West Indies legend, Curtly Ambrose, has re-added his voice to the call for an end to the preparation of ‘placid’ pitches throughout the Caribbean for international and regional cricket fixtures.

In the light of the recently concluded series against Sri Lanka, which ended with two drawn games, several former players and Windies coach Phil Simmons has expressed dissatisfaction with the surface prepared for the tour.

The debate has, however, raged on long before that, with Ambrose himself listed among those previously suggesting that many of the pitches prepared are too flat and offer little assistance to bowlers. 

The West Indies, Sri Lanka series has only added to the dissatisfaction.  In both Test matches, Sri Lanka, then the West Indies, the teams enjoyed comfortable leads headed into the final day but ended up doing very little to disturb the batsmen in the pursuit of wickets.

“I have seen local cricket played at Sir Viv Richards cricket stadium where you have grass on the pitch and the ball bounces and carries with good pace … so it’s not a situation where it cannot be done,” Ambrose told the Good Morning Jojo Radio show.

“I felt that the pitches were a little too flat and I’ve been saying this for years — we need to prepare better cricket pitches where the batsmen could play their strokes and the ball bounces a bit for the bowlers,” he added.

Roger Harper, Cricket West Indies’ Chief Selector has expressed concern over the productivity of opening partnerships for the West Indies but laments the fact that no one is really knocking at the door to be selected.

Captain Kraigg Brathwaite has had a welcome return to form with two Test half-centuries and a century in his last four Test matches but fellow opener John Campbell has not been inspiring much confidence with his performances.

The Jamaican has scores of 3, 23, 36, 18, 42, 11, 5, and 10 in his last four Tests. His last half-century, 68, was made in the second Test against New Zealand in December last year.

As a result, solid opening partnerships for the Caribbean side have been rare and this is a worry for Harper.

 “I think it has been a concern for a while. It was pleasing to see the captain get some big scores, but we need the partnership, on the whole, to be solid,” Harper said this past week on Mason and Guest.

But while Campbell has been struggling for form, Harper acknowledges that the batsman has been working hard to correct his flaws, like the ones that saw him get out in similar fashion in all four innings in the recently concluded series against Sri Lanka.

 “We were delighted to see Campbell applying himself and being more patient, but we need some more positive returns,” he said.

There are several players who could come in to bolster the batting but recent history does not offer much hope for success. Players like Shai Hope and Shayne Moseley are potential replacements; Hope especially who has shown a welcome return to form in the ODIs against Sri Lanka, but Test cricket is a different prospect for a player who has struggled in that format of the game.

Moseley, who has shown promise, is yet to demonstrate that he is ready after several failures.

“It is something we are looking at. We are looking at our best options. At the moment, from a red ball perspective, we don’t have enough openers who are knocking down the door in terms of performances,” he concluded.

 

Former Windies pace bowler, Richard 'Prof' Edwards, admits he is disappointed by what he believes to be the slow progress of promising pace bowler Alzarri Joseph.

The 24-year-old fast bowler has long been tipped to give West Indies the type of firepower typical of years gone by but is yet to completely deliver on that promise.

The young bowler has shown plenty of flashes of that prodigious talent.  He put in a strong performance against England, in 2019, and took a record-breaking six for 12 on his debut for Mumbai Indians.  Joseph has, however, not produced such performances consistently.  Joseph, who made his debut in 2016, has taken 38 Test wickets in 16 matches and 54 One Day International wickets in 34 matches.

“It’s disappointing that he does not seem to have gone on from the time he started until now, there doesn’t seem to be any great improvement,” Edwards told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“He seems to be bowling wide of the crease to right-handers, angling it.  He should get as close to the stumps as possible,” he added.

“He is not accurate, he had not been able to develop as much as you would have expected.  He is not a real swinger of the ball, he is athletic, he looks like he bowls pretty fast, but he is not doing much with the ball.”

 

Harshal Patel hit the winning run off the last ball after claiming a five-wicket haul as Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Mumbai Indians in a thrilling first game of the Indian Premier League.

Defending champions Mumbai collapsed from 94-1 after 11 overs to 159-9 after being put in by Virat Kohli, all-rounder Harshal taking 5-27 in Chennai on Friday and Chris Lynn top-scoring with 49.

