Less than six months on from that enthralling final where Mumbai Indians outclassed Delhi Capitals, the IPL returns to India for its 14th edition.
While we witnessed run fests last season, the bowlers too had their say, with pacers dominating the top four spots of the bowling charts. DC’s Kagiso Rabada (30 wickets) walked away with the Purple Cap after a tough competition with Jasprit Bumrah (27) and Trent Boult (25).
This time, too, one can expect, similar neck-to-neck battles throughout the tournament, both in the batting as well as the bowling departments.
With less than 10 days to go for IPL 2021, we take a look at 10 bowlers to watch out for:
T Natarajan (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
Salem-based Indian pacer T Natarajan has lived through some life-changing moments since he last featured for Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in an IPL game. From being a ‘net bowler’ during India’s tour to Australia last year to making his international debut across all three formats that summer Down Under, the 29-year-old has quickly established himself as an exponent of deadly yorkers, which every opposition will be wary of.
Not only did he become the first Indian to make his debut across formats in a single tour, but he also cherished it by becoming the highest wicket-taker in the three-match T20Is (six wickets).
A month later, in January, he would go onto make his Test debut in the absence of stars like Jasprit Bumrah and R Ashwin, where he ended up taking three wickets in the first innings.
In fact, he even displayed what he could do under pressure in the recently-concluded third India-England ODI. While he did go for 67 runs in the first nine overs, India, almost running out of bowling options towards the end, called upon ‘Nattu’, as he is fondly referred to, to deal with a rampaging Sam Curran and his partner Reece Topley.
England needed 14 runs off six balls, but Natarajan eventually held on to set-up a nerve-wracking series win.
It is in moments like these that the Hyderabad franchise will need a bowler of Natarajan’s calibre, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Natarajan, who took 16 wickets in as many games last IPL season, could go all guns blazing once again, on his favourite platform against some of the best big-hitters in the world.
Chris Morris (Rajasthan Royals)
With pace spearhead Jofra Archer ruled out of the first half of IPL 2021, this presents a perfect opportunity for South Africa’s Chris Morris to step up and produce the goods. Morris is an experienced campaigner in the cash-rich league, having played in seven of the last eight seasons, while having picked 80 wickets in 70 games at an economy of 7.81.
And while the 33-year-old did become the most expensive buy in IPL auction history at Rs 16.25 crore this season, Morris recently in a virtual press conference stated that he would be ready for any given role.
“It won’t be a new role if I am leading an attack, won’t be new if I am supporting. There is a little bit of responsibility when it comes to leading the attack. But like I said it wouldn’t be able to be alien to me,” he said, while also playing down talks of the price tag pressure.
This could enable Morris to bowl with freedom, and the South African’s experience will come in handy as the Royals look to end their prolonged trophy drought.
Morris’ successful IPL stint came in 2013, where he picked up 15 scalps in 16 matches, and will be looking to emulate that performance come the 14th edition.
Prasidh Krishna (Kolkata Knight Riders)
The last few weeks have been nothing less of a fairytale for 25-year-old Prasidh Krishna, and making his India debut in the ODI format, where he picked up six wickets, will surely act as a confidence-boosting heading into the lucrative tournament.
Krishna recently ended up as the sixth-highest wicket-taker with 14 scalps in the Vijay Hazare One Day Trophy which concluded on 14 March, before getting his maiden international call-up for the three ODIs against England.
He scalped four wickets in the first ODI, ending with figures of 4-54 as India went onto win the match. He eventually surpassed Noel David’s figures of 3/21 (in 1997) to pick up most number of wickets by an Indian on ODI debut.
Thanks to his height of 6 ft 2, Prasidh Krishna’s ability to generate extra-bounce will be a key factor for KKR in the upcoming season.
Krishna’s best season in IPL may have come three years ago in his debut season where he scalped 10 wickets in seven games, but if his current form is to go by, he looks set to be a genuine threat for all teams.
Pat Cummins (Kolkata Knight Riders)
He may not have had the best of seasons despite being bought by KKR for a whopping Rs 15.50 crore during the IPL 2020 auctions, but Pat Cummins has time and again proved that he is a game-changer and a match-winner.
Despite a slow start to his season last time round, Cummins finished on a high, picking six wickets from the last two games (four of them coming in the final game).
Amidst his below-par performance last season, KKR eventually decided to retain the Aussie quick ahead of this year’s auction. And his immense experience will come in handy this time around in the death overs, as the Kolkata franchise aim for their third IPL crown.
For him, personally, he had his second-best economical figures last time round in the tournament (7.86), with his best being 7.25 back in 2014.
