The Indian T20 League was halfway through its 2021 season before the organisers had to suspend it due to an outbreak of Covid-19 in various teams. Nevertheless, that gave us enough cricket to scout players who have an outside chance of making it to the Indian T20 World Cup squad as they are in sublime T20 form. Players like Ambati Rayudu and Shikhar Dhawan are the ones who already have plenty of international pedigree under their belt and find themselves in good form leading up to the World Cup later this year.
Here are the outsiders whose performances in the league have got them back in contention for a World Cup berth.
Shikhar Dhawan was leading the Orange Cap race before the tournament had to be suspended prematurely. The 2020 season was his personal best so far in the competition and he looked all set to go past that tally this season. His circumspect approach in the early parts of a T20 innings was a concern for the management but Dhawan seems to be playing carefree cricket and that has brought the best out of him. Gabbar was dropped just after one match in the five-match T20I series versus England but could find himself making a comeback in the upcoming T20I series against Sri Lanka.
Shaw has batted with swagger and confidence that came from having scored heavily in the domestic circuit just before the Indian T20 League. He carried his wonderful form in the tournament and showed why there has always been so much hype around the young opening batter. Among batters to have made over 100 runs in the powerplay this season, Shaw’s strike rate of 187.39 is by far the highest. He was at his destructive best this season and has an outside chance of making it to the squad.
Team Mumbai’s four wins were heavily dominated by Rahul Chahar. There was plenty of pressure on the 21-year old leg spinner coming into the season as he was dropped from the final of the 2020 season. He has introduced clever changes of angles and lengths this season and it paid wonders. Such has been his impact that Rahul has stolen the limelight from the other Indian spinner and tops the charts for the leading Indian spinner.
A smart off-season trade from Team Delhi, Patel was Bangalore’s go-to death bowler and was leading the Purple Cap race with 17 wickets at the halfway mark. The secret to his success has been the use of an excellent wide yorker and mixing it up with clever slower deliveries. Bangalore’s losses in the season coincided with off days for Patel. By the mid-stage of the season, he had started to leak runs consistently and that could be a factor that could go against him when it comes to his selection.
Avesh Khan was the story of the season in the competition. He broke into the team as the senior Indian pacer in the squad, Ishant Sharma was out with an injury in the early part of the season. Once he got in, there was no stopping him. He regularly clocked over 140 kmph and was consistently amongst the wickets throughout the season. He was the second-highest wicket-taker with 14 scalps and was recently named as one of the standby players in the Test team.
Devdutt Padikkal became the first centurion of the 2021 season and the third-ever uncapped Indian player to score a ton in the Indian T20 League with his 101* against Team Rajasthan at the Wankhede Stadium. He was consistently amongst the runs in the previous season but his low strike rate post the powerplay was an issue. This season he definitely worked on his side of his game and the ease with which he could hit sixes was a joy to watch.
Samson began this season with a breathtaking 119 that nearly helped his team chase down 222. A small blip followed but Samson recovered with three forties, where he looked to spend time at the crease instead of striking from the get-go. He showed glimpses of his maturity this season and the consistency which the selectors would want to see in the Kerala born batter.
Ambati Rayudu’s international career may well be over after his omission from the 2019 World Cup squad but if his knock against Team Mumbai was anything to go by then you could see that there is plenty of cricket left in the middle-order batter. He is one of the only players in the Indian circuit who can strike the ball for a six from the first ball he faces and he always plays to the situation by keeping the team as his first priority. He may not have scored plenty of runs in the innings he batted in but his strike rate of 200 was head and shoulders above everyone in that position.
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