As the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 almost reaches the halfway stage, with teams having played their cricket across venues and pitches of different hues, clear demarcations have been made between the
top-half and bottom-half of the points table. While Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), and Delhi Capitals (DC) have got the ball rolling in some style, the likes of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Punjab Kings (PBKS), Rajasthan Royals (RR), and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) have struggled to get going.
With the Indian players outperforming their overseas counterparts across departments in the tournament till now, it would perhaps be worth it for these bottom-half franchises to introspect and get Indian players at their disposal into the mix so as to leapfrog into qualifying positions. The article identifies 4 players, one each from each of the bottom-half franchises, who can make a massive difference in the 2nd phase of the tournament if they are brought into the fold by their respective teams.
Indian Players from the bottom sides of IPL 2021 who can make an impact
1. Sheldon Jackson (Kolkata Knight Riders, Right Hand Batsman, Wicket-Keeper)
KKR’s failures this season have majorly stemmed from the struggles of their batsmen to get going. Jackson, who hasn’t managed to yet get a look-in, is adept at finding gaps while also possessing the power to easily clear the fence, which makes him an ideal candidate to bring into the side as he can provide the acceleration the team requires, as the sluggish run-rate, especially in the powerplay, has been a major concern.
What counts in his favor is his form. His performances in the domestic circuit this year have been extremely impressive. In the SMAT, he hit a brilliant century to help his side Pondicherry (he made the move to the team after 14 years with Saurashtra) to a memorable win over Andhra.
He continued to excel in the Vijay Hazare Trophy (VHT) as well, wherein he became one of the only two batsmen to score a century in both formats this year from the elite group. Jackson can fulfill the role of a wicket-keeper in the team and is an equally good fielder, which coupled with his form and ability to bat anywhere across the order, implies that he can be a vital cog in KKR’s attempts at turning around their fortunes.
2. Jalaj Saxena (Punjab Kings, Right Hand Offspin, Right Hand Batsman)
Saxena, a consistent performer in the domestic circuit, had to wait 8 long seasons to finally make his debut in IPL 2021, which came against Delhi Capitals at the Wankhede. While it was indeed refreshing to see the timing, subsequent steps to it certainly seemed confusing. The Mumbai pitch on which Saxena played his first game was an out-and-out batsman’s paradise and it turned out to be a night where all the bowlers from his team went for copious runs.
Saxena’s difficulties weren’t reduced one bit by the dew factor, which made it extremely difficult to grip the ball and only added to the nerves of the occasion. To his credit though, he was one of the relatively economical bowlers on the night and almost gave the breakthroughs, his team was looking for. However, when the team played their next game, in Chennai this time, where the pitch was overwhelmingly conducive to spinners, he was inexplicably dropped and has failed to get a game ever since.
It is worth noting that Saxena came on the back of an extremely fruitful domestic campaign- analysis of SMAT statistics marks him out to be the best wicket-taking bowler, alongside Rahul Chahar, from the 25 Indian IPL spinners who participated in the tournament. While Chahar has been backed to the hilt by his franchise (Mumbai Indians) and results have been there for all to see, Saxena requires an extended run in the side to demonstrate his utility.
He is also handy with the bat, with over 17 centuries in the domestic circuit, and often comes in for Kerala to steady the ship and get going in final overs of the innings, which makes him an ideal no. 7 for the Kings, who have often faced a batting collapse due to a lack of reliable lower middle-order batting options. All-in-all, rather than exploring the various foreign options at the no. 7 spot, an experiment that has only yielded consistent failure, the answer to the Kings’ woes might actually lie with giving Saxena a go in the side and backing him.
3. Mayank Markande (Rajasthan Royals, Right Arm Leg-Spinner)
It has indeed been a mystery that even though the spin department has been an Achilles heel for RR this IPL, with Shreyas Gopal and Rahul Tewatia, the two preferred options guilty of leaking runs in almost every game till now, Markande, another leg-spinner, hasn’t been given an opportunity.
Markande was extremely impressive for MI in his debut season and was traded to RR this season from DC. With the journey getting tougher following the departure of two foreign players and injuries to as many, the franchise would do well to give an opportunity to Markande.
He was in good touch in the SMAT this year and analysis of SMAT statistics reveals that he is one of the top spinners from the tournament when it comes to the economy. With the need for a spinner who can complement the efforts of the three frontline fast bowlers, RR really need to bring Markande in to change their fortunes.
4. Priyam Garg (Sunrisers Hyderabad, Right Hand Batsman)
Garg was the captain of the Under-19 Indian team at the World Cup in 2020 and was picked up by Sunrisers last season, where he received plenty of opportunities and managed to grab them with both hands.
However, in IPL 2021, Sunrisers are struggling at the bottom of the table with just 1 win in 5 games and middle-order failure is a major reason for the position they find themselves in. Garg, surprisingly, hasn’t been tried yet, and the franchise would do well to give him opportunities, especially given that the other options tried by them have failed to get going.
He was in good touch in the VHT this year with two half-centuries and a century and was a major reason for the thrust displayed by Uttar Pradesh, his domestic side, in the tournament. His ability to adapt to the conditions with remarkable ease- play steady innings or accelerate- are vital attributes that Sunrisers require at this point in time in their quest to change their fortunes.
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