The 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League is picking up steam as the campaign steers beyond its halfway mark in the UAE.
Three teams – Delhi Capitals, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore – have broken away from the rest of the chasing pack, while the final play-off spot remains up for grabs.
The teams at the front have largely figured out their best combinations and have arrived at a settled playing XI. Meanwhile, the teams at the back of the queue are still constantly changing and chopping in a bid to give fresh impetus to their respective campaigns.
With less than three weeks of action remaining in the tournament, there are still several players who are yet to make a single appearance. As Chris Gayle showed in his first IPL 2020 outing for Kings XI Punjab, there are players on the fringes who can still make a big impact.
We look at four such players rotting on the bench.
Imran Tahir (Chennai Super Kings)
Few would have expected Imran Tahir to be frozen out of the Chennai playing XI, especially considering the success he had with the side in the 2019 edition. While he might not be a spring chicken anymore at the age of 41, Tahir has time and time again shown that age is just a number for him.
It is no secret that T20s have been the South African’s true calling, and his rise to the No1 ICC ranking in the format in 2016 is testament to his skills. For a leg-spinner who peaked only after he turned 30, Tahir wouldn’t look out of place for any IPL outside, let alone Chennai’s aging side under MS Dhoni.
His 26 wickets in the last IPL at an economy-rate of less than seven warrants more faith in his abilities, and it is unfortunate that he has been restricted to carrying drinks in the ongoing campaign. Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Sam Curran and Dwayne Bravo have locked down the four overseas slots in CSK’s playing XI for now.
However, fellow-spinner Mitchell Santner’s all-round abilities might give him the edge over Tahir. Which will be a shame, given how effective Tahir’s variations could be on the slow pitches in the UAE.
Daniel Sams (Delhi Capitals)
Daniel Sams came into the IPL as a late replacement for Jason Roy, but his misfortune is that Anrich Nortje has simply seized his opportunity from a similar position. Nortje is turning out to be the dream Chris Woakes replacement for Delhi, with the South African pacer scorching the IPL speed charts on his way to bagging 10 wickets.
With Nortje and Kagiso Rabada nailing down two pace slots as overseas internationals, it is unlikely that Sams will get a look in for league leaders Delhi. The left-arm seamer has been a late bloomer in Australia’s domestic circuit, and his qualities have come to the fore in the past two editions of the Big Bash League.
His 30 wickets in the most recent BBL campaign is the most by any bowler in the history of the competition. That tally earned him the Player of the Tournament award, along with a maiden Australia call-up. What Sams specialises in, is the ability to bowl a variety of slower deliveries. His style is certainly conducive to the conditions on offer in the IPL, though only an injury to Delhi’s first-choice pacers would open the doors for an IPL debut.
David Miller (Rajasthan Royals)
The South Africa batsman has made just the one appearance for Rajasthan this season and was dismissed without facing a single delivery. The Royals have remained loyal to the trio of Jos Buttler, Steve Smith and Ben Stokes as their batting spin in the tournament, and that has been to the detriment of Miller.
To be fair to Miller, neither of the three big overseas stars have delivered for Rajasthan who are struggling near the bottom of the table. Although Miller wasn’t exactly a hit for Kings XI Punjab in the 2019 edition, he has it in his locker to muscle the big hits in the death overs.
He does hold the joint record for the fastest T20I century and looked in good touch for South Africa in the limited-overs clashes against Australia earlier this year. As a batsman, he is pretty similar to someone like Eoin Morgan who loves punishing anything in the slot on the leg side.
Given how Rajasthan have struggled for consistency with the bat, Miller could provide a different dimension if afforded another opportunity.
Mohammad Nabi (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
The No1 ranked T20I all-rounder has been sat on the bench for Sunrisers Hyderabad due to the big gaping hole in their middle-order. If only performances were a yardstick, Nabi would be one of the first names on the Hyderabad team-sheet after his sensational displays for the franchise in 2019.
The Afghan star did a job on two fronts for the Sunrisers, with his economical bowling being the standout feature. His off-spin went for less than seven runs an over over the course of the campaign, while his strike-rate with the bat was well over 150.
With fellow Afghan Rashid Khan and the opening combination of David Warner and Jonny Bairstow taking up three spots for Hyderabad, there remains just one available position for the other overseas internationals. Unfortunately for Nabi, Hyderabad have chosen to go with Kane Williamson to shore up their middle-order vulnerabilities. Whether that is the right ploy is questionable, especially considering that Nabi is no mug with the bat himself.
In his sole outing for Hyderabad this season, Nabi gave an excellent account of himself with both bat and ball. An all-rounder of his quality would be celebrated by most sides in the IPL, and it is quite remarkable that he has barely been utilised by SRH.
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