Few expected this bunch of lesser-known Indians to have more than a stopgap role in IPL I but grab their chance they did. Like Shaun Marsh for Australia, some even got the national cap afterwards.
Manpreet Gony, Dhawal Kulkarni, Wriddhiman Saha, Ashoke Dinda, Swapnil Asnodkar were unfamiliar names to those not connected with domestic cricket before the T20 gala. Asnodkar went on to play a handy role in the triumph of Rajasthan Royals and Kulkarni and Gony got their first feel of the India shirt. Saha and Dinda made it to the India A side and bagged annual contracts from the BCCI (Grade IV).
With the exception of Kulkarni, the journey hasn’t been the same for everyone since. The Mumbai opening bowler came up with a standout performance in his first Ranji Trophy season, which catapulted him into the India squad for the New Zealand tour. Kulkarni hasn’t yet hit big time but his has been one of the most upwardly mobile stories of Indian cricket in recent times.
Gony got into the India side before Kulkarni and did better in the sense that he made his ODI debut in Sri Lanka last year. This is where similarities end because Gony did little of note in the few Ranji games he played for Punjab before getting injured. He has completed a rehab process at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore and it remains to be seen how he does in IPL II.
Saha is the unfortunate one of the lot. The Bengal wicketkeeper improved behind and in front of the stumps through the domestic season and played a major role as opener in East Zone’s journey to the Deodhar Trophy final.
His batting was innovative to suit the needs of T20 and running between wickets excellent. Just as it seemed he was ready for IPL II, Saha broke his left thumb at a practice session of the Kolkata Knight Riders in Bloemfontein. He hasn’t been ruled out but remains uncertain.
The story of the other two isn’t great. Asnodkar scored important runs for Goa in Ranji Trophy before throwing it away with a horrible shot in the Plate semi-final against Bengal and didn’t do anything in the one-dayers to merit selection to the South Zone side. Dinda too faded out after a good start in Ranji Trophy and shone only in patches in the one-dayers apart from getting involved in brawls in the Bengal dressing room. He is likely to face action after returning from South Africa.
Having got noticed at the most famous cricket competition of our times, these players will now have to handle the pressure of expectations apart from unknown conditions in IPL II.