Over & Out: What happens to bright young IPL stars, once the heroics fade?
Meet 10 cricketers who soared to stardom, stayed aloft for just a few games or a few seasons, then slipped back into oblivion.Updated: Sep 27, 2020, 10:20 IST
The very nature of the Indian Premier League (IPL) — its glamour, the viewership it attracts, the high-octane games — means that it has a great propensity to turn unknown cricketers into overnight sensations. This does not mean that the players came out of nowhere; many ‘overnight stars’ have come up painstakingly through the usual route — the grind! — of age-group and first-class cricket. But it’s the IPL that gets them seen. Not just by fans; a good IPL show has increasingly become a route to national call-up.
Every so often, though, the heroics turn out to be fleeting, and the momentary stars blend back into oblivion.
Here are 10 cricketers who soared to stardom on the rocket ship called the IPL; some stayed aloft for just a few games; some for a season; some floated around for a few seasons. Some even rode the wave to make their unlikely ambitions of playing for India come true. But all 10 soon enough dropped back off the map. What are they doing now? How do they look back at those unforgettable hours under the floodlights? Take a look.
Five-match wonder:PAUL VALTHATY
Those were the days of questionable loyalties. Only 11 days had passed since India won the 2011 World Cup when Mahendra Singh Dhoni arrived in Mohali with his Chennai Super Kings squad to take on hosts Kings XI Punjab. There was little doubt over which side (or player, rather) the packed PCA Stadium was going to root for.
Dhoni justified every bit of this craze with a 20-ball 43, as CSK posted 188/4 batting first. Two towering sixes from the World Cup-winning captain’s bat also ensured that the crowd received their money’s worth right in the first 20 overs.
Until, in the second half of the game, a boy who had never played first-class cricket, decided to make Dhoni’s heroics a mere footnote that evening.
That was the power of Paul Valthaty, and his unbeaten 63-ball 120 — an innings that made not just Punjab but cricket fans around India sit up and take notice. Well, at least for that evening. Valthaty’s only IPL hundred remains the icing on the cake of an incredible individual season that saw him score 463 runs for KXIP. By the end of the year, it even handed the Mumbai boy a Ranji Trophy debut with Himachal. But none of these highs really lasted.
A wrist injury followed and his first-class career ended after just five matches. While he was retained by KXIP for the following season, Valthaty scored just 30 runs in 2012. And when the returns turned to single figures in 2013, he slid back into the abyss.
“Personally, I find it amusing when people look at my career with pity,” he said in one HT interview. “To be fair, there are many others who would want to live what I have lived, those heady moments of success. After all, how many have managed to hit a match-winning century against Chennai Super Kings and rack up so many runs in a season? There are kids who aspire to play IPL and look up to me, seek guidance. That gives me satisfaction. ” Valthaty, 36, is employed with Air India and runs a cricket academy in Mumbai.
Seasons: 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013
Why we remember him: Playing for Kings XI Punjab, he scored 120* off 63 balls against the Chennai Super Kings in 2011. This is the ninth-highest individual score in the IPL.
Flash in the pan: SWAPNIL ASNODKAR
The inaugural edition of the IPL was possibly the greatest underdog story. Not only for rank outsiders Rajasthan Royals winning the tournament under the astute leadership of Shane Warne, but also for the sudden rise of their opener, Swapnil Asnodkar.
There was little about Asnodkar’s reputation that would’ve screamed ‘threat’ to the opposition teams. He stood 5’5” and emerged from the cricketing backwaters of Goa. Yet, he went on to forge an opening partnership with Graeme Smith that has since become part of IPL lore.
Asnodkar’s 311 runs in the season, at a strike rate of 133.47, laid the strongest foundations for the likes of Shane Watson and Yusuf Pathan to build on. The Goan’s hard-hitting style made him an ideal T20 specialist, and his leading performance with RR even earned him a berth in the emerging Indian team’s tour of Israel.
“If you’re not doing well in T20s, the pressure keeps haunting you, and you either succumb or do well,” Asnodkar said in an interview with Wisden. “Luck plays a major role too. Things didn’t go my way in the second season.”
