IPL is a tournament where dreams turn into reality. Where rags to riches stories are in plenty. Where unknown names turn into superstars overnight. Where there's name, fame and money but, above all, an opportunity to shine and rub shoulders with a galaxy of stars.
With every passing day, as we get closer to the new season of cash-rich tournament, the excitement is palpable. More than anything at the prospect of watching new youngsters showcase and enrich the tournament with their freshness and raw talents. At the prospect of unknown stories, struggles, failures, success becoming part of everyday discussion. There are no dearth of uncapped players in the league, especially those who are obscure or are yet to be known to the general public at large.
Today, we at Sportscafe, will look at one uncapped player from each franchise who can make heads turn with their scintillating displays.
Delhi Capitals: Lukman Meriwala
Nothing touches the heart as much as underdog stories. Baroda's Lukman Meriwala has emerged from shadows of poverty. 15 years back, not many would have imagined that the guy who cuts and welds metal will be swinging and seaming the cricket ball. The 29-year-old is not just about humble beginnings but as much about top-notch skills. In the last two SMAT seasons, he has ended up with 15 and 16 wickets respectively, among the top bowlers in the league. With Umesh Yadav's dwindling form, he can fill in the gap of a powerplay bowler, one of the major weaknesses for Delhi Capitals. He can move the new ball, has decent bounce, possesses subtle variations, bowls at a deceptive pace and, above all, has impeccable control as his T20 ER of 6.72 reflects. Meriwala also provides the variation of a left-armer, something that DC lack. He was one of the major architects behind Baroda’s giant effort to reach the SMAT finale, this year, in the absence of Krunal Pandya.
Rajasthan Royals: Chetan Sakariya
A left-arm Indian pacer is invaluable and if he can be an aggressive wicket-taking option, then it makes for a compelling combination. Another young pacer who has emerged from humble beginnings (son of a tempo driver) and has fought his way from the obscurity of a poor background, Chetan landed himself an IPL contract this year. The 22-year-old can be an X-factor as he showed with a match-winning spell of 5-11 against Vidarbha and had a bumper SMAT 2021, picking 12 scalps in five games with an economy rate of 4.90. Even overall, he strikes every 12.70 balls in T20s, which is pretty good. He had played a key role for Saurashtra in their maiden Ranji Trophy title win last year when they beat Bengal and knows how to handle pressure and rise up to the occasion when it matters the most.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Vaibhav Arora
After taking 10 wickets in six matches and helping Himachal Pradesh reach the quarterfinals in the 2021 SMAT, right-arm pacer Vaibhav Arora was snapped by the Kolkata knight Riders in the IPL auctions. He wasn't even a natural to T20 cricket, but his remarkable showing for H.P, particularly with the new ball under lights where he tormented batsmen with movement, saw him be snapped up by the Knight Riders. Vaibhav made it to the IPL as a squad member for the first time this year but notably, the pacer was there as a net bowler for the Punjab-based franchise in the last edition of the IPL as well. He had even left KL Rahul impressed with his inswinging yorkers and deceptive bouncers, which had made the Punjab Kings skipper predict that the youngster will be playing IPL soon, which can become a reality this year, albeit, with the KKR.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Rajat Patidar
Considered a 'top-quality batsman' by RCB's director Mike Hesson, who has watched him closely for two years, Rajat Patidar can turn into an instant sensation this season. A middle-order bat who has the ability to strike big in the middle-overs, Patidar can help provide the much needed Indian hand to his franchise in the middle-order, something they lack. His rise from a no.11 batsman and an offie in junior cricket to a proper batsman has been sensational. The Madhya Pradesh vice-captain blasted 221 runs in 2021 SMAT at close to 45 with an exceptional strike-rate of 153.47. Even in the VHT, he played a 61-ball-102-run-knock to warm up well for the IPL. Just like his RCB skipper, he plays the wristy flicks, crunchy pulls and cover drives masterfully. There is this factor of effortlessness with his batting that makes him a delightful watch.
Punjab Kings: Shahrukh Khan
One of the most difficult roles to crack in the shortest format remains that of a lower-order finisher. There is hardly any time to get used to the pitch, pace and bounce, unlike for top-order batsman, and they’re expected to come with all guns blazing. And Tamil Nadu's Shahrukh Khan fills in that role. He can use the long handle, has a good temperament like a finisher should have, and the skills required to be a star in the IPL. His 19-ball 40 in the quarter-final against Himachal Pradesh and 18 off 7 balls in the finale of SMAT, two quality knocks under pressure, were a trailer of what to expect from him. The 25-year-old had a strike-rate of 220 in the SMAT 2020/21 and continued to finish games well in the VHT as well where he averaged 66 and had a SR of 105.88. He has everything in him to emerge as a quality middle-order bat.
Chennai Super Kings- Harishankar Reddy
Harishankar Reddy runs in to bowl. It's MS Dhoni, the veteran Indian batsman facing him. He goes on the backfoot but is castled by an inswinging delivery from the Andhra youngster. Harishankar was unknown even after the auctions, but now not anymore. With a high arm action, he outfoxed MS with his nippy pace. He was doing this in domestic cricket for a while but this time he did the same to Dhoni, and, if given chances, can ruffle a few feathers in the IPL too. The right-arm pacer has scalped 19 wickets in 13 T20s and strikes every 13.80 deliveries and can be a wicket-taking option given his raw talent. He was impressive in the SMAT and VHT this year taking 7 and 8 wickets in four and five games respectively. His numbers might not be the most remarkable, but he has an air about him, and the rawness that, if developed, could help him do special things.
Mumbai Indians: Anukul Roy
A slow-left arm spinner and a southpaw, Anukul Roy looks up to Ravindra Jadeja. He had his moment in the sun in the 2018 U-19 World Cup where he emerged as the joint leading wicket-taker and played a good knock with the bat in a Pakistan game to grab the headlines. Not to forget, his absolutely brilliant fielding that makes him omnipresent as a substitute fielder for Mumbai Indians in the IPL. He's an utility player who can do well if given chances. Krunal Pandya's confidence might have taken a beating after the England thrashing and how easily his defensive bowling could be taken to the cleaners. Roy can be a possible alternative as he provides good control as his T20 career ER of 7.16 suggests, while his batting SR is also decent at 133.33.
Sunrisers Hyderabad- Virat Singh
With 250 runs under his belt at an average of 62.50 and a strike-rate of 150.60, Jharkhand's Virat Singh was one of the most prolific batsmen in the 2021 SMAT. Though he doesn't deal in sixes as his numbers suggest that he hit six sixes in five games, but he smashed 29 fours and knows how to score rapidly. And it was not a one-off good season for the left-handed batsman as he had hammered 343 runs at an impressive strike-rate of 142.32 in the 2019/20 SMAT as well. Given he's suited to bat in the middle-order, and can score at a rapid rate, he can solve a lot of SRH's issues if plays to his potential.