He ended the 2020 edition with 12 wickets from 14 matches with best figures of 4/34, while also contributing with the bat throughout the season (409 runs).
Rashid Khan (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
The 22-year-old leg-spinner from Afghanistan needs no introduction, and cricket fans and pundits across the globe are well aware of the damage he could do with the ball.
Rashid Khan only managed to finish sixth on the Purple Cap standings in the IPL last season (20 wickets), with pacers dominating the top four spots, but this time with the tournament being held in India during summer months, Rashid could even compete against the big boys for the Purple Cap.
What stands out for Rashid in the tournament is his economy. He has been miserly in most seasons, with the numbers remaining below 7. While his overall economy in the tournament reads 6.24 (75 wickets from 62 games), he enjoyed his best economical figures in a single season only last time read (Econ: 5.37; 20 wickets from 16 matches).
Rashid Khan is also coming fresh off an excellent couple of T20Is against Zimbabwe, in which he notched up six wickets from two of the three T20Is played.
So, one can expect him to be at his lethal best in largely favourable Indian conditions and give the opposition a tough time.
Shardul Thakur (Chennai Super Kings)
Right-arm medium seamer Shardul Thakur seems to have finally found his rhythm back and will be looking to give his best this season on the back of some brilliant showcasing with the ball against England recently.
Not only did he manage to strike at the right time for India, but also he finished as the highest wicket-taker in both the T20I (8 wickets) and ODI series (7 wickets).
Thakur’s inclusion also gives CSK a variety of bowling options, with the likes of Lungi Ngidi and Josh Hazlewood in the team set-up.
What makes Shardul even more special is his versatility. Leave alone bowling, he would be even able to handle the extra pressure while batting, just as we witnessed in the final India-England ODI.
Trent Boult (Mumbai Indians)
Defending champions Mumbai Indians have once again retained a majority of their core players, and yet again, this gives the cricketing world the chance to witness the deadly pace duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult in the lucrative league.
Although neither managed to win the Purple Cap last time round, with the award eventually going to Delhi Capitals’ Kagiso Rabada, the duo managed to total 52 wickets among them, with Boult claiming 25 of them.
Boult will once again try to make full use of the powerplay overs, as well as attempting to play a crucial part in the death overs.
Following his stupendous performance last season, Boult remains a strong force and will once again be a contender for the Purple Cap.
Jhye Richardson (Punjab Kings)
A bowling all-rounder who can also bat, this will be the Australian Jhye Richardson’s maiden stint in the IPL.
A player with immense experience in the Big Bash League in Australia, Richardson went for Rs 14 crore in the mini-IPL auctions in February, as the bidding war for the 24-year-old between Punjab Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore became intense, before eventually being bought by the Anil Kumble-coached side.
His base price was Rs 1.5 crore, but his final price was almost 10 times that amount.
Richardson has been a permanent figure for Perth Scorchers in the BBL, where he has played 53 matches and taken 69 wickets, while also scoring 1496 runs.
Richardson’s presence, in fact, adds more balance and depth to the Kings’ squad, who will be looking for a hassle-free tournament after a few nervy finishes last season.
Kyle Jamieson (RCB)
Much like Richardson, New Zealand’s Kyle Jamieson is yet to experience the high-intensity pressure of playing in the IPL, and much like Richardson, Jamieson too went for big money (Rs 15 crore) to the Royal Challengers Bangalore, having started from a base price of just Rs 75 lakh.
The New Zealander’s career has only gone upwards ever since making his international debut in an ODI in February 2020.
Although he has largely been successful in Tests (36 wickets in six Tests), his ability to create that extra bounce will be beneficial for RCB in the upcoming season.
RCB’s Director of Cricket Mike Hesson, in fact, made things clearer of what Jamieson’s role would be.
“Siraj is exceptional with new ball. He has ability to swing the new ball while Kyle will get that bounce and bring in different challenge. Saini has a little bit more pace and bowls a different length. They will be used in different phases of the game,” Hesson said during a virtual media conference.
Rahul Chahar (MI)
While the recently-concluded series against England did not produce anything much for Mumbai Indians’ Rahul Chahar, the legbreak googly bowler did impress in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy earlier this season, taking 11 wickets from just five games.
Chahar has been a regular figure of the Mumbai Indians since 2019, and while MI have struggled in finding a wicket-taking spinner, Chahar could be the key for them this season.
He has been one of the finds of the IPL, after having just played three games for the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant, Chahar was signed by MI in 2018. And although he did not feature for them that season, he has just risen in form thanks to memorable stints with the champions in the last two seasons (he picked up 13 and 15 wickets in 2019 and 2020).
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