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ESPNcricinfo picks five players for whom this IPL is of bigger significance
April 14, 2014
Booted out by England, Pietersen has begun his career as a T20 freelancer. He accepts that the chances of him being recalled by England are remote, so for an indefinite period, T20 leagues like the IPL are his future. The turbulent events following the Ashes didn't affect his stock in the auctions though - Delhi Daredevils bought him for Rs 9 crore ($1.5m, their second costliest purchase) and he was named captain of the franchise, too. He said the time away from the game has helped him re-focus, and the initial interactions with coach Gary Kirsten have been "fantastic." Now that he has committed himself to a full IPL season, England's loss could be Daredevils' gain.
It's ironic that Cheteshwar Pujara has played only 24 IPL games over four seasons. And only two ODIs for India, despite his impressive run in Tests. Pujara has long been regarded as a Test specialist, and though he figured in the ODI squad for the Asia Cup, he didn't get a game. Pujara, who was with Royal Challengers Bangalore last season, was bought by Kings XI Punjab for Rs 1.9 crore ($316,000). He has a T20 strike rate of 103 and an average of just under 20, for a top-order player. His List A numbers are even more striking - an average of 55.03 in 70 games with nine hundreds and 20 fifties. Last IPL, he played four matches, with a highest of 51. Pujara may make the starting XI for Kings XI this season, in the top three. He is working on his bowling to boost his limited-overs CV. If he aims to make it to India's 50-over World Cup squad early next year, this IPL gives him an opportunity to seal a berth in India's ODI squad going forward.
Yuvraj was vilified for his painstaking 21-ball* 11 that sucked the momentum out of India's innings in the final of the World T20 against Sri Lanka. This was just two innings after he scored a matchwinning 60 against Australia, where after a scratchy start, he brought out the repertoire of strokes he is known for. But unfortunately, the memories of the final will linger for a while and the best way for Yuvraj to set the record straight is to score big for Royal Challengers Bangalore. After all, public memory is short and a few good innings may help revive his confidence and form.
Dinesh Karthik has spent the majority of his international career fighting for a spot and, once in the XI, fighting to keep it. It has not been easy on him, as a wicketkeeper in MS Dhoni's era. A strong IPL 2013 for Mumbai Indians, with 510 runs in 19 games, was the break he needed to earn a recall for the Champions Trophy as a batsman. He wasn't consistent enough, making just two fifties since his comeback. However, he hit the jackpot at the auction, beating Kevin Pietersen as the most expensive buy for Delhi Daredevils at Rs 12.5 crore ($2.08 million). However, the auction happened before the Asia Cup, which was a forgettable tournament for Karthik who missed two crucial stumpings in two games while filling in for Dhoni. The IPL is a chance to justify his high price and keep his ODI spot.
Gambhir last played for India in January 2013 and since then has been ignored, along with Virender Sehwag. The attention has shifted to the Shikhar Dhawan-Rohit Sharma duo as India's new opening pair in limited-overs cricket and Gambhir has since thrown his weight behind domestic cricket to make a comeback. He hasn't been in bad form - 743 first-class runs in ten matches with two centuries, 162 runs in five T20s, with one fifty, at a strike rate of 123.66. He was retained by Kolkata Knight Riders and will continue to lead the side. He insists that he isn't using the IPL as a launchpad for an India comeback, but a strong showing can only have a positive effect on his future.
*April 14, 2014 1534 GMT. An error which stated Yuvraj had scored an 11-ball 21 has been corrected
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
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