Every year, the IPL has been able to make a bits and pieces player a popular name overnight itself. Some of the glaring examples are Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard, Shaun Marsh and David Hussey to name a few. This year as well, the tournament is likely to make those cricketers popular who have played for the first time in the Indian Premier League this year itself and give them a possible chance of representing their national team in the near future on a regular basis in some or the other format of the game. Here are ten such cricketers who are likely to make the biggest impact in the IPL 2012 –
1) Kevon Cooper (Rajasthan Royals)
Born on February 2, 1989 in Trinidad, Kevon Cooper was perhaps never destined to be a cricketer if it was not for his father pushing him to pursue the game instead of football. Cooper comes from a family of rich football legacy, and his initial interest was in the sport since his elder brother was extremely passionate about him. In fact, his name is Kevin Cooper and he is a part of the Trinidad and Tobago football team for the London Olympics this year. Kevon may have joined Kevin, but realized that he was meant to play cricket when he was selected for the U-19 Trinidad and Tobago (T & T) team in 2007.
He made his debut in the shortest format of the game a year later, in the Stanford Super Series in 2008 but did not make a big impression back then, which prompted the selectors to drop him from the team and not consider him for the following two years. In the attempt of making a comeback into the domestic team, he was alleged to be a ‘chucker’ in terms of his bowling action and as a result had to make a trip to the University of Western Australia in Perth in order to correct that and to undergo tests to ensure that those faults were eradicated. It was only then that he was cleared by the authorities in Trinidad to resume playing cricket.
Cooper is primarily a bowling all-rounder, since he bats lower down the order but can bat more than a bit and strike the ball with great timing. In September 2011, he was a part of the Trinidad and Tobago XI for the Champions League T20 in India and announced himself for the first time to the cricketing world with some crucial all-round performances. In the six matches his team played, he picked five wickets at 5.29 runs per over and averaged 22 with the bat, having an impressive strike rate of 192. One of his performances helped T & T famously beat Chennai Super Kings in Chennai, and knocking the defending champions out of the competition in the first round itself.
Although T & T as well did not go beyond the first round, Cooper did catch the attention of the Rajasthan Royals and as a result, he was purchased by them for his base price of $USD 50,000 for this year’s Indian Premier League. So far, he has picked 8 wickets in the first 3 matches which have helped Rajasthan beat stronger oppositions such as Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders. It may be early days for him but he is one man no opposition can underestimate, as he can inspire the Rahul Dravid-led team to the championship title for the first time since 2008. Besides the Royals, he has also played for the Chittagong Kings in the inaugural Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) this year.
2) Marlon Samuels (Pune Warriors India)
Marlon Nathaniel Samuels was born on February 5, 1981 in Kingston, Jamaica. He might go down as one of the wasted talents of West Indies cricket, although he still has some years of cricket left in him. He made his Test debut against world champions Australia in Adelaide in December 2000 and his style of playing was reminiscent to that of Sir Vivian Richards, since his confidence was soaring high, his composure was outstanding and his technique seemed to be flawless at one point of time, which was astonishing considering the fact that he had never played first class cricket for his province, Jamaica.
But with his initial success, a streak of arrogance came within him and as a result his game declined to a huge extent, although he has scored a Test hundred in India, precisely at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata in 2002 in difficult conditions to bat in. Due to his inconsistency, he was in and out of the West Indies team but was completely out of the team from the summer of 2008.
It is because he was involved in a controversy related to match fixing on the tour of India, just before the World Cup 2007. The Indian police alleged that Samuels gave out vital information about the West Indies team to a bookie named Mukesh Kochhar on the eve of the first one-day international between West Indies and India in Nagpur. The ICC decided to ban him for a period of two years beginning from May 2008, on the charge that he broke the rules regarding players not allowed to bet on matches. Although Samuels continues to keep his word that he was innocent at the time, he will perhaps never be forgotten for this incident.
His ban ended in May 2010 but returned to international cricket a year later, against Pakistan in a T20 international at home. Due to his good run in the last few months for the West Indies, he was picked by the franchise Duronto Rajshahi in the inaugural and ongoing Bangladesh Premier League for $USD 360,000 and is an integral part of that team. He then received a call from both the ultimate jewels of Indian cricket, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar to play in the IPL for their respective teams but Samuels respected the person who called him first and struck a deal consequently with the Pune Warriors India for an undisclosed amount.