They didn’t, and life simply didn’t pan out the way it was supposed to. He played three more IPL editions, two of them ending with single-digit returns. He continued to play for Goa and was their leading scorer in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy, with 369 runs in six matches. The 36-year-old is now a coach in Goa.
Seasons: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
Why we remember him: In the inaugural 2008 edition, he scored 311 runs at 34.95 with a strike rate of 133.47 for the champions RR.
A different pitch: MANPREET GONY
“Those were the days,” Manpreet Gony says wistfully, speaking of his time in the inaugural edition of the IPL, in 2008. For the then-unknown fast bowler from Punjab, they truly were.
In a Chennai Super Kings side that featured the likes of Muttiah Muralitharan and Makhaya Ntini, Gony’s performance towered over the rest. The 6’3” fast bowler took 17 wickets that season, the joint highest for CSK (along with Albie Morkel) and the fourth-best haul in the league.
Gony’s season-long consistency earned him an India call up for a tour of Bangladesh and for the Asia Cup in Pakistan, where he made his debut against Hong Kong. “I never expected that I would play for India, but I was destined to play just two games for the country,” says the 36-year-old.
Gony’s IPL career didn’t wither away quite as quickly as his international career did. He played in six more IPL editions — for the Deccan Chargers, KXIP and Gujarat Lions as well — until as recently as 2017. But despite having played three consecutive seasons for CSK, he is still remembered for his first season. The Chandigarh-based Gony retired from professional cricket last year, but continues to play franchise cricket all over the world. In 2019, he featured in the Canada T20 Global League and Qatar T20 League and later this year will also play in the Lankan T20 Premier League.
Seasons: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2017
Why we remember him: In the CSK team of 2008, Gony took 17 wickets in 16 games – the team’s joint-highest tally along with South Africa’s Albie Morkel, and the fourth-highest overall.
A fresh kind of catch: KAMRAN KHAN
During the first of the coronavirus lockdowns in India, a 29-year-old man was stopped from bowling at a park in a Mumbai suburb. Residents didn’t know it was Kamran Khan, once the ‘next big thing’ of Indian fast bowling. “When they protested, I drove all the way back to Mau district in Uttar Pradesh to keep bowling. I will again try my luck at the IPL trials next season,” Khan says.
There was a time when no one could stop Khan from doing what he wanted on the field; not even some of the greatest batsmen in the world. In 2009, when the IPL was shifted to South Africa, Khan found himself in the defending champions Rajasthan Royals’ playing eleven after impressing captain Shane Warne in a practice game — not bad for a bowler who hadn’t yet played first-class cricket and was spotted by Rajasthan’s scouts at a tennis-ball tournament.
Warne is said to have been blown away by Khan’s raw pace and his ability to produce yorkers at will. Soon enough, the best of the Kolkata Knight Riders were about to be blown away by the left-arm pacer as well. At the scenic Newlands in Cape Town, a teenage Khan was entrusted by Warne to bowl the last over of the match and defend seven runs. He ended up creating history.
“Dada [Sourav Ganguly] was still at the crease to begin the last over. I got him out and conceded just six runs in the over, which forced the first ever Super Over,” he says. Khan bowled the Super Over too, dismissing Chris Gayle to win the match. That was the best it got for Khan.
A questionable bowling action coupled with fading form (3 wickets in 2010, none in 2011) ensured that he has played no IPL since. The spark that kickstarted his T20 career for Uttar Pradesh led nowhere as well, after just two games. The money from the IPL was invested wisely, though, in a now-flourishing fishery in Mau.
Seasons: 2009, 2010, 2011
Why we remember him: The RR player bowled the first super-over of the IPL, in 2009, and dismissed KKR’s Chris Gayle.
Back on home ground: SHADAB JAKATI
Goa, a state known for its frenetic love for football, made all the right noises on cricket’s biggest stage in the first two seasons of the IPL. Almost seamlessly, Shadab Jakati took the torch held by Swapnil Asnodkar in the first season and lit up the second edition.
