The Indian Premier League is often touted as the most competitive T20 tournament, and many IPL fans believe that it eclipses the global edition — the World T20. The IPL even offers more prize money than the global event. And with the World T20 starting a week after the latest edition of the IPL, the form and performance of the players in the eight-team league dare us to draw a list of players from top international teams whose form in the IPL’s second phase could well be the key for their national team’s success at the global extravaganza.
K. L. Rahul (India)
While most of his India teammates were either struggling or seeing patchy returns while plying their trade in the IPL, Rahul was as consistent with the willow on either sides of his sedate-yet-sensational run in white flannes in England.
In fact, had Punjab Kings’ middle- and lower-order been as better as India’s during the Test series in England, Rahul could well have led his team to a rare appearance in the Playoffs and not conceded the Orange Cap to Ruturaj Gaikwad due to want of games.
Third 600-plus runs season in the last four IPL editions — the other seeing a tally of 593 runs — speaks volumes of Rahul’s prowess and form leading into the T20 World Cup.
But for him to continue his exploits in India’s blues over the next four weeks, he will first have to hope for being given a fair run to open the innings along with Rohit Sharma at the start of the tournament. With India’s opening combination being as mysterious ahead of the tournament as Varun Chakravarthy’s spin bowling, Rahul will be desperate to be asked to open the innings against Pakistan.
If the stars align for him on that front, India will be hoping that he continues to plunder opposition attacks as effortlessly as he did in the Punjab Kings’ colours.
Glenn Maxwell (Australia)
He has been the blue-eyed boy of IPL franchises at the Player Auction for a decade. But when it comes to justifying his potential — and hefty price tag — Maxwell has ended up as Max-fail most of the seasons.
The picture changed in 2021 and Maxwell found his true calling. Call it the Mike Hesson’s calming effect or being in the shadows of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, Maxwell flourished in both the phases of IPL to end up with his most successful IPL season so far. Once he took his time to get his eye in consistently, Maxwell made most attacks look ordinary. And his batting prowess also rubbed on to his off-spin bowling, especially on the slower surfaces.
In fact, Maxwell turned out to be the most important factor in ensuring the Royal Challengers Bangalore booked a place in the Playoffs with a couple of games to spare. He may not have helped RCB clinch its maiden IPL title but his Australian teammates would be hoping that he will play a crucial role and help Australia end its 14-year drought in the T20 World Cup.
Anrich Nortje (South Africa)
If he matched Kagiso Rabada in his breakthrough season in 2020, Nortje overshadowed his Proteas counterpart this time around to emerge as the leader of Delhi Capitals’ pace battery.
That he has an amazing knock of beating batters with raw pace and toe-crushing yorkers is well-known. But Nortje, especially in the second phase in UAE, displayed he can outsmart the best of batters with his exceptional change of pace.
Nortje will, no doubt, be a force to reckon with for South Africa in the World Cup. It will be interesting if he can actually inspire his otherwise wobbly team to end up being a force to reckon with.
Dwayne Bravo (West Indies)
In 2019, the champion all-rounder returned to international cricket after announcing his retirement in a quest to help the Windies win a record third T20 World Cup title in 2020. Well, the World Cup was postponed due to the pandemic, but Bravo is going as strong as he has always been over his glorious T20 career for over a decade.
His role in Chennai Super Kings’ classy run to the title may not have been noticeable in terms of numbers. But Bravo delivered, virtually every time Mahendra Singh Dhoni threw the ball to him, especially in his specialised role of a death bowler.
It is this aspect of his consistency — and not his singing and dancing skills — that has brought him to this list ahead of the power-hitting Shimron Hetmyer and the burly Kieron Pollard as the key to the Windies’ success.
If he can help the Windies to glory, not only could he emerge as the most-capped cricketer in T20 World Cup history (he is six behind T. M. Dilshan’s 35 appearances) but be rest assured that his Trinidadian tinge of unique celebrations will also remain as one of the talking points of UAE 2021.
Lockie Ferguson (New Zealand)
He is fast. He is ferocious. He can be feisty. But most importantly, he is far clever than most fast bowlers. No wonder Ferguson could well hold the key for the Black Caps continuing to cause a ripple when it comes to the grandest stage in cricket.
Ferguson was one of the unsung heroes of Knight Riders’ turnaround in the second phase and was one of the very few bright spots in the first half. The manner in which he shouldered responsibility in UAE in the absence of Pat Cummins must have been heartwarming not just for his KKR coach Brendon McCullum but also his New Zealand captain Kane Williamson.
If Ferguson can continue to spew venom, especially in the middle overs, with as much finesse as he has done over the last four weeks, the Black Caps could well hope to conquer the T20 World Cup for the first time.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
The nation is in turmoil due to the change in power back home, but Rashid Khan continued to star not just among the Afghan trio (Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman being others) that featured in the IPL but also among the spinners in the tournament.
With no other spinner even offering an iota of support from the other end, Rashid continued to sizzle for Sunrisers in both the halves of the IPL. His consistent performances went largely unnoticed with the Sunrisers having been assured of the wooden spoon a week after the first half of the UAE leg.
Having surrendered the captaincy ahead of the T20 World Cup, Rashid will be expected to make a telling statement that would not only justify Afghanistan’s participation but also offer some reason to rejoice for Afghans back home amidst challenging times.
Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh)
His IPL franchise was in tatters consistently right through the IPL season. But contrary to his team’s fortunes, Mustafizur emerged as the brightest spot — even more consistent than captain Sanju Samson’s batting — in the Rajasthan Royals’ IPL campaign.
Be it with the new ball or while holding up the job in the middle or restricting the batters at the end, the left-arm pacer appeared to have found his missing mojo all over again. It reflected in his 14-wicket haul at a strike rate of 22.21 in the tournament.
As a result, despite Shakib Al Hasan coming into his elements, Mustafizur could well be Bangladesh’s trump card should the side repeat its 2016 exploits.
Moeen Ali (England)
Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes pulled out of the second leg of the IPL. Sam Curran was injured. Jason Roy was patchy, Liam Livingstone lacklustre and Tom Curran unlucky. Less said about Eoin Morgan’s batting form the better. No wonder then that the only bright spot for the Englishmen during the second leg was the man who announced his retirement from Test cricket at the start of the second leg.
Moeen Ali has been a revelation for Chennai Super Kings. His ability to dominate spinners, coupled with restricting the batters with his uncanny offspin, has been critical in the Super Kings’ glorious turnaround in 2021. However, with the England squad composition, Moeen is not a certainty in the England starting line-up. If Morgan takes a cue from Moeen’s IPL outings and how the Super Kings optimised Moeen’s skillset, the allrounder could well emerge as England’s trump-card in the World Cup.