He can still hit the ball often as in the past, but it is his all-round ability of bowling spin and more importantly containing runs which could be crucial for Pune this season. And he is no mut on the field too. Samuels could be the surprise package this season for opposition teams and has not performed that badly so far in the tournament, as he was the man of the match against the Kings XI Punjab in Pune’s first ever home game which ended in a victory.
3) Callum Ferguson (Pune Warriors India)
Callum James Ferguson was born on November 21, 1984 in the northern part of the city of Adelaide in South Australia. The 27 year old has represented the Australian U-19 team in the past and made his first class debut for South Australia against Victoria at the Adelaide Oval in October 2004 and had an excellent first season, having scored 733 runs at an average of 38.57. His success in first class cricket resulted in his ODI debut for Australia against New Zealand in February 2009, as he was a part of the Australian selectors’ plans to rebuild the ODI team, following the retirements of greats after the 2007 World Cup winning campaign.
He has played 30 ODIs for Australia so far, and has an impressive average of 41.43 with a highest score of 71 not out against England at The Oval in September 2009. Yet, he remains out of the side due to the Australian batting line-up being eternally strong and the fact that he was injured during the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa in 2009, which meant that there were other players in the waiting to grab a spot in the middle order.
But he has been a popular figure in South Australia, having represented the Redbacks in ODI cricket and currently the Adelaide Strikers in T20 cricket. In the Champions League 2011 in India, he scored two fifties which played a key role in South Australia qualifying for the tournament and notably winning against the Kolkata Knight Riders.
He was picked by the Pune Warriors India franchise in the beginning of 2011 but had to miss out on the tournament due to fitness issues. However, this season, Ferguson should get more opportunities to play for the Subrata Roy owned team as he has been in good touch off late and is a livewire on the field as well. Pune need world class and talented batsmen in their team to support their otherwise pretty strong bowling attack and Ferguson can easily make it more often in the not in the starting XI because he can bat anywhere in the middle order and is an adaptable batsman as per T20 standards.
4) Steven Smith (Pune Warriors India)
Steven Peter Smith was born on June 2, 1989 in Sydney. The Australian is one of the finest young talents in his country at the moment, and obviously one of the most sought after cricketers especially in the T20 format of the game. He is unique in the sense that he is primarily a right arm leg spin bowler who can also bat up the order if asked to.
Due to these attributes, in Australia he is considered to be Shane Warne’s successor since the team has perennially struggled to find an ideal spinner for the playing XI. Bowling leg spin seems like an art these days and with most batsmen not being able to play it, Smith has a golden opportunity to continue working on his bowling looking at the fact that he is just 22 years of age.
Smith has played for teams such as New South Wales Blues, New South Wales, Kent Second XI, Sutherland Cricket Club and Illawong Menai Cricket Club in the past. Due to consistent performances in first-class cricket, Smith had already made his ODI, Test and T20 debuts respectively for Australia’s national side by the age of 21. Before that, he was an integral part of the New South Wales Blues team which won the inaugural Champions League T20 in India in 2009 since he was in tremendous form throughout the 2008-09 season, picking 9 wickets in the KFC T20 competition back home in just 4 matches.
He made his ODI debut against West Indies in February 2010 and although in the game, he finished with 2/78 in 10 overs, his body language and style of bowling was always aggressive, which is extremely admirable considering how young and inexperienced he was. Not many rookie bowlers can convince captains like Ricky Ponting to set the field in the manner they want it to be. That was followed by his T20 debut in the World T20 2010 in the West Indies where Australia finished second best in the competition, losing to archrivals England in the final. But the team might not have reached that stage if Smith would not have picked 11 wickets in 7 games at a miserly average of 14.81. This made him the joint second highest wicket-taker of the tournament.
A good T20 outing surprisingly made him play his first international Test against Pakistan at Lords in July 2010. He picked 3 wickets on debut and in the next Test of the series at Leeds, showed that he is a batsman as well; hitting an impressive 77 in the second innings after the team was bowled out for 88 in the first. Smith has not been a revelation in Tests as yet, but is a promising prospect for the Aussies in the future.
