IPL Edition 2: For a place under the sun

While this year’s IPL promises to showcase the world’s very best talent, lesser-known names and unknown faces are waiting for their moments too. 

The Indian Premier League finds itself in new environs thanks to the cascading effect of terrorism and the long arm of the Lok Sabha elections. To survive – forget about prospering – so far away from home, the franchises, players and everybody involved will need loads of good luck and the right breaks come April 18.

To make it interesting for the global fan, however, the IPL badly needs all its international stars who have been signed up by ambitious teams. Without them, the multi-million dollar league would be nothing but a travelling domestic tournament and will obviously be bereft of appeal.

The good news is that as South Africa is the host nation, players from New Zealand, England and Australia will not worry about security anymore. There will be no pullouts on that count, at least.

Leaving aside the Aussies ODI players who will miss the first half of the action, a healthy attendance of international stars will make the event exciting and top-notch. Last year, international commitments forced the Kiwis and Aussies to pull out mid-way through while contractual obligations restricted the Englishmen from signing up.

Last year’s tournament had also caught quite a few players off-guard with injuries. Sachin Tendulkar missed Mumbai Indians’ first six matches while teammate Lasith Malinga couldn’t play at all; Chris Gayle missed out on the entire tournament for Kolkata Knight Riders while Shoaib Akhtar arrived late because of his knee problem and so on. However, being in the know of IPL’s 2009 plans much in advance, the players have willingly planned for it. After all, big money is at stake.

Consider this: Tendulkar is fit and raring to go right from the start; Gayle has already joined the KKR camp, as has Brendon McCullum. Matthew Hayden has also started padding up for Team Chennai while Malinga is practicing with the Mumbai Indians.

While these stars will provide the glamour and steal the initial limelight, the IPL will be eagerly waiting to see how its lesser lights shine. Last year, the surge of unknown or little-known players had lit up the IPL and boosted the performance of almost all the teams. Shaun Marsh for Kings XI Punjab and Shane Watson for Team Jaipur, for example, proved they were ready to wear the baggy green cap by their standout performances.

Yusuf Pathan and Swapnil Asnodkar for Team Jaipur and MS Goni for Team Chennai too came into the reckoning with their dare-devilry.

This year too, there are quite a few youngsters with loads of talent and bravado. Teams have splurged decent money on some unknown names purely because of the talent shown by them in their domestic tournaments. Will they prove to be worth every penny spent on them? Can they emerge as the next big stars?

Jesse Ryder has already become a million-dollar buy for Royal Challengers who had shelled out only $ 1.5 lakh for him. England’s Graham Napier of Mumbai Indians will be a player to watch out for: he already holds the Twenty20 record for most number of sixes. Twenty-two-year-old Moises Henriques from Australia (KKR), earned a record rookie contract with New South Wales for his exceptional all-round talent. South African Tyron Henderson (Team Jaipur), has a reputation for being one of the biggest and cleanest hitters of the cricket ball back home.

Ryan McLaren (MI), Ryan Harris (Team Hyderabad), Robert Quiney (Team Rajasthan), Andrew McDonald (Team Delhi), George Bailey (Team Chennai) are some of the other names that have come cheap and will worth watching.

Those who don’t agree only have to look at the likes of Marsh from last year. Yes, wait and watch would be a prudent approach.

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