It was touted as the arena where ‘talent meets opportunity’, and true to its word, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has made a happy habit of unearthing many gems hidden within the domestic circuit. Age is no bar. Young or old, IPL caters to all. Players who had toiled away at domestic level for years on end became stars practically overnight, while youngsters with potential have been fast-tracked to the senior level after a decent IPL show. While some of these players have faded into distant memory, others have built on the momentum and carried on to new heights.
Rashid Khan and Rishabh Pant are the latest additions to this list of ‘wonder kids’. The duo has lit up the tenth edition of the IPL so far with heart-warming performances. CricketCountry takes a look at a few of the tournament’s teen sensations and the memories they have left behind.
Ravindra Jadeja (2008)
Matches: 14, Runs: 135, Highest: 36*, Strike-Rate: 131.1
In 2008 Jadeja was pretty much an unknown quantity. Those who watched the 2008 ICC Under-19 World Cup saw him as a tidy left-arm spinner and very good fielder. He was adequate, but lacked the charisma of someone like Virat Kohli. So, when Shane Warne, his captain at the Rajasthan Royals (RR), called him a “superstar in the making”, it was fair to say a lot of people were surprised. However Jadeja, all of 19, went on to smash an unbeaten 36 off just 25 deliveries, in only his second match, against a King’s XI Punjab (KXIP) bowling attack with the likes of Brett Lee, S Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan.
His tally of 135 runs in 9 innings may not be overly impressive, but Jadeja made important contributions when it really mattered, most notably in the field. He saved countless runs for the Royals, diving and sliding away on the outfield, and he took seven catches — none more vital than the one (at long-off) to dismiss Suresh Raina (on 43) in the final.
It was that summer in 2008 that the rise of ‘Sir’ Jadeja began!
Manish Pandey (2009)
Matches: 5, Runs: 168, Highest: 114*, Strike-Rate: 142.4
Five runs in five matches. That was Pandey’s record when he walked out to bat for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) against Deccan Chargers (DC) at Centurion — not one that inspires any confidence, you would think. To the outsider, it seemed that RCB had lost the plot when they sent him to open the innings that match, but clearly Anil Kumble had seen something that he liked.
Pandey went on to play one of the most memorable knocks in IPL history, demolishing the Chargers’ attack on his way to an unconquered 114 in 73 balls. It was the first century by an Indian in the IPL, and 19-year-old Manish Pandey had entered the history books.
Pradeep Sangwan (2009)
Matches: 13, Wickets: 15, Best: 3 for 18, Economy: 7.71
He was India’s strike bowler at the 2008 Under-19 World Cup in Malaysia, but Sangwan seemed a little out of his depth amid the glitz and glamour of IPL. In the first season, opportunities were limited, and the Delhi Daredevils (DD) left-arm pacer failed to take his chances.
However, come the second edition, Sangwan turned his form around. In South Africa, where conditions suited pace bowlers, Sangwan, all of 18, came into his own, finishing as Delhi’s second-highest wicket taker, behind Ashish Nehra (19). His ability to stem the run-flow, coupled with the capacity to strike in the middle overs made Sangwan an invaluable member of the team. Although his career took a bit of a turn later, that summer in 2009 was one to cherish for the Delhi lad.
Sanju Samson (2013 and 2014)
Matches: 24, Runs: 545, Highest: 74, Strike Rate: 118.95
At 18 years 169 days Samson became the youngest player to score a half-century in the IPL when he compiled a match-winning, unbeaten 63 for RR against RCB in Jaipur. The right-hander from Kerala finished with 206 runs in 10 innings in 2013, impressing one and all with grace and timing.
Samson was a standout behind the stumps as well, pulling off a couple of spectacular catches, aiding Rajasthan in their effort to reach the final four. Samson carried his good form into 2014 as well, with 339 runs in 13 matches. He played with a maturity well beyond his years, guiding the Royals through tough situations without much of a sweat.
