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10 players to watch out for in IPL 2024

From the ‘everyellow’ Dhoni to the returning Rishabh Pant to the reinvented Virat Kohli, the players who will bring the league to life

M.S. Dhoni for Chennai Super Kings, Mitchell Starc for Sunrisers Hyderabad and Shubman Gill for Gujarat Titans.
M.S. Dhoni for Chennai Super Kings, Mitchell Starc for Sunrisers Hyderabad and Shubman Gill for Gujarat Titans.

From the return of Rishabh Pant to the rise of another wicketkeeper-batsman, Dhruv Jurel; from Mitchell Starc’s turn to justify being the highest paid player in the Indian Premier League (IPL) to his Aussie teammate Pat Cummins’ debut as an IPL captain; from Hardik Pandya taking over from Rohit Sharma at Mumbai Indians (MI) to Shubman Gill getting the chance to lead Gujarat Titans (GT); from the arrival of the latest Caribbean speed demon Shamar Joseph to a chance for Kagiso Rabada to emulate Garibdass Da; from the “everyellow” M.S. Dhoni to the reinvented Virat Kohli—IPL 2024 will be full of players bringing this tournament to life with their incredible stories. Let’s look at 10 players from the 10 franchises who can make an impact in this year’s IPL, and how the tournament in turn can transform the players’ journeys.

Rishabh Pant takes fresh guard: Rishabh Pant captured the hearts and minds of the cricketing world, not only by pulling off incredible wins, but also with his flair and daring: “Pantball” preceded “Bazball”.

Also Read IPL 2024: Four things to look out for in the opening weekend

His rising star came to crashing halt on 30 December 2022 when he suffered a car accident. Now, after 14 months of surgeries and rehabilitation, he returns to the scene of his first success, the IPL. “It feels like I am going to make my debut again,” he says. All cricket lovers wait in hope for Pant 2.0 to shine.

Rishabh Pant's comeback moment.
Rishabh Pant's comeback moment. (AFP)

His franchise, Delhi Capitals (DC), is not the strongest in the league on paper. But in David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Kuldeep Yadav and Anrich Nortje, they have potential match-winners to upset the applecart—something that Pant has always revelled in doing. 

The meteoric rise of Dhruv Jurel: Pant’s absence opened doors for other wicketkeeper-batsmen to shine, and the one who has grabbed the opportunity with both gloves is Dhruv Jurel. He first caught attention on his IPL debut last year. Walking out to bat as an impact player in the last five overs of a match where Rajasthan Royals (RR) were tottering at 124/6 against the Punjab Kings’ (PBKS’) total of 197, Jurel’s cameo nearly took RR to the target. Rajasthan fell five runs short, but that knock gave the youngster more opportunities to show his big-hitting. 

Dhruv Jurel has been a revelation in international cricket.
Dhruv Jurel has been a revelation in international cricket. (AFP)

Cut to 2024, and Jurel not only made an unlikely debut midway through a riveting Test series against England, but helped India win a tense battle in Ranchi, the hometown of M.S. Dhoni. It’s a script that could only have been written by the cricketing gods.

Now, in his second IPL season, a subplot is Jurel 2.0 running on a parallel track with Pant 2.0. The winner’s reward may be a ticket to the Caribbean and US for the T20 World Cup that follows the IPL. 

The catch for Jurel is that his RR skipper, Sanju Samson, and teammate Jos Buttler are also wicketkeeper-batsmen of note. So he has to again rely on the gods of cricket to extend his lease.

Also Read India vs. England: An epic tussle of tactics

Mitchell Starc is now the highest paid IPL player.
Mitchell Starc is now the highest paid IPL player. (PTI)

Mitchell Starc and the royal price tag: Mini-auctions produce outlandish bids, as fat purses chase scarce resources, and IPL 2024 took that to a new level. Australian left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc became the highest-paid IPL player ever when Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) splurged 24.75 crore to outbid GT for him. 

Starc had opted out of the IPL after appearing for Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) in 2014 and 2015, focusing on helping Australia win World Cups instead. Now he returns to the IPL with a fat pay-cheque, but can he justify the price tag? No doubt he can be a match-winner but his home ground of Eden Gardens favours spin more than pace.

Past performances of the highest-paid players do not augur well for KKR. The costliest buy for IPL 2023, English all-rounder Sam Curran, had a poor season with both bat and ball. PBKS, which paid 18.50 crore for him, ended up eighth on the league table. Ishan Kishan got more attention for the 15.25 crore MI spent on him, than the runs he scored at a poor strike rate of 120 in IPL 2022. Will Starc buck that trend?

Also Read How the Indian team learnt on the job to defeat England in Test series

Kagiso Rabada is all set to shine for Punjab Kings.
Kagiso Rabada is all set to shine for Punjab Kings. (AFP)

Kagiso Rabada, the Raja of Mullanpur? It’s surprising that DC let go of Kagiso Rabada, the classy South African speedster, after he had two outstanding seasons with them, getting 25 wickets in 2019 and donning the Purple Cap with 30 wickets in 2020. DC’s loss was Punjab Kings’ gain. Rabada was their highest wicket-taker in 2022 and last year he became the fastest to cross the milestone of 100 wickets in the IPL.

IPL 2024 sets a new stage for Rabada in Mullanpur. Legend has it the town was founded by a man called Garibdass Da who defeated the cruel king, Hathnoria Raja, to save the local citizens. This is the setting for the Punjab Cricket Association’s new stadium, north of Mohali. Rabada could be the modern-day Garibdass Da if the PCA makes a pace-friendly pitch.

