Like your daily cup of coffee, matches in the IPL come and go, give you a high, let you savour them briefly and are lost. Do you remember the morning cup from three days ago? It was probably nice but you are not celebrating it today! The IPL, then, is a festival, you remember it but not always the individual acts within it.
And so, two weeks into this year’s festival, I sat down to pull out the performances worth recalling; and I discovered that there were actually many outstanding ones but they were getting buried under the next performance. I decided to apply a filter and short-listed a few from among players who hadn’t yet earned the right to be recalled as India internationals. It meant fine displays by Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya aren’t part of this article.
I am going to start with a bowler because almost every young Indian catching the eye at the IPL is a batsman. Basil Thampi is from Kerala and I only mention the state because it hasn’t been a traditional nursery of Indian cricket. Thampi doesn’t make you stop and stare at him the way Sreesanth did but after some fine yorkers against Mumbai Indians we were all looking out for him in the Sony studio. And he didn’t disappoint with two outstanding deliveries against Chris Gayle when the bowling crease was about the last place a bowler wanted to be at. I hope Kerala cricket can look after him because nurturing players is as important as discovering them. With so much talent now coming from there, that is going to be their primary responsibility.
And now to the batsmen and we will stay briefly with Kerala. I know Sanju Samson has been around the Indian team briefly but I am willing to dilute my criteria for him. There isn’t an IPL watcher who hasn’t been taken in by his relaxed, composed batting style. This young man is special and his century against Rising Pune Supergiant was just that. The reason I am including him here is that I was afraid we were going to lose him. He was making the news for the wrong reasons, he was making virtually no first-class runs, but he is just too promising and it would have been a crime to let him drift away. That century must be the harbinger of more good tidings but like with Thampi, Kerala cricket just has to look after him. And Indian cricket must keep an eye on him at all times.
Two or three years ago, I thought Manan Vohra would make a lot of us sit up and take notice. He hit the ball very easily and very cleanly and he seemed to have a lot of shots unlike some players who merely take their leading foot away and swing through the line. Then I stopped seeing his name and when I was looking down the Kings XI line up a couple of weeks before the IPL, I didn’t think he would make the starting line-up. Then of course Murali Vijay pulled out and he got his opportunity. His innings against Sunrisers Hyderabad told us, and hopefully told Vohra too, what he is capable of. This wasn’t a firecracker innings, one of those sizzle, burst and good-bye kinds. He batted through, made the track look very different from how it did when others were batting and almost pulled off an impossible win. It was jaw-dropping but it must be followed by more and we will now start looking at Vohra again, not just the way we did two years ago but with far higher expectations.
My last performance is a smaller one and not quite as substantial. But Krunal Pandya features here because of the composure he showed in his innings against the Royal Challengers. Mumbai Indians were only chasing 142 but were 7 for 4 and then 33 for 5 after 8 overs when he came out to join Kieron Pollard who, himself, played his finest innings for his franchise. Pandya, like his younger brother Hardik, was being seen as a cameo specialist (it isn’t the most elegant expression but it is quite apt) but here he buckled down and showed great maturity and calmness. And in doing so took his game a notch upwards.
So there you are. Those were the four that caught the eye in the first quarter of IPL 10. There were others but I am now waiting to add to that list with Rishabh Pant whose assault on Umesh Yadav will be remembered when this edition of the IPL is being talked about. He will go up the order eventually unless of course his wonderful skills are being respected by assigning him a finisher’s role. Or maybe, he hasn’t yet made the cut in the demanding Dravid Academy! But keep your eye on him. And on Nitish Rana who has put a hit-and-miss first class season behind him to emerge as the solid front of the Mumbai Indians.
And so, onto the next week and onto more performances.