The charm of a tournament like the Indian Premier League (IPL) is its unpredictability. Often, unheralded players steal the limelight from those shouldering all the hype. Numerous Indian players have been purchased by various clubs for substantial amounts of money, but the value in monetary terms is only a vague projection of the immediate future, and so this season, too, expect a player or two to upset the apple cart.
Who are the six Indian players – capped and uncapped – who could make a huge impact in IPL 2022?
1. Shreyas Iyer: If confidence is an essential ingredient for success, Shreyas has it at the moment, having excelled in limited-overs and Test cricket for India in recent months. His knock in the first innings of the second Test against Sri Lanka was a masterclass in batting on a minefield of a pitch. Even though it was a Test match, he played numerous aggressive strokes, repeatedly stepping down the pitch to tonk the ball.
Shreyas has been in and around the Indian team for a while and was the captain of the Delhi Capitals until an injury prevented his participation in the first half of IPL 2022. The captaincy stint and the overall experience playing international cricket have added to his confidence as well. If he continues to combine it with ability, he will surely succeed for his new team, Kolkata Knight Riders.
2. Shahrukh Khan
One of the most explosive hitters of the cricket ball in the domestic circuit, Tamil Nadu’s Shahrukh Khan was expectedly purchased for a high price – INR 9 crore – in the IPL auction. Possessing strong shoulders for muscular hits, Shahrukh can single-handedly change the complexion of T20 contests. His hitting abilities helped Tamil Nadu dominate the domestic limited-overs tournaments this season – the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy. His innings of 79 (unbeaten) against Karnataka in the quarterfinals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy in December 2021 and of 194 against Delhi in the Ranji Trophy in February 2022 showcase his potential, and Punjab Kings will hope to make good use of it.
3. Ruturaj Gaikwad
Prolific last season for Chennai Super Kings, Ruturaj Gaikwad has continued his good form with the bat in the 2021-22 domestic season. In both T20 and List A formats, he has been scoring a bucketful of runs: in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he scored 259 runs at an average of 51.80, and in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, he accumulated as many as 603 runs just five matches (average: 150.75). His strike-rates were phenomenal, too: 149.71 and 112.92. It won’t be a surprise if he picks up the orange cap for the second season in a row.
4. Shardul Thakur: A domestic stalwart for Mumbai, Shardul Thakur’s stock has risen in the past year, thanks to his performances with bat and ball for India in Test matches. His breezy cameos with the bat in Australia and England were refreshing, and he continues to be among the wickets with his seam bowling. Delhi Capitals saw enough value to purchase him for INR 10.75 crore.
Vinod Bisht, interim CEO, Delhi Capitals, had this to say about procuring Shardul: “We wanted somebody who could finish games for us and at the same time be among the wickets. And is able to strike on a regular basis.”
5. Sarfaraz Khan: He may not be a very famous player in the IPL, but Sarfaraz Khan will be a batter to watch out for this season. That’s because, firstly, he will be smarting from his poor run last season (he was out for a duck in both matches he played), and secondly, he has hit a purple patch of sorts in first-class cricket, smashing two centuries and two half-centuries in the five matches he has played from December 2021 to March 2022. His innings of 275 against Saurashtra, in particular, was exceptional; it deflated the defending champion and nearly consigned it to a heavy defeat. Thirty fours were hit, and seven sixes.
If form and appetite for runs are any indications, Sarfaraz could make a mark this season. For that, of course, he has to be given opportunities by Delhi Capitals. Bisht, the interim CEO of Capitals, has insisted that opportunities will be handed to second-choice players.
6. Jasprit Bumrah
Now the vice-captain of the Indian Test team, Bumrah will once again be key to Mumbai Indians’ chances of clinching the title. Possessing a deadly yorker and bouncer, and capable of swinging the ball late, Bumrah can be a nightmare for the best of batters. They can only hope that he isn’t in the best of form, but given his performances for the national team of late, that isn’t the case. In the second Test against Sri Lanka, he showed how effective he can be with the ball in a pitch tailor-made for spinners. To be sure, he did bowl with the new ball, and under lights with a pink ball, but it was an exceptional performance nonetheless, breaking the back of Sri Lanka. And it wasn’t a one-off - he has been among the wickets in the recent months.