Smith is also an outstanding fielder and has shown maturity in temperament by leading a T20 side at the age of 22. He led the Sydney Sixers in a few matches in the inaugural Big Bash in 2011-2012 season in the absence of Brad Haddin and won them the title. All these qualities impressed Sourav Ganguly, which is why he was picked for the Pune Warriors India this season. He won the man of the match award for helping Pune defeat neighbours Mumbai in Mumbai with his all-round performance. He should be a regular member of the team in this year’s IPL, since he missed out playing for teams such as Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kochi Tuskers Kerala in the past.
5) Sunil Narine (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Sunil Narine is another player from Trinidad and Tobago who will be playing for the first time in the Indian Premier League this year, with the Eden Gardens being his home in India from April to May. The right arm off break bowler was born in Trinidad on May 26, 1988 and has represented Trinidad and Tobago in first class cricket. Like Cooper, he had to change his bowling action a year ago but worked to change it and make it more effective.
However, his first shot to stardom was in the Champions League T20 2011 in India where he bowled exceptionally well, picking as many as 10 wickets in 3 matches at an average of 10.50 and a miserly economy rate of 4.37. That hastened his debut for the West Indies on the tour of India in the ODIs, and played the last three matches. With consistent performances, he became one of the favourites to be picked by many IPL franchises this year. Although his base price was a mere $ USD 50,000, his bid went up to $ USD 700,000 and eventually Kolkata were able to buy him, despite tough competition from the likes of Mumbai Indians, who remained disappointed not to avail his services.
He is an interesting buy for Kolkata but the only question remains that how will he fit into the playing XI frequently as the team already has a dearth of foreign players and spinners in particular, with the likes of Iqbal Abdulla, Yusuf Pathan and Shakib al Hasan. He played in a match in Jaipur against the Rajasthan Royals but did not prove himself well enough, which might have been the root of Kolkata’s loss in that match. However, he is the one bowler to watch out for by any opposition especially on sluggish pitches like in Kolkata, Chennai or Mumbai which could help him to a huge extent. He could make the starting XI if the Knight Riders decide to play two foreign batsmen and two foreign bowlers.
6) Marchant de Lange (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Marchant de Lange was born in an unknown place called Tzaneem in the province of Limpopo in South Africa, on October 13, 1990. He shifted his base to Centurion so that he can take his cricketing aspirations in the right direction and made his first class debut for the Easterns in the South African domestic competition in the 2010-11 season. He then moved to the Titans but still did not have enough first-class experience, when he was called up surprisingly to be a part of South Africa’s Test squad for the home series against Sri Lanka in December 2011.
He was actually a replacement for another nascent pace bowler Vernon Philander, but took this opportunity to prove that he is here to stay with figures of 7/81 in the first innings of the Boxing Day Test in Durban on Test debut. These figures are the best by any bowler in Tests in 2011, and went on to pick another wicket in the second innings having already impressed with his pace and bounce. The reason why he has a weird short run up and still can generate speeds hovering around 140 km/hr with the ball is because he was apparently a javelin thrower before he decided to take up cricket seriously.
Being 6 foot 7 inches tall, he is one of the tallest cricket players in the contemporary era also having the amazing ability to gain swing and accuracy, which can be menacing for batsmen on hard and bouncy or greenish pitches in South Africa, Australia or England. He made his ODI and T20 debuts in New Zealand recently and had a blast there, helping South Africa win those matches. These attributes made the Kolkata Knight Riders interested in him, and thus in the 2012 IPL auction, he was picked for his base price of $USD 50,000 even if he does not have much of experience bowling in unfriendly Indian conditions. de Lange could be considered as a replacement for Brett Lee, in case he gets injured and can be of huge value because another Aussie pacer James Pattinson will not be available for most of the matches this year as well. The South African too, might not play many games this year due to Lee’s presence and Kolkata’s preference to pack the team with spinners.
However, he could hope to play in seamer-friendly conditions in Mohali for example where the team will need his services. He has already made his IPL debut, in the first game the Knight Riders played, at home against the Delhi Daredevils. de Lange struggled to a huge extent in the match, but has enough potential to come back strongly later in the tournament.
