel: Parthiv has risen in ranks as a cricketer and a captain. He has done very well in limited-overs cricket for Gujarat and was recently called up as a back-up for Dhoni. He is another contender for being Dhoni’s standby. He will turn up for Mumbai Indians (MI) but with Jos Buttler in ranks we do not know how if the wicketkeeper batsman will get enough games for MI.

8.  Dinesh Karthik: Over the years, Karthik has played for several IPL sides and this time he will turn up for the Suresh Raina-led Gujarat Lions. Karthik is another experienced wicketkeeper, eyeing for the national berth.

9.  Sanju Samson: Samson is expected to don the big gloves once Dhoni calls it a day in international cricket. Hailed as the ‘next big thing’ of Indian cricket, Samson, who was a part of the Indian team for the tour of Zimbabwe last year, has not really lived up to the expectations. A good show here for DD and he will be back in the reckoning. However, the side also has an in-form Quinton de Kock and Rishabh Pant, so there will be competition for wicketkeeping.

10.  Kedar Jadhav: In the last ODI that he played for India, Jadhav slammed a match-winning ton. He has not found a place in the Indian side since then. He had a good limited-overs domestic season and this time, he will turn up for the very strong RCB. Jadhav is expected to don the keeping gloves but he is a good enough batsman to make it to the side purely as a middle-order batsman. With age not on his side, Jadhav will look forward to make the most.

11.  Ishant Sharma and the World Cup woes: Ishant’s loss was Mohit Sharma’s gain in World Cup 2015. Though he may be India’s preferred pacer in Test cricket, he is not considered to be a limited-overs specialist. The rise of Jasprit Bumrah has made it further difficult for India’s most experienced pacer. Ishant is a part of the RPS and will be roaring to make a difference this season.

12.  Mohit Sharma: He fetched INR 6.5 crores in the IPL auction and in the previous IPL editions; we have seen how effective he can be. Mohit was one of India’s unsung heroes of World Cup 2015 but his form has been indifferent since then. If he justifies his price tag for Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) this season, a national recall is likely.

13.  Jaidev Unadkat: The lanky Saurashtra seamer made it to the national side as a teenager more than five years back. He has had a fantastic domestic season and is now back to the side where it all began for him — KKR. Under the guidance of Wasim Akram, he will further benefit and if he has a good season, there’s no reason why he can’t make it to the national side again. He is young and has been around for a while. He will like to make the most of this season.

14.  Umesh Yadav: Once a mainstay and the strike bowler, Umesh has the habit of being too erratic at times. He can clock serious pace and was a part of the Indian team in Australia earlier this year. He is a vital cog in KKR’s bowling and IPL is a good platform for him to stage a Team India comeback.

15.  Amit Mishra, the forgotten hero: We often get an impression that Mishra does not really enjoy Dhoni’s confidence or else he would have been a regular in India’s limited-overs set-up. He was one of the stars of India’s World T20 campaign in 2014 but despite good shows he has not been a regular in the limited-overs side. Along with Imran Tahir, Mishra will lead DD’s spin attack. Mishra can catch Dhoni and the selectors in a serious web if he delivers the goods for DD this season.

16.  Axar Patel for Ravindra Jadeja? There was a time when Axar looked the better bowler when he bowled in tandem with Jadeja. However, Jadeja’s strong comeback has side-lined him. Soon, Pawan Negi rose in the ranks and replaced him in the squad. The left-arm spin bowling all-rounder is still young and will be one of the key players in the KXIP set up. A good show from him and he will again knock the doors of India playing XI again.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer, strategist, entrepreneur, philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)