We are hardly a month away from the commencement of the 2021 IPL that will also mark back the return of the cash-rich league to the country, after last year, UAE had to host the league owing to the pandemic. It was recently announced that it would be played between April 9 and May 30.
India's biggest cricket carnival - the Indian Premier League will finally be back in the country next month. But it will be a tournament of many firsts as the world is still battling a global pandemic. For the first time, IPL will be taking place in the space of five months. It will also be the first time that crowds won't be allowed in an IPL organized in the country.
And not to forget, that the auction strategy of a lot of teams and their build-up has received a major blow with none of the sides playing at home. Home conditions are paramount to the build-up of the squad and the team XI. But now nothing can be changed as the squads are already finalized unless there are injuries. Today, we will be suggesting one perfect injury replacement for each of the IPL franchises taking into account the venues that the respective sides will play at, the team combination they have, and their underlying need. Let's take a look at it from hindsight.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Nathan Ellis
For other sides, you might want to look at the venues, but for RCB, that lacks something as basic as a death bowler, they need to get one in case of an injury or otherwise. RCB broke their bank for an untested Kyle Jamieson while the likes of Daniel Sams and Kane Richardson hardly inspire much confidence at death. Not to forget Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini ain't known for their death prowess either. And this is where the uncapped Australian pacer Nathan Ellis can come in handy who nails the yorkers with some conviction. He's Hobart Hurricanes' T Natarajan, a yorker king. The right-arm pacer had a fabulous BBL season as well as he claimed 20 wickets in 14 games at an economy of 8.31 and is a great option for death overs, where his economy remains a brilliant 8.53 in T20s. Moreover, 23 of his 33 wickets have come in death overs and he can be a great signing for the Kohli-led RCB.
Mumbai Indians: Wanindu Hasaranga
With Chennai, known for assisting spinners, hosting the first five games that Mumbai Indians play, MI will need to have an excellent wicket-taking spinner. Rahul Chahar has been decent at best, but not great by any means. While Krunal Pandya does the hold-up job with his batting form dwindling over the last couple of seasons. They did get Piyush Chawla but he was anything but impressive last year. And the back-ups Jayant Yadav and Anukul Roy also lack the X-factor. Given everything, Wanindu Hasaranga can prove to be their spin talisman and work up his magic. He has been in scintillating form of late for Sri Lanka against T20 World Cup winners West Indies, with figures of 3/12, 3/17 and 2/13 and is an aggressive leg-spinner, who bowls with some accuracy as his T20 economy of 6.41 suggests. He has an exceptional record in T20Is too and was impressive in India T20Is, last year. In addition, he also brings the batting prowess and falls in the category of players that Mumbai likes to have in their arsenal.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Colin Munro
Despite having opening concerns in the IPL 2020, which was evident the way KKR kept changing opening pairs, they didn't go for an attacking opener in auctions, last month. In Shubman Gill, KKR have an accumulator but no one compliments him with an aggressive style that will be needed for the Eoin Morgan-led side that will be playing most of their games on flat surfaces, this year. The Black Caps opener Colin Munro can prove to be a great option on flat wickets and has the ability to take the game by storm in the powerplay overs. It will also provide the Kolkata-based franchise with a left-right opening combination. Not to forget, the seasoned southpaw just had an exceptional BBL season where he ended up as the fifth leading run-scorer with 443 runs in 15 innings.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Devon Conway
Sunrisers Hyderabad will play nine of their games in Chennai and Delhi, which aren't known to be flat and will require some good application from their batsmen. And it is a role that Kiwi middle-order batsman Devon Conway can play to perfection. He has been in great form and finished with 192 runs in the five-match T20I series against Australia at 48 with a strike-rate of 140.14. In the first T20I, he had shown the perfect template as to how a middle-order batsman should nail the game in tough scenarios when he made 99 and helped New Zealand to 184 from a position of 19/3. He has taken to T20 internationals like a fish to water and has an average of 52.28 and a strike-rate of 145.23 against top-quality bowlers. Also, he is exceptional against spin and averages a whopping 93.83 with a strike-rate of 144.35, which makes him a great option in Indian conditions.
Delhi Capitals: Jason Behrendorff
As good as Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje have been for DC, the other foreign pace options Chris Woakes and Tom Curran are risky propositions as their IPL economy rate of 9.24 and 11.51 indicate. If given a chance, the Delhi Capitals should get hold of Australian pacer Jason Behrendorff. He is a left-handed version of Glenn McGrath in T20 cricket. Accuracy and swing define him as a bowler. Behrendorff has an exceptional economy rate of 6.58 in the powerplay overs since 2016, and bowls with great control in the first six overs targeting the stumps. The Perth Scorchers pacer had a decent BBL season as well as he took 16 wickets in as many games that too with an impressive economy of 7.03, and can be a great addition to the Delhi side as a back-up pacer.
Chennai Super Kings: Alex Hales
Since Chennai Super Kings won't be playing at home this season and mostly, on belters with Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore accounting for 10 of their 14 games, they will need an aggressive opening option, which they are lacking at the moment. English opener Alex Hales can fit the billing perfectly given he has been in red-hot form. The right-hander has almost hammered 1,600 T20 runs at a strike rate of 156, which is the most runs scored and the quickest by anyone, as per a Wisden piece, in the last one year. He has also overcome his weakness against left-arm orthodox spin and is nowadays in absolute beast mode and can wreak havoc in the opposition's camp with his explosive batting. Recently, he had emerged as the leading run-getter in the BBL 2021 with 543 runs at a strike-rate of 161.60. And there’s no reason why he won’t do well in the IPL with his evolved batting.
Punjab Kings: Adil Rashid
Punjab Kings have built up a formidable side for the 2021 IPL. They filled in the middle-order gaps and recruited some top quality pacers from the auction. This year they will play mostly on flatter pitches and will need spinners, who can take wickets and win games. One thing common in Ravi Bishnoi and M Ashwin last year was that as economical as they were, they didn't take a lot of wickets. Bishnoi took 12 scalps in 14 games while Ashwin claimed 10 wickets in 9 games. And even the spinners/all-rounders brought in the auction - Jalaj Saxena and Fabian Allen are more known for their accuracy than wicket-taking prowess. And this is where England's Adil Rashid can prove to a great addition with all the variations, top-notch skills, temperament and experience he brings to the plate. His track record in flat English conditions is decent as he has taken 20 wickets in 17 T20Is with an economy of 7.30 and knows how to bamboozle formidable batsmen, which is missing with the inexperienced Punjab spinners.
One of the issues which Rajasthan Royals failed to address in the mini-auctions, last month, was getting a good quality offie or a left-arm orthodox spinner. They were a team full of leggies in the form of Shreyas Gopal, Rahul Tewatia and Mayank Markande and still went for another leg-spinner KC Cariappa, which surprised one and all. And this is where someone like Mayank Dagar can prove to be a good option. Best known for being the nephew of Virender Sehwag, the left-arm spinner also packs a punch with his bowling skills and temperament. He had a very decent 2021 Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy as well where he picked up seven wickets in six games and had an economy rate of 4.81. He's a promising talent and can fill in the gap of a local left-arm spinner and make the RR bowling more well-rounded, which is already looking great with some exceptional foreign pace options.