7) Doug Bracewell (Delhi Daredevils)
Doug Bracewell was born on September 28, 1990 in a place called Tauranga at the Bay of Plenty. In New Zealand though, there is scarce talent so it perhaps has not been that hard for him to show his skills at the domestic level at a tender age of 18 for Central Districts. He was also a part of the U-19 World Cup team in 2010.
The New Zealand selectors considered him good enough to make his international debut on the tour of Zimbabwe in 2011. He picked up four wickets in the two Twenty20 internationals held there and three in his first two ODIs, impressing with his pace in particular. A handful of injuries in the New Zealand squad led to making him play his first Test in Bulawayo, and he took six wickets in that game to make a lightning fast impact. But his moment in the sun was in the Hobart Test match against Australia recently when he picked match figures of 9/60, helping New Zealand clinch a cliff-hanger out of nowhere, by 7 runs and it also meant that New Zealand beat their Trans-Tasman archrivals for the first time in a Test match since 1993 and in Australia since 1985.
The Hobart performance reinforced the feeling that Bracewell could be a huge icon in New Zealand’s bowling arsenal not just in 2012 but for years to come. That also caught the attention of the Delhi Daredevils owners, and as a result he was purchased by the Virender Sehwag-led team for his base price of $USD 50,000 in the Indian Premier League auction of 2012, a year after he was ignored by all the franchises. He played against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Bangalore and impressed with three wickets in his four over spell, one of them being Indian batting sensation Virat Kohli’s.
However, he might not get to play many matches in this year’s competition due to Delhi relying on star international players such as Kevin Pietersen of England, Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka, Ross Taylor of New Zealand and David Warner of Australia to strengthen their batting lineup. Besides, they also have the South African duo of Roelef van der Merwe and Morne Morkel as world class bowlers to deliver, which means all that Bracewell must do is learn from experienced players while warming the benches and getting ready to play in case the team suffers from injury issues.
8) Glenn Maxwell (Delhi Daredevils)
Born on October 14, 1988 in Melbourne, Glenn Maxwell is certainly one of the rising talents of Australian cricket. He plays for Victoria in the Test and ODI domestic competitions in Australia, and Melbourne Renegades in the KFC T20 Big Bash. Being 23 years of age, Maxwell, has featured in 14 List A games, averaging 25.44 and having a strike rate of 143.12 and has picked nine wickets at an average of 37.55 in the format. He also holds the record for the fastest half-century, off 17 balls, in domestic cricket in Australia in the one-day format. He has played 11 first-class matches and 11 Twenty20 games. In T20s he has a decent strike rate of 128.
He has represented Australia in the annual Hong Kong Cricket Sixes competition and in the Emerging Players’ tournament, where he was first spotted by the Delhi Daredevils franchise. His attacking style of batting reminded them of David Warner, another Daredevil and Australian player. He is said to have outstanding enthusiasm about all aspects of the game, being an extremely efficient fielder and a right arm off-spinner which could make him represent Australia in the future at least in the shorter formats of the game.
A right handed batsman, Maxwell has this unique talent of batting anywhere in the batting order from positions one to seven, especially in a T20 game and this could make the Daredevils’ line up a lot more flexible. He was bought as a replacement for another Aussie, Travis Birt who is injured and hence cannot take part in this year’s competition. The Victorian, Maxwell made his IPL debut against the Kolkata Knight Riders this year at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. He also featured in the following game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Bangalore where he bowled extremely well.
However, it is unlikely to feature in the starting XI of the Daredevils in the remaining matches of the competition because of the arrivals of Pietersen and Jayawardene, and with Ross Taylor and David Warner still to come, Maxwell’s batting would not be required while the bowling is decent enough without him. Yet, like Bracewell, Maxwell can also gain invaluable lessons from these star players and try to incorporate them in his game so he can become a better player.
9) Richard Levi (Mumbai Indians)
Richard Ernst Levi was born on January 14, 1988 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He first came into the limelight when he represented the Proteas in the 2006 U-19 Cricket World Cup in Sri Lanka. Levi gained this reputation of being a brutal and powerful striker of the ball, despite having the responsibility of opening the batting for his team. Predominantly a leg-side player, he usually targets the midwicket and square leg region for most of his runs and that also explains why the slog sweep is one of his most effective shots. Prior to the 2006 World Cup, he was a student of the Cape Ivy League schools and gained a lot of recognition for his cricketing achievements in his final year in 2005.