On the difficult wickets of South Africa in 2009, the left-arm spinner took 13 wickets in nine matches for CSK, including two four-fors. That tally was just one short of Muttiah Muraliatharan’s haul for the team in yellow. Murali was just doing what was expected of him, though, so it was Jakati who stole the credit for dragging his team into the semi-finals.
“When I got picked by the Chennai outfit, it was a dream come true,” he is quoted as saying in Sportstar. “It wasn’t easy to break into the big league like the IPL.”
Quite like state-mate Asnodkar, maintaining his success would prove to be harder than finding that elusive break. The IPL returned to India for the next season and CSK began relying heavily on men who would go on to become Test specialists — R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. By the time the 2015 season came about, Jakati went unsold in the auction. He had a much better showing for the Goa state team, where he is still revered as one of their most successful cricketers ever. He has 275 first-class wickets. The 39-year-old, now based in Goa, last played for that state at the 2018 Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy.
Seasons: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017
Why we remember him: At the 2009 edition in South Africa, he was crucial in Chennai Super Kings reaching the semi-finals. The left-arm spinner took 13 wickets in nine matches, including two four-fors.
Batting behind the scenes: LAXMI RATAN SHUKLA
Today, Laxmi Ratan Shukla is in a position of great importance. He is West Bengal’s Minister of State for Sports. Despite his flourishing second innings, Shukla remains bitter about his missed chances during his long life as a cricketer, where he was at one point the leading all-rounder in India’s thriving domestic scene. He was the kind of player who seemed a perfect fit for the IPL, but he never got much success in the league.
“I really wasn’t someone who would spend hours in the captain’s room. That didn’t help my case,” says the 39-year-old, offering his take on why he didn’t play more than three ODIs for India. “It could also be that one of the IPL franchises I played for was being led by someone who preferred another player in my position. Even when that player didn’t perform better than me in the domestic circuit.”
Shukla played for three IPL teams over eight years, the first six of those with KKR.
“I used to be a regular at KKR, and whatever opportunities I got, I think I executed my role well,” he says. “I would like to think that I played a part in KKR’s first IPL title in 2012. My runs [24 off 11] and the 56-run partnership with Yusuf Pathan [in four overs] in the semi-final against the Delhi Daredevils helped the team get to the final.”
Seasons: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Why we remember him: In 2012, Shukla scored 24 off 11 for KKR in the semi-final against Delhi Daredevils, helping his team get to the final.
New states of play: IQBAL ABDULLA
Iqbal Abdulla’s rags-to-riches tale begins in Azamgarh, UP, where his family ran a grocery store. He migrated to Mumbai as a teenager and lived with his coach as he struggled to make it in cricket, and ended up in the dressing room of the Kolkata Knight Riders. Along the way, the left-arm spinner left the herds on Mumbai’s maidans behind to break into the Ranji Trophy’s most storied team and even went on to win an Under-19 World Cup under Virat Kohli, where he was the team’s leading wicket-taker. But Abdulla’s finest hour, by far, was with KKR in 2011.
For three seasons he had been an understudy to Murali Kartik. When Kartik moved franchises, young Abdulla rose to the challenge. His loopy spin dazzled batsmen across teams, and his tally of 16 wickets was the most for a franchise that had made its first foray into the play-offs.
“I don’t like losing at all. Be it with my IPL team or Ranji Trophy or any other level,” he has been quoted as saying. “I try to never let down anyone with my performance.”
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. Abdulla’s form wavered not only for KKR in the next season, in 2012, but also for Mumbai. Soon he was trying his luck at the Rajasthan Royals and RCB in the IPL. In the Ranji, he moved from Mumbai to Kerala in 2016. The 30-year-old now plays for Sikkim.
Seasons: 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
Why we remember him: At the 2011 IPL, he returned with 16 wickets for Kolkata Knight Riders, the most for the team that season.
Waiting in the wings: PARVEZ RASOOL
Rasool is a man of many firsts. He is the first cricketer from Jammu & Kashmir to feature in the IPL, which eventually led to a call-up for the country — also a J&K first. But opportunities at Team India, the Pune Warriors, Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore were few and far between for the off-spinner.
Spanning four IPL seasons from 2013 to 2016, Rasool played just 11 matches, in which he scored 17 runs and took 4 wickets. “That was unfortunate. A player needs some amount of consistent backing. Getting dropped after one or two matches does not benefit any player’s confidence,” says Rasool.
It shouldn’t then come as a surprise that his fondest memory from the league has more to do with a compliment than a standout performance. “When I first played for RCB in 2016, Kohli praised me saying ‘Parvez was the pick of our bowlers today’,” he says.
Rasool now has a full-time job as a technical advisor in the J&K Sports Council. “I have to go to an office too,” he says, perhaps indicating that the 31-year-old’s window to reclaim a spot in the IPL is fast closing. But don’t count him out just yet, for when he plays for J&K in the Ranji Trophy, he often finds a way to beat the odds. Last year, Rasool played just six first-class games and still scored over 400 runs and took 31 wickets.
Seasons: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
Highest score: 10
Why we remember him: Rasool is the first cricketer from Jammu & Kashmir to play in the IPL.
Making a comeback: RAHUL SHARMA
The tall leg-break bowler from Punjab shot into the limelight at the 2011 IPL, after finishing the edition with 16 wickets for Pune Warriors, though he had played in the 2010 edition too, for the Deccan Chargers. During his first season in the IPL, he was diagnosed with a facial nerve dysfunction that affected his vision. He overcame it to return to cricket in incredible fashion. Just a fortnight after Sachin Tendulkar was carried around the Wankhede Stadium after winning the World Cup, India’s greatest batsman was dismissed by Sharma, playing for Pune. “When I dismissed Sachin Tendulkar, it created a flutter. I was even told I would be considered for the Test team,” he says.
Sharma enjoyed bowling against the Mumbai Indians that season. In the replay in Pune, he finished with figures of 2/7 in four overs, which all but guaranteed a short run with the Indian cricket team — he was seen as the leggie of choice in the Indian cricket team in late 2011 and 2012.
But during the 2012 IPL season, Sharma and South Africa’s Wayne Parnell were among the many who were detained by the Mumbai Police after a drug raid on a party. Both later tested positive for recreational drugs. “Unfortunately, that drug incident happened. It maligned my image and broke my confidence. Back and shoulder injuries further pulled me down,” says the 33-year-old. “My back was so bad in 2015 that I could barely walk. My morale was down and I went into a shell. Once I had believed I would be bowling alongside R Ashwin for India. Somehow things did not turn out that way.”
Last year, Sharma began a comeback project. “For two years I have worked hard with my trainer. I went to the National Cricket Academy and worked on my body. In January this year, I decided to not look back and just play,” Sharma says.
In March, he played for Punjab in a friendly T20 five-match series against Haryana and did well with the ball. “It was kind of a comeback for me. It felt great to be back on the ground. Unfortunately, due to Covid, cricket stopped. Nevertheless, I work on my fitness at home.”
Seasons: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Why we remember him: His figures of 4-0-7-2 against the Mumbai Indians were the most economical of the 2011 edition. He finished the tournament with 16 wickets.
A brief brilliance: MANVINDER BISLA
“Not all days can be the same,” Manvinder Bisla once said, and few players know this better than him. Bisla is the ultimate one-knock wonder. And the knock in question was struck in the final of an IPL season.
In the summit clash of 2012, KKR found themselves chasing a daunting 191 runs to win their first trophy, against the two-time defending champions CSK. Wicketkeeper Bisla faced the first ball of the chase, and simply didn’t look back, scoring a trophy-winning 89 off just 48 deliveries. His innings included five sixes and eight fours.
With the exception of Jacques Kallis, no other KKR batsman crossed the score of 11 but Bisla’s heroics ensured the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise their first title.
Bisla had decent success in the 2013 edition too, with 255 runs, but with every innings compared to 2012’s final, he found himself always coming up short. Bisla became a journeyman, playing for the Deccan Chargers, Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore, apart from KKR. The Haryana-based Air India employee, now 35, still turns up for club cricket games.
Seasons: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Why we remember him: In the 2012 final, he scored a match-winning 89 off just 48 deliveries for KKR, against CSK.