For nearly a decade, the IPL has been the springboard for youngsters and little-known cricketers to prove their mettle on a large scale. The likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and more recently, KL Rahul and Axar Patel, have been products of the T20 league that continue to churn out jaw-dropping performances from obscure names.
Here are five unexpected performers from the first two weeks of IPL 2017:
#1 Rashid Khan
There is no sight that is better on a cricket field than the seductive and alluring spectacle of a leg spin bowler weaving his magic over the hapless batsmen, tying the hapless boot laces as it were, whilst purveying the most difficult art. An air of expectancy and joy engulfs the minds of cricket fans and pundits whenever a leggie arrives on the scene. An enabling and understanding skipper is an essential prerequisite for such lot to flourish.
One would have never imagined that such a practitioner would arise from war and strife-torn Afghanistan! To pursue the dream and to make a splendid impression with boundless enthusiasm and a run up like his role model Shahid Afridi has catapulted Rashid Khan to an elite league by the sheer weight of the scalps in the first fortnight of IPL 10. To not carry bags of nerves and to deliver the goods regularly inside the powerplay overs, calls for a big heart.
He is also at ease and confident despite an expensive price tag. To think he is all of 18 boggles the mind as his game awareness and his sense of conviction in his rare skill hides in its wake an old mature head.
Leg spinners are by nature profligate and can be guilty of bowling like millionaires for such is their art. But for young Rashid Khan to be miserly yet strike at dominant players with disguised googlies and ram rod accuracy, showcases a special talent.
Credit must also be placed with the Sunrisers think tank to have the foresight and the discerning, unerring eye to spot a talent and invest in him after his success in the 2016 T20 World Cup in India, when he garnered lots of wickets. It may not be easy in the years to come to emulate these tall standards, but one senses a willing and tireless learner in this young lad.
#2 Andrew Tye
At 31, seam bowlers tend to go downhill and more so if one rots and rusts in the shed. Not having got a look in for 34 preceding games in the IPL, Andrew Tye, the Western Australia fast bowler, honed his skills in the nets, pushing the envelope and polishing the latest type of slower one, the knuckleball, and also sharpened his yorkers.
To not bowl two succeeding balls at the same pace, line, length, and revolutions is the modern day mantra of bowlers who are up against the weighty willows, flat death knell pitches, and shorter boundaries to regale the paying public. And it is in these contexts that no praise is too high for Tye, who had a dream IPL debut, with a 5-fer and a hat-trick to boot.
To muster a hat-trick is a fond achievement but to pick two hat-tricks in a season, one each in the Big Bash and in the IPL, calls for a huge ticker and ice in the veins.
Hours of sweat and toil ought to have gone under as hard preparation to get the release of the knuckleball right, let alone the deception part, having the same bowling arm speed to outwit the batsmen.
A late entrant to Australian domestic competition, Tye was part of the Australian squad for the T20 World Cup held in India in 2016.
In this day and age of mushrooming and well oiled T20 leagues, he is bound to be a regular with many sides with his subtle bag of tricks. He looks like he is in a tearing hurry to make up for lost time, festering in the dugout, till he arrived in this season.
#3 Krunal Pandya
A handy left-handed all-rounder is a sight to behold in any form of cricket and the older Pandya, from Gujarat, a state who have contributed a great deal to the Indian team lately, is the latest sensation from its stables.
Mumbai Indians have always thrown up these rare talents like Bumrah and young Hardik, and the key lies in the management’s faith to give these new found talents the responsibility in vulnerable situations, in a pressure cooker like atmosphere.
It fast tracks their growth, and high-octane occasions like the IPL makes or mars a young player. It is to Krunal Pandya's credit that he is not unfazed in expressing his natural talent with the bat or the ball.
His ability as an uncanny performer for two years in a row so far puts into perspective his quick uptakes. To own up his position in a sea of stars and giants, without being swarmed and lost, is a sign of a cool and individualistic mind.
He comes across as a player sure of his abilities and in a race with his own self, as evidenced by the differing positions he has been assigned, both as a batsman and an accurate bowler who pings it with an alert game sense.
He is also an athletic fielder with a stinging throwing arm. A handy work-in-progress and in a Mumbai factory with shining finished products, he boasts of ample raw material to emerge as ‘a soon to be finished product’.
The day is not far off when he is bound to don the national colours, and in these times of frenetic schedules, one expects him to settle and switch it on at the highest level too.
#4 Nitish Rana
After cutting his teeth with the Mumbai Indians in 2016, Rana found that life as a domestic cricketer for Delhi is replete with crippling pitfalls that stuns and stupefies an established professional, let alone a young and emerging player.
He also suffered the ignominy of being dropped from Delhi's team. Thankfully for the timely intervention of his skipper Gautam Gambhir and Mumbai mentor, Sachin Tendulkar – men who have seen it all – and after a chat or two with these illustrious gents, he was able to clear the cobwebs in his head.
The proof of which can be clearly evidenced in his mature and cool approach with the willow for his franchisee lately, burying the gremlins of a dreaded home Ranji season. To say it has indeed coincided with his side's standing as one of the leaders of the pile is to state the obvious, as he has masterfully made up for the patchy return of Rohit Sharma, with aplomb.
Such a tough scenario as encountered by a young Rana may well have engulfed and ambushed a weaker hearted batsman as failures can be remorseless and merciless. But Rana comes across as an individual who belongs to the highest standards, possessed with the likeable arrogance of youth with unimaginable hitting abilities.
He is also a by-product of a modern day India, sure of its self, and a willing learner that he is, he is bound to fill in the soon to be vacated shoes of his Yuvraj and Raina in the foreseeable future. Mumbai have indeed unearthed a quality Indian left-hander, cut out for one-day cricket.
#5 Chris Lynn
There is something inherently magical about the maverick-like six hitting abilities of batsmen that keep the turnstiles clicking and the cash registers at the gates ringing.
Lynn belongs to the rare and uninhibited breed of sixer hitters that gets the hungry crowd on its feet and works up a cold sweat for the opposing skipper.
It is to Lynn's credit that he isn’t a flash in the pan, as beneath the facade of a buccaneering swashbuckler lies a fertile cricket brain that comprehends the game situation quickly. He has a huge double ton to his credit in the much challenged domestic shield cricket in Australia. He unleashes unmitigated hell on the bowlers as can be seen in his sparkling stroke play in the Big Bash for Brisbane Heat and in the two brilliant innings for KKR in this edition of the IPL.
It is an ironic fate that repeated injuries have cruelly rendered him unfit on many an occasion in the past and one fervently prays and sincerely hopes that he recovers from the nasty shoulder fall which he, unfortunately, endured earlier in the season in the IPL.
Supremely fit, ever ready for a hard scrap and a fight in an archetypal Aussie fashion, his game awareness as an athletic fielder in the deep best illustrates his sharp catching skills, with his velvety mitt-like hands.
The faster this amazing batsman recovers and gets back on the team sheet of KKR, better their chances of making the cut like they did in 2012 and 2014.
Viva la Lynn – an honest to God, sincere toiler!