IPL 2014 June 2, 2014

Bursting onto the big stage

How five young, uncapped Indians impressed at IPL 2014

Akshar Patel, Kings XI Punjab
For a 20-year-old in his first IPL season, the Gujarat and Kings XI Punjab left-arm spinner showed remarkable maturity. His flat and accurate trajectory made it hard for batsmen to get underneath and slog his deliveries, which reflected in an economy-rate of 6.48 at the end of the league stage. He also showed the ability to withstand an attack and not fall apart when put under pressure. Instead, he had the mental strength to stick to what he thought would work for him. An instance was when Kevin Pietersen hit him for successive boundaries. Akshar responded with an arm ball, a delivery that had brought him success through the tournament. Pietersen just about escaped with an inside edge past the stumps.

Yuzvendra Chahal, Royal Challengers Bangalore
Still only 23, Haryana's Yuzvendra Chahal had been around for a while in both state and franchise cricket, but had also remained confined to the fringes. Going into the season with just one IPL game behind him, he figured in every Royal Challengers Bangalore match and returned an economy-rate of 7.01, better than any other legspinner, excluding those who played too few games. He tossed it up, went flat, sent down the googly, but what stood out was how he fooled batsmen with the stock legbreak. Often they would hit out and think they had done enough, but would be caught in the deep. Twice against the best batting side of the season, Kings XI, Chahal returned an identical 2 for 23. His victims in those games: Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, and Virender Sehwag, twice.

Sandeep Sharma, Kings XI Punjab
Punjab and Kings XI medium-pacer Sandeep Sharma had served notice of his potential with eight wickets in four matches in the previous season, and this time, he swung his way into the list of the leading wicket-takers of the tournament. Sandeep, 21, does not have the pace yet, but he moved the new ball consistently with excellent control and accuracy, and also hurried off the pitch. Twice, he dismissed Chris Gayle cheaply with away-going balls. His captain George Bailey spoke highly of him, saying that despite being so young, Sandeep knew exactly the kind of fields he wanted and did not hesitate to ask for them. When there was no swing to be had, though, Sandeep became easier to hit.

Karun Nair, Rajasthan Royals
In a season where batting charts were dominated by the big guns, both Indian and overseas, Karnataka and Rajasthan Royals' Karun Nair marked his presence with several eye-catching innings in his debut season to end with 330 runs at a strike-rate of 142.24. And the 22-year-old did this without having to resort to unorthodoxy for the most part. Like so many Karnataka batsmen, he was eager to rock back and cut strongly. The pull and the slog-sweep came readily to him, as did the loft over extra cover. And he put it all together on the night Royals dearly needed someone to, when he made 50 off 27 in partnership with Sanju Samson against Mumbai Indians in the final match of the league stage.

Manan Vohra, Kings XI Punjab
Kings XI surprisingly retained 20-year-old Punjab batsman Manan Vohra before the auction and even more surprisingly, then kept him on the bench for nine straight games. Vohra got five games towards the end of the league stage to show why his franchise had valued him enough to prevent him from going into the auction. He promptly did, striking 29 boundaries in his first five innings for a strike-rate of 150.38. Kings XI had been mostly about the Maxwell-Miller duo till then; Vohra made short work of chases at the top of the order before they could come in. The first bowler he faced off the bench was Dale Steyn. He pulled him second ball for three, and third ball for six.

Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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