While youngsters have been unimpressive this season, the spotlight has been grabbed by seasoned stars like Ashish Nehra & Sourav Ganguly, the latter leading his team to the top of the table for a brief period. HT photo
Rahul Sharma, Manish Pandey, Kamran Khan - do these names in the Pune Warriors line-up ring a bell? Had it not been for their IPL exploits, there's a likelihood they would have gone unnoticed.
Left-arm paceman Kamran was a Shane Warne find in the inaugural edition. Manish Pandey announced his arrival in spectacular fashion in the second edition in South Africa, becoming the first Indian centurion in the IPL. Leg-spinner Sharma might have had to slug it out for a few more years in domestic cricket had India selector, Mohinder Amarnath, not seen him in last year's IPL and included him in the country's limited-over squad.
A nice platform
The biggest novelty of this lucrative league is the platform it has provided to fresh faces. With sizeable viewership guaranteed, a good performance here means instant recognition. It's not just about being visible to millions, your mettle is being tested against some of the best in the business.
Little wonder, performances here are taken more seriously than in other local tournaments. If you can hook and pull Dale Steyn, and keep a certain AB de Villiers in check, your performance is sure to get noticed.
The fifth season is someway through, but the freshness of a stirring performance from a youngster is missing. No one has been able to recreate the magic of a Paul Valthaty, who hammered a 63-ball 120 for KXIP against CSK last year and was the sixth highest run-getter with 463 runs (14 games).
There have been a few cameos from youngsters like RR's Ashok Menaria, KXIP's Mandeep Singh and RCB's Mayank Agarwal. In three games, before the KKR vs RR tie, the three have aggregated 60, 68 and 66 runs, respectively with their highest scores being 40, 34 and 45, respectively. Not really eye-catching performances, but, if you were asked to name a few fresh faces in this edition of the IPL, the left-handed Menaria and the stocky stroke-player, Mandeep, could be good bets.
Former India chairman of selectors, Kiran More, who is a regular at the IPL games in Mumbai, is unimpressed: "So far, I haven't seen anyone who I can say is the player to watch out for."
Is it because the country's talent pool is exhausted given that this is the fifth season of the league? "This could be a pointer to the fact that there's not much depth at the grassroots level. On the other hand, someone like Saurabh Tiwary, the find of IPL-3, is also slipping.
"I am surprised. Only a few like Mandeep and Naman Ojha have shown promise, but nothing extraordinary," he said.
Former India spinner, Maninder Singh, too is not enthused by the talent on show. "No spinners, no pacers," he said, when asked whether any bowler had caught his attention. For him, only Harbhajan Singh has shown some signs of finding rhythm. The rest, he says, is average stuff.
While performances have been far and few, Maninder said pacer Harshal Patel has some potential. "He's got the rhythm and attitude. The other day, he slipped in his delivery stride, but got up and got on with his job."
As the league enters its 11th day, talent hunters are keeping their fingers crossed. The positive thing is, there is still time for the young guns to spring a surprise.