The IPL roars back this Sunday in the UAE, more than four months after being halted by the coronavirus pandemic in India. These are the players to watch …
Imran Tahir (Chennai Super Kings)
The Proteas spinner is the oldest player in the IPL at 42 but will play a central role for the Chennai Super Kings on slow and turning UAE pitches.
With his flowing mane of hair, trademark headband and a celebration longer than a pace bowler’s run-up, Tahir is a feisty character with a mesmerising googly.
After being left out of South Africa’s T20 World Cup squad, Tahir complained that he deserved “a little more respect” and will be determined to prove that his country made the wrong decision during the remainder of the IPL.
Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
The RCB skipper will have a point to prove as his team bids to win the IPL for the first time, especially after his decision to relinquish India’s T20 captaincy after the World Cup.
His decision gives a twist to the unspoken rivalry with Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma, who is expected to succeed Kohli as India T20 captain.
Kohli, who has not won a major white-ball title with India, was having an average IPL before the break with 198 runs from seven matches – though his tally did include a match-winning 72.
Bangalore are third on the log and there will be close analysis of the leadership skills of “King Kohli”, who will remain in charge of India’s Test and ODI teams.
Eoin Morgan (Kolkata Knight Riders)
England’s World Cup-winning captain has proved his worth as a leader in white-ball cricket, but it will need a special effort to lift the struggling Kolkata Knight Riders into the IPL playoffs.
Kolkata are seventh on the eight-team log and left-hander Morgan has seen his side win only twice while scoring just 98 runs in seven outings. Australia pace bowler Pat Cummins is not coming back to help with the campaign.
Morgan is one of only two overseas captains left in the IPL with New Zealand’s Kane Williamson at the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
He turned 35 on 10 September and KKR paid tribute with epithets such as “Captain Fantastic. Captain Reliable. Captain Marvellous”.
But international spinner Kuldeep Yadav has gone public over the lack of communication in the Kolkata team, adding to the pressure to find a winning recipe.
Rashid Khan (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
When the Taliban were completing their takeover of war-torn Afghanistan last month, 22-year-old spin wizard Rashid Khan was rattling opposition batsmen in the inaugural edition of The Hundred tournament in England.
One of the hottest properties in international cricket, Rashid showed his temperamental side when stepped down as Afghanistan’s skipper for not being consulted on the World Cup squad.
He remains crucial to the Sunrisers Hyderabad’s hopes of getting off the bottom of the IPL table. The leg-spinner, who has Mohammad Nabi, the new Afghan captain, in the team, is now in his fourth season with Hyderabad and has taken 85 wickets in 69 IPL games.
Jasprit Bumrah (Mumbai Indians)
India’s “yorker king” Jasprit Bumrah goes back to IPL duty with the Mumbai Indians having led his country’s pace onslaught in England, claiming 18 wickets in the unfinished Test series led by the tourists 2-1.
With his distinct upright action, Bumrah (27) was spotted as a special talent by Mumbai scout John Wright in 2013.
Now partnered by New Zealand’s Trent Boult, Bumrah has bagged 115 wickets in 99 matches for the five-time champions, who are aiming for a third straight title when competition resumes.
© Agence France-Presse