Deepak Hooda (2015)
Matches: 14, Runs: 151, Highest: 54, Strike Rate: 158.94
Hooda came into IPL 8 on the back of some notable performances in the 2014 ICC Under-19 World Cup where he scored 235 runs at an average of 78.33. The Baroda teenager also brought with him the reputation of being a big-hitter.
In 2015 he lived up to that standing with a 15-ball 30 in Royals’ first match of the season, against Punjab. Hooda bettered his effort in the very next game smashing a match-winning 54 off just 25 balls in a tight chase against DD. It was Hooda’s calmness at the crease and his sheer power that stood out in his stint with RR. Although the runs dried up towards the latter half of the tournament, Hooda had begun making all the right noises.
Sarfaraz Khan (2015-16)
Matches: 18, Runs: 177, Highest: 45*, Strike Rate: 184.62
Macho, Panda, and Baby face: Sarfaraz has many nicknames, all earned when he shot to fame as a teenager playing for RCB in IPL 8. At 17 years 177 days, the burly Sarfaraz became the youngest to have played in the IPL. In only his second match, Sarfaraz had Kohli bowing to him when he pulverised a clueless Rajasthan attack, scoring an unbeaten 45 off 21 balls. The right-hander played many vital cameos, propelling RCB into the top four.
The following year, Sarfaraz continued to enhance his reputation, slicing, scooping and slogging bowlers all around the park. He played some audacious strokes in a breathtaking innings of 35 (off 10 balls) against Sunrisers Hyderabad. RCB chose to bench the right-hander towards the second half of the season, hoping it would spur him on to improve his fielding.
All set to improve on his performances in IPL 10, Sarfaraz was unfortunately injured on the eve of the tournament, adding to RCB’s long list of wounded warriors.
Rishabh Pant (2016-17)
Matches: 12, Runs: 286, Highest: 69, Strike Rate: 140.99 (Stats as on 13-4-2017)
Rishabh Pant was busy pummelling the Namibia Under-19 bowling attack around the Khan Saheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah the day DD ‘bought’ him for 1.9 crores in the auction ahead of IPL 9. Pant repaid the management’s faith in him, becoming the second-youngest player (after Samson) to score a half-century in the IPL. Pant headlined Delhi’s eight-wicket victory over GL in only his third match with a 40-ball 69. Having previously batted lower down the order, the 18-year-old Pant grabbed his chance when he opened batting with Quinton de Kock, making the position his own. In 10 outings in 2016, Pant scored 198 runs at a strike rate of 130.7.
Back in Delhi colours in 2017, this time as an international player, Pant showed great courage and character to score a half-century in their opening match against RCB, just days after losing his father. The swashbuckling left-hander played with the calmness of an old professional, relying on timing and placement more than brute force. He may have failed to take Delhi over the line, but the 19-year-old has certainly shown that he is the real deal.
Rashid Khan (2017)
Matches: 3, Wickets: 6, Best: 3-19, Economy Rate: 6.16 (Stats as on 13-4-2017)
Rashid became the first player from Afghanistan to play in the IPL when he donned the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) jersey in their opening match in IPL 10, against RCB in Hyderabad. With RCB on the charge chasing a mammoth 208 for victory, Rashid was brought into the attack in the 6th over. He is not used to bowling with the new ball: the Afghan captains have always used him in the death overs, and he has almost always delivered.
However, Rashid did not disappoint here, dismissing Mandeep Singh with a flat delivery that skidded straight off the surface and into the stumps — the first of his two vital wickets in the match. Since his IPL debut, the 18-year-old Rashid has flummoxed most opposition batters. His action is slightly unorthodox, his arm-speed rapid, his follow-through has the intensity of a medium-pacer, and his googly is almost impossible to pick. With a minimum of 11 games to go, provided he is not injured or dropped, Rashid is sure to fool a fair few more batters. He has been creating waves on the international circuit, and has now brought that magic to the IPL.