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Five benchwarmers who should get some game time in the IPL

At the half-way stage of the league phase, teams have some hidden gems on their benches that may make tactical sense to try out

Himanshu Agrawal
Mayank Markande gets into his delivery stride, Mumbai Indians v Chennai Super Kings, IPL 2018, Mumbai, April 7, 2018

With Shreyas Gopal struggling, should Rajasthan Royals try out Mayank Markande?  •  BCCI

There are some big names, Chris Gayle and Imran Tahir chief among them, who have played few or no games so far this IPL. But there is actually strong logic for leaving some of them out. We've focused on five players we think would make tactical sense for their teams to try.
Ishan Porel, Kings XI Punjab
A 22-year-old fast bowler who can bowl over 140kph, Porel burst on to the scene at the 2018 Under-19 World Cup. Since then, he has impressed for Bengal, taking 16 wickets in 14 games over two seasons in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and helping Bengal reach the Ranji Thophy final in 2019-20 with 23 wickets in six games. There was reason to believe he may be one of the breakthrough stars of this IPL, and when KXIP had serious problems with their death bowling, it seemed reasonable that he would be given a try. Instead, they looked to left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh and offspinner Mujeeb-ur-Rahman to fix the problem. Having picked up just two points from seven matches, Kings XI may want to think about fitting Porel into their XI.
Tom Banton, Kolkata Knight Riders
Kolkata Knight Riders spent Rs 1 crore (approx US$140,000) on Banton, an aggressive opener made for T20s, but it took them seven matches to hand him his IPL debut. Banton became a sought-after commodity after the 2019 Vitality Blast, in which he scored 549 runs at 161.47, which included a 51- ball century. His powerful strokes and innovation have been on display at the international level too - he smashed 137 runs in three games at a strike-rate of 153.93 against Pakistan just this summer.
The Knight Riders persisted with Sunil Narine as an opener early in the tournament, and then eventually pushed Rahul Tripathi up there with Narine moving down to No. 4. However, it was surprising they didn't consider bringing in Banton, considering all of their big-name overseas players - Narine, Andre Russell, Pat Cummins and Eoin Morgan - have underwhelmed this season. Only once Narine was put on the warning list after his action was reported did Knight Riders play Banton in his place. Narine is still eligible to bowl, but Knight Riders should consider sticking with Banton, even if it is at the expense of Morgan, Cummins or Russell.
Mayank Markande, Rajasthan Royals
A 22-year-old legspinner, Markande had an excellent first IPL season, taking 15 wickets for the Mumbai Indians in 2018. After struggling to get game time last season, he was released and found a home at the Rajasthan Royals. It did not look likely Markande would get a game initially, as Royals have Shreyas Gopal, who has been one of the league's top wristspinners in recent seasons, as well as Rahul Tewatia, the allrounder who bowls legspin. However, Gopal has endured a tough season: he has taken just four wickets in seven games and gone at 9.00 an over. While it looked unlikely at the start of the season, Markande for Gopal may be a swap Royals, who are currently sixth on the points table, could make.
Virat Singh, Sunrisers Hyderabad
The middle order has been the Sunrisers' weakness from the start of the season. Kane Williamson has helped improve it to some degree, but there is need for further improvement. One man they have not tried yet is Virat Singh, a 22-year-old attacking left-hand batsman. Singh was Jharkhand's top-scorer in the 2019-20 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and got his runs at 142.32.
So far, the Sunrisers have consistently picked Priyam Garg and Abhishek Sharma in the middle order. Garg showed promise with a fifty against the Chennai Super Kings, and Sharma adds value with his spin. However, there is a third slot available. The Sunrisers begun with Vijay Shankar and after trying Abdul Samad for a few games have gone back to Shankar. If they brought Singh in, they could bat him as high as No. 3, which would add another left-hander to the top order and also let Manish Pandey, who is struggling for consistency, drop to the finisher's role at No. 5.
Jason Holder, Sunrisers Hyderabad
It is difficult for the Sunrisers to find an overseas spot for Holder since David Warner and Rashid Khan are must-picks and Williamson and Jonny Bairstow have both played important knocks this season. However, where Holder, who came in as a replacement for the injured Mitchell Marsh, could add value is adding some depth to the bowling and also playing the role of finisher with the bat. After Marsh was injured, the Sunrisers decided to play just four genuine bowlers and make up the rest of the overs with part-time spinners. Against the Super Kings, they played five bowlers but that meant a long tail, with Rashid batting at No. 7. Holder could do the job of batting at No. 7 and getting through his four overs for not too many. It will mean having to drop either Williamson, who has been an important part of the middle order, or Bairstow, who had a tremendous 2019 season but is scoring at 129.03 this season.

Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo