The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 is set to get underway on 9th April with the defending and 5-time champions Mumbai Indians taking on the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Chennai. Played behind closed doors and in a cluster caravan format, this season promises to be yet another blockbuster with each team in readiness to go the distance. While the mini-auction did spring in a few surprises, huge buys, and some uncanny transfers, the most exciting part about this year’s IPL, as its motto “Where Talent meet Opportunities” suggests, will be the debutants. In an attempt to leave a mark, the first-timers from the country as well as the world will look to start with a bang, especially with the mega-auction next year.
Here’s a list of the Top 6 debutants to look forward to in IPL 2021:
1. Mohd. Azharuddeen
The young wicket-keeper batsman from Kerela came into the limelight in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy with a blistering hundred of just 37 balls against a full-fledged Mumbai setup. Not only did he create a reputation for himself in this domestic season, but also attracted the IPL teams with his destructive style. Azharuddeen was picked up by the Royal Challengers Bangalore this season, and the youngster is likely to start for Kohli’s team. While one expects him to take only the middle-order slot going forward in the tournament, Azhar is certain to open alongside Kohli in absence of the quarantining Devdutt Paddikal.
For Azharuddeen it is a dream come true to bat alongside the legends of the game in AB, Virat, Maxwell, etc. Cherishing the day he was picked in the auction, Azhar explains, “Two minutes after the auction, Virat Bhai messaged me saying, ‘Welcome to RCB, all the best. Virat here.’ The message made me very emotional. It’s not something I could have even dreamt of, that he’d message.” With all innovative shots in his armor, Azhar is one of the bright stars to look forward to in Indian cricket.
2. Shahrukh Khan:
Another cricketer making his presence felt in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy this year is Tamil Nadu’s Shahrukh Khan. He was brought by the Punjab Kings in the mini-auction for a whooping ₹ 5.25 Crore in an attempt to sort out their middle-order concerns. Punjab coach Anil Kumble, having seen a glimpse of this youngster in the nets, compared his batting style to that of Kieron Pollard, indicating his capabilities. Playing alongside the experienced Dinesh Karthik, Baba Aparijith and other Tamil Nadu cricketers, Shahrukh has taken over the leaf to inculcate their temperament and patience in his hard-hitting game.
The 25-year old is almost guaranteed to feature in the Punjab middle-order and it will be interesting to see how he approaches his innings, especially in the death. His interactions with the likes of KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Chris Gayle at Punjab should also do him a lot of good.
3. Finn Allen:
The New Zealand Super Smash sensation Finn Allen was brought by RCB as a replacement for Josh Phillippe after the latter pulled out citing personal reasons. A wicket-keeper batsman, Allen had a tremendous Super Smash season leading the run-scoring charts and hitting sixes for fun. His quickfire 71 of 29 balls in a rain-reduced 10 over game against Bangladesh last week is regarded as one of the best debuts in T20Is ever.
Allen will have his chance to feature with the greats of the game for RCB sometime through the tournament if not at the start. With RCB playing 11 of their 14 games on fast and bouncy tracks, Allen could play a destructive role at the top or even in the middle.
4. Dawid Malan:
Ironically the World No.1 T20I batsman has not yet featured in a single IPL game so far. Dawid Malan after scoring runs in England, Australia, South Africa, and every other possible corner of the world comes to the IPL bringing on rich expectations. He was picked up by the Punjab Kings in the auction for ₹ 1.5 CR as a potential replacement for Chris Gayle.
Gayle, who is likely to feature in only a few selected games this tournament, does find a good replacement in Malan who himself has over 1000 T20I runs at an average of more than 50. The left-hander, coming off a decent white-ball leg against India recently, is surely one of the players to watch out for this season.
5. Jhye Richardson:
The Australian who was brought by the Punjab Kings for a heft sum of ₹ 14 CR, had an impressive outing when he last visited India for a white-ball leg in 2019. With Australia winning the ODI series 3-2, he emerged as one of the most promising youngsters from the series. He followed it up with a successful Big Bash last year and is set to become one of the many Australian fast bowlers to play the Indian Premier League this year.
Jhye will play an important role with the ball for Punjab, especially with the team needing support alongside Mohammad Shami and Chris Jordan. Talking about Jhye’s selection, the Punjab CEO Satish Menon said: “Jhye was always on our list. He is one of the finest components with the ball in white-ball cricket. Jhye’s ability to bowl at any stage of the match gives us the flexibility we were looking for. And obviously, he is a very handy player with the bat as well. We are really excited to witness Jhye in Punjab Kings jersey in IPL.”
6. Riley Meredith:
In his short but eventful career so far, Riley Meredith has rid the talk of the town for a while now. Garnering praise for his performance in the Big Bash for the Hobart Hurricanes, he was regarded as one of the future bowlers to look out for across formats to Australia. In fact, the Aussie maestro Glenn Maxwell explained Meredith as a “horrible bowler to face”, suggesting his express pace.
“It was pretty outrageous really, wasn’t expecting too much going on. Was hoping for a bid or two. It got a bit out of control, luckily enough a couple of teams doing a bit of bidding and it was pretty amazing to go that high.”
He was picked up by the Punjab Kings for ₹ 8 Crore in the auctions but is unlikely to start courtesy of the four foreigner restriction. However, the pacer is sure to get a game as the tournament goes along and he is an exciting prospect to watch out for.