The Indian Premier League throws up surprises every season, with less established players finding the means to garner spotlight in terms of performance as well as patronage by franchise owners. The unpredictability of it is perhaps one of this league’s defining characteristics, as for the layman there is no formula or template for the next big surprise, and possibly a rags-to-riches story.
Be it England’s Tymal Mills, who was bought for Rs. 12 crore by Royal Challengers Bangalore last season, or M. Ashwin the year before, a number of players are routinely dragged from obscurity into every keen follower’s living rooms.
Who will these players be this year?
Among the 578 players who have thrown their hat into the ring are also representatives of fringe cricketing nations (in the IPL scheme of things anyway) such as Ireland, Canada and Nepal.
Afghanistan, the new cricketing giant of Asia, will have as many as 10 players in the IPL auction. But the nation has already had its moment under the sun; its prolific leg-spinner Rashid Khan did his reputation no harm during his stint with Sunrisers Hyderabad last season.
But can Canada’s Hamza Tariq, Nepal’s Sandeep Lamichhane, or Ireland’s Paul Stirling generate the next big surprise?
1. Hamza Tariq
This wicket-keeper batsman, a Pakistani by origin, has been a prominent member of Canada’s side in all formats for about six years now. His moderate batting record notwithstanding, his credentials are enhanced by his participation in the Caribbean Premier League in the last two years.
Tariq was picked by Trinbago Knight Riders in 2016, but he did not get to play a single game. In the subsequent season, though, he played twice, and shone in the final with a crucial knock of 18 in the middle-order that helped his team cross the line in a close encounter with St. Kitts and Nevis Patriots.
In 22 Twenty20s he has played in his career, Tariq has 192 runs at an average of 12.00 and a strike-rate of 109.09. Not a great analysis, but when considered alongside his wicket-keeping duties, perhaps a handy second choice for interested franchise owners.
2. Sandeep Lamichhane
The leg-spinner created a sensation of sorts with a successful U-19 World Cup in 2016. Not only did he end up becoming the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament, he also steered his team – Nepal – to a creditable eighth place. En route, Nepal defeated the likes of New Zealand and Ireland. The game against Ireland was Lamichhane’s defining moment – he single-handedly ensured the win with a five-wicket haul, including a hat-trick.
Moreover, his wickets were a connoisseur’s delight; bowling off a conventional action, three of his dismissals were gained via foxing the batsmen and having them bowled.
His performances did not go unnoticed. Michael Clarke invited him to train and play with him for the Western Suburbs club in Sydney.
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His brand of bowling fits well into the model demanded in the Twenty20 leagues, and one which has the potential for big success. Whether the franchise owners view his package favourably will be known during the auction. He’s currently coming off a fairly successful Twenty20 season in Nepal, having taken nine wickets for Lalitpur Patriots in the Everest Premier League.
3. Paul Stirling
The top-order batsman has served as an indispensable instrument in the rise of Ireland’s cricket in the last decade. His runs in all formats have been significant in the nation’s rising negotiating power among the cricketing world’s elites.
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Some images of him are forever embedded, such as the stoic and spectacular batting effort that helped Ireland gain its eye-catching victory over West Indies in the 2015 World Cup.
Stirling has respectable credentials in all formats of the game, but most notably, possesses the ability of batting blitzkriegs so valuable in the Twenty20 format. In 144 Twenty20s he has played in his career, he has a strike-rate of 141.39 and a highest score of 90. Moreover, he can bowl the occasional off-spinners as well.
His base price for the IPL is Rs. 50 lakh.
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