The 11th season of the Indian Premier League is set to begin on April 7 with defending champions Mumbai Indians taking on the Chennai Super Kings at their home ground in the opening match. As eight teams take on each other to win the prestigious trophy, all eyes will be on big names like Virat Kohli, David Warner, Rohit Sharma, Steve Smith and MS Dhoni, among others.
However, IPL’s 10-year-long history shows that more than the stars, it is the impact players who decide the fate of the tournament. May it be Krunal Pandya’s cameo (47 runs off 38 balls) in last year’s final or Ben Cutting’s all-around performance (39 not out off 26 balls, 2 wickets) before that, lesser-known players have often turned the fate of the game, emerging as the real match-winners.
This year too, the franchises went after some impact players, spending millions on some and getting others for a bargain price. Here, we look at one lesser-known player from each team who can be crucial in deciding their teams’ fate in IPL 2018:
1. Royal Challengers Bangalore – Manan Vohra
Despite spending five seasons in the Indian Premier League and playing 45 matches, Manan Vohra remains a highly underrated player. The Punjab lad had a decent debut season scoring 161 runs for Kings XI Punjab in 2013 and followed it up with an even better tournament next year, smashing 324 runs in just 8 matches for the same franchise at an outstanding average of 40.50. However, the last three years have been difficult for the opener who was bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore for Rs 1.2 crore in IPL auction 2018.
Manan has often displayed his brilliance with the bat but has been let down by his shot selection, a problem that he admitted while talking to FinancialExpress.com even before the start of IPL 10. Playing alongside Virat Kohli in this year’s IPL could do wonders for the 24-year-old’s confidence and help him mature as a batsman. His big-hitting abilities can definitely prove useful for RCB.
2. Mumbai Indians – Evin Lewis
There is something between Mumbai Indians and big-hitting West Indian openers. First, Dwyane Smith served the franchise opening alongside Sachin Tendulkar and then, Lendl Simmons took up the role and took his team to an IPL title. This year, Mumbai Indians have signed Evin Lewis hoping that the southpaw can replicate the brilliance his teammates have exuded in past seasons.
The West Indian has hit form just at the right time, helping his national side earn a spot in next year’s World Cup with a couple of good centuries in the ongoing ICC WC Qualifier in Zimbabwe. A strike-rate of 154.97 along with a batting average of 36 in T20s is enough to show what Lewis is capable of.
3. Chennai Super Kings – Lungi Ngidi
A combination of raw pace and swing, Lungi Ngidi proved to be India’s nemesis in this year’s South Africa tour, forcing Chennai Super Kings to avail his services for IPL 2018 at Rs 50 lakh (which is actually a bargain price!). In his first three T20Is, Ngidi has picked up 6 wickets at an impressive economy rate of 7.33.
In a spin-laden Chennai Super Kings side, Ngidi will lead the fast-bowling unit that does not feature any big international name. His job will be to pick up early wickets and set the tone for the likes of Dwayne Bravo and Harbhajan Singh to run through the opposition’s middle-order.
4. Kolkata Knight Riders – Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill is the perfect example of how IPL has benefitted Indian cricket. The 18-year-old Punjab batsman was still representing India at the Under-19 level when he was picked by Kolkata Knight Riders for a whopping Rs 1.9 crore. Man of the tournament in this year’s ICC U-19 World Cup, Shubman can be a surprise package for KKR which appears to be the weakest team on paper this season.
From whatever we have seen of Shubman, he likes to take the pressure and relishes those moments. Before leaving for the Under 19 World Cup, Gill had told FinancialExpress.com that a lot of opportunities might open for him after the tournament and IPL is surely one of them. “It is obviously a big opportunity. A lot of doors will open after the tournament,” the right-hander, who made his first-class debut against Bengal on November 17 last year, had said.
5. Delhi Daredevils – Colin Munro
About 12 months ago, Colin Munro was just another Kiwi all-rounder who can contribute with the bat in the lower order and roll his arms for a few overs. However, a change in his batting position in the Carribean Premier League did wonders for the 31-year-old. Since then, Munro has started opening the batting for his national side scoring 3 centuries in T20Is (highest by any batsman) and has emerged as one of the most destructive T20 batsmen in the world.
Bought for Rs 1.9 crore, Munro will act as the perfect opening partner for a calm Gautam Gambhir at Delhi Daredevils. The DD skipper had described Munro as a freak in one of the recent events, adding that he can win you a match single-handedly on his day. A strike rate of 163.6 in T20Is further backs Gambhir’s claims.
6. Kings XI Punjab – Mujeeb Zadran
When Rashid Khan was bought by Sunrisers Hyderabad for a whopping Rs 4 crore, the Afghan spinner had taken everyone by surprise. The then 19-year-old cricketer turned out to be SRH’s biggest asset in IPL 2017. If there is someone who can match Rashid’s impact in IPL, it is his Afghan teammate Mujeeb Zadran who was bought by Kings XI Punjab for Rs 4 cr in IPL auction 2018.
The 16-year-old has been on a roll in international cricket since his debut and can form a deadly partnership between Punjab skipper Ravichandran Ashwin. However, it will be interesting to see how the management fits Zadran in a team with so many overseas stars in Chris Gayle, Aaron Finch, Andrew Tye, David Miller and Marcus Stoinis, among others.
7. Rajasthan Royals – Darcy Short
Cricket can be a funny game at times! By 2016, hardly anyone had heard of Darcy Short. Cut to 2018, and Rajasthan Royals have scooped him for a staggering Rs 4 crore. The Australian opener had risen to fame by smashing 8 fours and three sixes against a strong Sydney Sixers bowling attack on his T20 debut at the age of 24 in December 2016. A year later, he returned to become the highest run-getter ever in one season of Big Bash.
Short will play an important role in the Rajasthan Royals team which is full of stars players like Ben Stokes, Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane and Jos Buttler. Short has a strike-rate of 149.62 in T20Is which can instil fear in any bowling attack.
8. Sunrisers Hyderabad – Siddarth Kaul
Succes comes easy for few. For others, it takes more than just hard work. Siddarth Kaul was a part of India’s 2008 Under 19 World Cup team led by Virat Kohli. While the latter has risen up the ranks since to become one of the biggest superstars of his generation, Kaul who finished as the joint leading wicket-taker in the tournament, has played just 21 games in 10 years of IPL.
However, the Punjab pacer had his breakthrough season last year where he picked up 16 wickets for SRH in 10 games at an average of 18.75. Kaul bowled at difficult times for the team (mostly in the death overs) and his performances were enough for SRH to splash Rs 3.8 Cr in IPL auction 2018 to get the services of the 27-year-old bowler.