Also Read T20 World Cup 2024: A change of guard for team India?

Pat Cummins to bring his World Cup winning captaincy to KKR.
Pat Cummins to bring his World Cup winning captaincy to KKR. (AFP)

Is Pat Cummins underrated or overpaid? Starc’s Aussie fast-bowling partner and skipper of the national side, Pat Cummins, scored the second highest bid at the auction for IPL 2024, at 20.50 crore by Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). Ironically, Cummins had a below par show for Starc’s franchise, KKR, in 2021 and 2022 before opting out of IPL 2023.

However, unlike KKR, SRH wanted him for his captaincy as much as his bowling. Cummins was underrated as Australia’s ODI captain last year. But he made his detractors eat humble pie by winning the ODI World Cup. SRH went into a decline after the exit of their previous Australian captain, David Warner, and sank to the bottom of the table last year. They’re hoping the Cummins’ magic rubs off on them. As for Cummins, apart from earning his spurs as an IPL captain, it’s the ideal prep for the T20 World Cup.

Also Read 5 things we learnt from cricket in 2023

Virat Kohli seeks to reinvent himself for T20 cricket.
Virat Kohli seeks to reinvent himself for T20 cricket. (AP)

Can Virat Kohli reinvent himself? Virat Kohli’s class as a batsman is unquestionable. However, his T20 strike rate in the middle overs has been a matter of debate. After all, an anchor role is passe in today’s T20 cricket. Kohli anyway wants to reinvent himself in the format. After three years of below par strike rates around 120 in the IPL, he upped the ante last year.

After a two-year hiatus from the Indian T20 squad, he returned for a series against Afghanistan earlier this year. He made a quick 29 in one game and got out for a duck attempting a risky shot in the next game. So his intentions are clear as he pads up for RCB after a two-month break from cricket. His selection for the Indian T20 World Cup squad seems a given, but his strike rate in IPL 2024 will be under the scanner.

Hardik Pandya to shine for Mumbai Indians?
Hardik Pandya to shine for Mumbai Indians? (PTI)

Hardik Pandya’s switcheroo: When MI did not retain Hardik Pandya for IPL 2022, GT took a chance on the all-rounder who was regaining his feet after a long injury layoff. They made him the captain and he repaid the bet by leading the new franchise to a title and then a final in consecutive seasons. So it came as a big surprise when GT traded him to MI, at Pandya’s request, for IPL 2024. 

The shoes of Rohit Sharma, who led MI to five titles, are big ones to fill. But Pandya has shown he’s an astute captain and inspiring leader. If he can replicate his GT feat at a more established setup like MI, it will pave the way for India captaincy. The caveat is that he’s injury-prone.  Pandya dropped out of India’s World Cup campaign midway last year. How his body holds up will be watched as keenly as Pant’s comeback.

Also Read IPL 2023: 5 things we learnt 

Shubman Gill will be the main man for Gujarat Titans.
Shubman Gill will be the main man for Gujarat Titans. (PTI)

Shubman Gill, the man for Gujarat Titans: Pandya’s exit opened the door for Shubman Gill to ascend to the captain’s throne at GT. He has already proved his mettle as GT’s main run-getter in the previous two seasons. And the way he guided India to a Test series win at Ranchi last month—in a nerve-wracking sixth wicket stand of 72 with Dhruv Jurel—showed his temperament. 

Gill’s game awareness will only get keener under the tutelage of Ashish Nehra and Gary Kirsten, two of the canniest coaches around. If Gill adds the feather of successful captaincy to his batting laurels, it will herald new leadership for Indian cricket. His first big challenge will be to fill the holes left in the GT squad by all-rounder Pandya and the injured pace spearhead, Mohammed Shami, who will miss IPL 2024.

Shamar Joseph's fast bowling could be a trump card.
Shamar Joseph's fast bowling could be a trump card. (AFP)

Shamar Joseph, the Caribbean speed demon: Two months ago, Shamar Joseph, playing the second Test of his fledgling career, tore through the Australian batting with 150-kmph thunderbolts. His 7 for 68 gave the West Indies a dramatic nine-run victory in Brisbane. Among those watching were Lucknow Super Giants (LSG), who grabbed the latest Caribbean speed demon as a replacement for Mark Wood, who was withdrawn from the IPL by the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB).  In LSG coaches Justin Langer of Australia and Lance Klusener of South Africa, young Joseph will have the guidance to turn his speed and accuracy to match-winning results. And if he fires, Joseph could also light up the T20 World Cup in his home nation after the IPL.

Chennai Super Kings captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Chennai Super Kings captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. (PTI)

The ‘everyellow’ M.S. Dhoni: The word “evergreen” has to become “everyellow” when you talk about M.S. Dhoni, winner of two World Cups for India and five IPL titles for Chennai Super Kings (CSK). The dawn of a new season has him in the familiar yellow jersey he has worn since the inaugural IPL in 2008. Except for a brief interlude, where his attempt to hand over the baton to Ravindra Jadeja failed, Dhoni has been key to CSK’s success, marshalling the bowlers and fielders from behind the wickets.

However, this season, Dhoni has stepped down as captain, handing over the reigns to Ruturaj Gaikwad, even as he comes into the tournament after rehabilitation after a knee surgery. It has been one the enduring pleasures of the IPL to watch this maestro conduct his orchestra on the field. While he won’t be doing so this year, fans will be hopeful for another season of final-over wins with the bat.

Sumit Chakraberty is a writer based in Bengaluru.

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