IPL has been the stepping stone to success for many young Indian cricketers in the last decade. It’s a platform that not only gives cricketers an opportunity to rub shoulders with the best talent in the world, but also prepares them to handle pressure situations as they get used to playing in front of huge crowds and become better equipped to handle tense moments at the international scene later.
Extra Cover: 5 IPL greats who have failed to perform in T20Is
When the IPL started in 2008, it had the concept of marquee players for each side, and stalwarts like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni, VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh represented the state/region they came from.
But do you know that many current superstars of the Indian cricket team had first made their debut in the IPL before going on to represent India in International cricket?
Let’s take a look at 5 such players who first played the IPL and then played for India.
#5 Bhuvneshwar Kumar
India’s star swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar made his debut in T20Is on Christmas day in 2012 against Pakistan and instantly made an impression with his banana-inswingers. He finished with scarcely believable figures of 3 for 9 in his 4 overs but couldn’t prevent an Indian loss.
An ODI debut soon followed within five days where he took a wicket with his first ball.
But it was almost a year and a half before, on May 8, 2011 against the Kings XI Punjab at Mohali that he had made his IPL debut. Playing for the Pune Warriors India, he impressed with a spell of 2 for 14 off three overs that helped his team win by five wickets. He played with distinction in the 2011 and 2012 seasons of the IPL before making his debut for India in any format.
#4 Cheteshwar Pujara
Now this is one name that would surely surprise many readers! Most of us won’t even remember the last time we saw Pujara play an IPL match, or a substantial innings played by him for any franchise, but the fact is that he has played for as many as three teams in the IPL – Kolkata Knight Riders, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab.
He made his debut for India in a Test match against Australia on Oct 9, 2010 and his ODI debut came much later in August 2013 against Zimbabwe, but Pujara had made his IPL debut on March 12, 2010 against the Deccan Chargers at Mumbai, playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders.
Batting at No. 3, he didn’t make a big impression and could only muster 10 off 16 deliveries. He didn’t get many more opportunities after this but the fact remains that India’s most dependable Test batsman had indeed made his IPL debut much before he had made his Test debut!
#3 Ravindra Jadeja
Ravindra “Rockstar” Jadeja – this is what Shane Warne had nicknamed him in the first IPL; Rockstar. Jadeja made his India debut in Feb 2009, in an ODI against Sri Lanka at the R. Premadasa Stadium on 8 Feb and then played his first T20I two days later, on the 10th.
A little unexpectedly perhaps, he made a greater impact with the bat on his ODI debut, scoring an unbeaten 60 coming in at no.8, but couldn’t prevent an Indian loss. His T20I debut was lesser impressive but he still managed a tight bowling spell, conceding 29 off his 4 overs and helping India win by three wickets.
His IPL entry, though, had happened almost a year earlier, in the inaugural edition of the tournament on April 19, playing for the Rajasthan Royals against the Delhi Daredevils at Delhi. He top scored for his team in that match and scored a brisk 29 off 23 balls with two fours and two sixes, but RR slumped to a big loss by 9 wickets.
He made a massive impact in the tournament and his efforts went a long way in making the Royals champions in this first ever IPL. The selectors duly took notice which ensured he made his debut for India before the second edition of the tournament.
#2 Ravichandran Ashwin
India’s biggest match-winner and the No. 1 all-rounder in Tests as per ICC rankings – Ravichandran Ashwin. 271 wickets in just 48 Tests is testimony to the fact that he has been a huge asset for Team India in the longest format of the game, but rather surprisingly, he had made a name for himself first in the IPL and it was only after it that he was picked to represent India in any format.
His ODI and T20I debuts both came in the month of June in 2010 in Zimbabwe, and the Test debut was even later, in November 2011. He first played in the IPL in the second edition that was held in South Africa in 2009. Playing for the Chennai Super Kings, he made his debut against the Mumbai Indians on April 18 at Newlands.
As astonishing as it might seem today, he didn’t even get to bowl in the match and didn’t get a chance to bat as he was slated to come in at No. 11 in the order. CSK lost that match by 19 runs, but Ashwin’s performances in this edition and the next one in 2010 went a long way in getting him his India cap.
Needless to say, he hasn’t looked back since!
#1 Virat Kohli
The best limited overs batsman in the world today and India’s captain in all formats, Virat Kohli, first took his bow in the IPL in the first edition, turning out for the Royal Challengers Bangalore; a franchise with whom he’s been associated ever since.
His India debut came in an ODI in August 2008 when he played against Sri Lanka at Dambulla. Opening the batting with Gautam Gambhir, he could muster just 12 runs as India were bowled out for a meagre 146 to eventually lose the match by 8 wickets.
The T20I and Test debuts came much later, in 2010 and 2011 respectively, but it was on April 18 in 2008 that he made his IPL debut against the Kolkata Knight Riders in the tournament’s first ever match, in what has since been called “McCullum’s Match”.
Brendon McCullum’s 158 meant that the KKR scored a mammoth 222 in their 20 overs and the RCB were left with a mountain to climb in the chase. Virat Kohli could only score 1 off 5 deliveries before being dismissed by Ashok Dinda, but his talent was too abundant to go unnoticed!