The business end of the 2020 Indian Premier League is now upon us, as the race for the play-off qualification enters its crux stage.
The past month’s action in the UAE has seen several big names from India and abroad make a statement with their displays, while some superstars have failed to live up to the hype.
In the background of all the stars, there have also been several unheralded players who have been pivotal to the performances of their respective teams.
Here, we look at five such players who have been doing big things in the shadows of the more popular stars.
RAHUL TEWATIA – RAJASTHAN ROYALS
Rahul Tewatia has been a part of the IPL since 2014 and the all-rounder has been the definition of a ‘bits and part’ player in his previous campaigns. It is for this reason that Tewatia was among the players traded away by Delhi in exchange for the arrival of Ajinkya Rahane.
While Delhi might not be feeling the pinch of Tewatia’s departure, Rajasthan Royals will be grateful that they roped in the all-rounder. His two match-winning innings in run chases against Kings XI Punjab and Sunrisers Hyderabad has catapulted him to instant fame. However, it is the work done with ball in hand and in the field that is worthy of a special mention.
Outrageous catches on the boundary ropes, along with his economical wrist-spin has been a feature of Tewatia’s campaign so far. In a season where the majority of Rajasthan’s big overseas names have been highly inconsistent, Tewatia has been the match-winner-in-chief. He has already been responsible for two of Rajasthan’s four victories, and looks set for bigger things to come in the future.
WASHINGTON SUNDAR – ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE
Six wickets in 10 matches doesn’t tell the full story of Washington Sundar’s impact, with the off-spinner giving RCB a bowling outlet that every IPL franchise would love to have. The youngster has been tasked with bowling some quiet overs in the powerplay by skipper Virat Kohli, and it a task that he is relishing.
Having bowled 198 deliveries in the campaign so far, Sundar has conceded just 185 runs with his off-spin. That nearly half of those deliveries have come in the powerplay overs is testament to Sundar’s excellent temperament in pressure situations.
He isn’t a big turner of the ball by any stretch, but it is his ability to deliver the ball very late that stands Sundar in great stead. He is adept at anticipating the movement of the batsmen and can change his lengths at the last moment. It is for this reason that not many batsmen apart from Chris Gayle have been able to take him on for boundaries despite the field restrictions.
It is easy to see why India have already blooded in Sundar at international level despite his relative inexperience.
SURYAKUMAR YADAV – MUMBAI INDIANS
Mumbai Indians’ dominance in the IPL is built on the back of big names such as Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard, and the defending champions seem to be on course to mount another serious title challenge in the UAE.
While there might be plenty of stardust in the Mumbai roster, it is the unsung Suryakumar Yadav who has been the glue for the batting department. Although the runs have dried up in the last two outings, the right-handed batsman has been right up there with the best in his performances at No3.
Be it accelerating the innings or building on a solid start by the Mumbai openers, Yadav has been superb in setting the tone in the middle overs. His 424 runs in 2019 were absolutely crucial in Mumbai’s march to the title, and he is on course to rack up similar numbers this season after registering two half-centuries in nine games.
If he keeps churning out these strong displays, even an India call-up could be on the cards for the batsman.
VARUN CHAKRAVARTHY – KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS
The mystery spinner fetched a huge sum in the 2019 IPL auction, but his tournament was cut short by injury after just one expensive outing for Kings XI Punjab.
Eyebrows were raised when Kolkata Knight Riders shelled out another huge sum to secure his services for the 2020 edition. The management faith in Chakravarthy has been justified so far, with the spinner putting in some steady displays in the ongoing campaign.
Very rarely has he leaked runs in the tournament and his economy-rate after nine games stands at a fine 7.27. Along with his ability to dry up the runs, Chakravarthy has also chipped in with decisive wickets at key intervals for Kolkata.
His variations have been hard to decipher, with MS Dhoni among his seven victims in the competition so far. Chakravarthy’s emergence could not have come at a better time for KKR, given the scrutiny which has been placed on their star spinner Sunil Narine’s bowling action.
AXAR PATEL – DELHI CAPITALS
Delhi Capitals have an impressive spin contingent led by the experienced Ravichandran Ashwin, but it is the underrated Axar Patel who has been the real lynchpin. His left-arm orthodox spin has been one of the key factors behind Delhi’s rise to the top of the league table.
Patel’s greatest asset has been his ability to lock down the flow of runs, and the spinner has not conceded more than 32 runs from his four overs in either of his nine appearances. An economy-rate of 5.74 is as good as it gets, while he has also chipped in with eight important wickets.
He has greatly outperformed India internationals like Ravindra Jadeja and Krunal Pandya, and has no doubt been the best left-arm spinner in the tournament. To add the icing on the cake, Patel has also been clutch with the bat in hand, with his three sixes off just five deliveries sealing an epic run chase against Chennai Super Kings.
The injury to Amit Mishra is proving to be a blessing in disguise for the Capitals and has allowed Patel to become a permanent fixture in the playing XI.
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