He then focused on performing well in domestic cricket, playing for the Western Provinces in Tests and ODIs and Cape Cobras in the T20 competition. In the Champions League T20 in India, he impressed with 43 runs in the first match the Cobras played, against the New South Wales in Chennai. But he found his prime on his T20 debut for South Africa against New Zealand at the Seddon Park in Hamilton, where he smashed an incredible 117 runs off 51 balls, remaining unbeaten in the end as South Africa cruised to the winning post with more than seven overs to spare.
In that game, Levi was the holder of many records which included the most sixes hit by any batsman in a T20 international innings (13) and the fastest century ever scored in the history of T20 cricket (45 balls). He also equaled the dangerous Chris Gayle’s record of scoring the highest number of runs in a T20 innings by an individual batsman, but Levi’s knock would be considered as the highest because he was not out till the end while Gayle was dismissed. Although Hamilton is not a big ground as such, but the distance of Levi’s sixes were outstanding and would have been sixes on any ground in the world. So credit cannot be taken away from him for playing such an entertaining knock. It could make anyone believe that he could be South Africa’s future opening batsman in ODIs as well, if not Tests.
Yet, it came as a surprise to many that the burly South African was snubbed by all the teams in the IPL 2012 auction. However, there were some teams interested in him and opted to follow the ‘wait and watch’ strategy to snap him, i.e. buy him as a replacement player so as to save money. Mumbai Indians overcame stiff competition from neighbours Pune Warriors India to purchase Levi reportedly at $USD 400,000, since that was the base price of their erstwhile player, Andrew Symonds whom they decided to let go and Levi as a result replaced him.
He made his IPL debut in the very first match of the season, against the defending champions Chennai Super Kings in Chennai. And Indian fans, especially Mumbai Indians fans were delighted to see him score a fifty on debut which helped the team beat their toughest opponents in their own backyard. So far, he has scored 82 runs in the four matches that he has played. Better performances are expected from him, if Mumbai have to qualify for the last four this time as well with Sachin Tendulkar likely to be absent for the first 8 matches the team will play in.
10) Daniel Harris (Deccan Chargers)
Another man from the cathedral city of Adelaide in Australia will be playing in the Indian Premier League for the first time this year. Yes, it is Daniel Harris who is being referred to here. Born on the New Year’s Eve of 1979, Harris thought that he could make a living in the field of medicine which explains why he is a qualified medical doctor. Like VVS Laxman, he then decided to switch professions and begin playing cricket. He made it to the South Australian team in the Sheffield Shield competition, but had to wait painfully for as long as five years to get his first fifty in first-class cricket.
He finally made it big in the 2008-09 season and proved himself to be his team’s finest batter, by hitting as many as 813 runs and ending as the fifth highest run getter of all batsmen in that year’s Sheffield Shield. He also hit 149 runs in the KFC T20 championship at an outstanding strike rate of 138. He now plays for South Australia in all the three formats of the game, and played a key role in ensuring that his province won the T20 championship of 2010-11. While he is batting, he seems to possess good technique, hand-eye coordination and a fetish for playing more on the off-side, especially between the point and the cover area which made him look elegant.
He was also a part of the Adelaide Strikers franchise in the 2011-12 KFC Big Bash competition. Harris is the second South Australian player after Daniel Christian to have been picked by the Deccan Chargers in the Indian Premier League. While Christian was picked in 2011 auction for as much as $USD 900,000, Harris was picked in the 2012 auction for a mere $USD 70,000. He is mainly a middle-order batsman who can bowl a bit, which is a key in T20 cricket.
Harris made his IPL debut this year against the Chennai Super Kings in the first match that Deccan Chargers played this season, at their adopted home ground of Vishakhapatnam. He did not get to play the following game against Mumbai Indians, also at home. And this trend might continue because Deccan now have a dearth of capable foreign batters such as Cameron White, Kumar Sangakkara, JP Duminy, Daniel Christian and not to mention Darren Bravo who will be arriving soon from the West Indies.
But he can keep his hopes for alive of playing in the IPL for a few more matches if the Chargers continue to maintain a losing streak.