The Indian Premier League’s ‘Emerging Player of the Year’ award has held other titles in the past. In 2008, it was the ‘best under-19 player’ – and in 2009 and 2010 the ‘Under-23 Success of the Tournament’.
In 2011 and 2012, it then became ‘Rising Star of the Year’ – and in 2013 ‘Best Young Player of the Season’. Whether ‘Emerging Player of the Year’, which arrived in 2014, is retained in the future remains to be season. No matter the name, though, the overall award has hosted some illustrious recipients.
Rajpoot or bust
For this year’s tournament, there are some early contenders, or at least those who are worth keeping an eye on. Kings XI Punjab recruit Ankit Rajpoot boasts abundant talent – and could be a real treat on the cricketing eye if or when he eventually tucks into some solid form.
If you’re looking to talent from abroad, though, then West Indies star Shimron Hetmyer is the way to go. He fell for a duck on debut for the Royal Challengers Bangalore – and will be hard pressed to impress in a batting order that used to feature Shane Watson and Chris Gayle and currently has Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. Hetmyer effectively made a name for himself in the Caribbean Premier League and is keen to continue that repute across the ocean.
The hard-hitting left-hander banged out a fine century against England earlier this year, when the Kensington Oval in Barbados witnessed his outstanding prowess. He was particularly fruitful against Ben Stokes, who he will probably encounter when the Royal Challengers meet the Rajasthan Royals sometime soon enough.
Raw talent Rana
Lest we forget Nitish Rana, who hails from Delhi, but plays for the Kolkata Knight Riders – and previously had a stint with the Mumbai Indians. With cricketing maturity beyond his 25 years, Rana is more than holding his own in a star-studded line-up. Rana sliced and diced his way to a cavalier 63 against the Kings XI Punjab in late March. The cameo spanned a mere 34 deliveries – and featured seven sixes. He outperformed Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell and other more fancied names by a long shot that day at Eden Gardens – one of the most daunting venues to display big match temperament.
Over to the bowlers
Sticking with the Kings XI Punjab theme, but moving away from the batsmen and onto the bowlers, a star has been born in Mujeeb Ur Rahman. While he still has to live in the shadow of fellow Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan somewhat, the 18-year-old is forging a successful career, quickly. He has plenty of variations and doesn’t seem too rushed to deliver them all. He is happy to hold some back and offer others when the moment is right. It’s this sort of guile and bravery that is needed in high-stakes competition like the Indian Premier League. He has a huge career ahead of him – and long may it continue.