Four wickets fell in the final over of the holders' innings at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, with Harshal claiming his maiden five-wicket T20 haul in the first match of his second spell with RCB following his Delhi Capitals exit.

Bangalore were cruising with Kohli (33) and new signing Glenn Maxwell (39) at the crease, but it was game on when they were 122-6 in the 17th over after losing four wickets for 24 runs.

AB de Villiers looked set to see them home, but RCB were left needing two off as many balls for victory when the maverick wicketkeeper-batsman was run out for 48.

Harshal held his nerve to take a single off the final delivery from IPL debutant Marco Jansen (2-28), sealing a dramatic two-wicket win for big-spending RCB.

Five-time champions Mumbai, bidding to become the first team to win the tournament three times in a row, were ultimately made to pay for scoring only 25 runs in the last four overs of their innings.

Late Harshal burst rocks Mumbai

The holders appeared set to post a challenging total with Indians debutant Lynn and Suryakumar Yadav at the crease after Rohit Sharma was run out for 19, but they capitulated in spectacular fashion.

Powerful new recruit Lynn struck three sixes as the Australian and Suryakumar (31) put on 70 for the second wicket before they were removed by Washington Sundar and big-money signing Kyle Jamieson (1-27) respectively.

Paceman Harshal then took centre stage, trapping Ishan Kishan lbw before dismissing Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard and Jansen in an incredible final over that ended with Rahul Chahar being run out. 

 

De Villiers delivers, Harshal the hero

Maxwell put on a show along with Kohli after Sundar and Rajat Patidar fell cheaply, clearing the rope twice.

The Australia all-rounder was on his way when he ramped Jansen to Lynn at short fine leg and the South African paceman struck for a second time in the 15th over to send Shahbaz Ahmed packing.

De Villiers made it advantage RCB as 15 runs came off the 18th over from Trent Boult and although he was run out by Krunal after hitting a couple of sixes in a brilliant 27-ball knock, Harshal ensured his innings was not in vain.

Indian Premier League matches could soon be held in London, according to city mayor Sadiq Khan.

Surrey, who play at The Oval, are in initial talks with IPL and BCCI authorities in India to explore the possibility.

Khan would like to see IPL matches in London and later the rest of England after similar moves were made by the big US sports leagues – the NFL, NBA and MLB – in holding competitive matches abroad.

County cricket clubs are exploring all options to make up lost revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Surrey are speaking to teams in India and colleagues in the BCCI and IPL," Khan said.

"The first step will be friendlies and exhibition matches. 

"We want to get them going, maybe even this year if we make progress as we are doing with the pandemic. It has to be Covid-safe, of course."

Khan is seeking re-election in London and sport is central to his vision of the city's future.

He added: "We have to bang the drum for our city, and sport is one way to do this.

"This is part of my plan to build a better London after the pandemic.

"I know Londoners are hungry to see more of the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant.

"With two of the world's greatest cricket grounds in Lord's and The Kia Oval, London is ideally placed to host IPL matches. 

"I know we can see our capital confirmed as the undisputed sporting capital of the world."

The 2021 edition of the IPL began on Thursday, as five-time champions the Mumbai Indians look to defend their title.

IPL matches being played outside India is not unprecedented. Last year, the whole tournament was played in the United Arab Emirates without spectators because of the pandemic.

The tournament was held in South Africa in 2009 and in the UAE for two weeks of the 2014 season, in both cases due to elections in India.

The second match of the inaugural CPL Esports Series saw Glenn Phillips of the Jamaica Tallawahs take on Andre Fletcher of the St Lucia Zouks at Sabina Park, and despite his claims to have never played Cricket19 before it was Phillips who emerged victorious in a stunning all-round display. 

Phillips was put in to bat by Fletcher and the New Zealander took control of a digital version of himself and he was out of the gate like a shot, making 30 runs off the first over on his way to a match-winning score.

Chadwick Walton fell early but the wicket of his opening partner did not slow Phillips down as he brought up a 10 ball fifty in the third over as he used his crease to make it difficult for the bowler to bowl to his plans. It was 105/1 at the end of the fourth over and a single from the first ball of the fifth got Phillips back on strike for the last five balls of the innings. 

Phillips continued to plunder runs from the last over, finishing on 80 (19) and leaving the Zouks a daunting 127 to win.

Fletcher got the Zouks chase underway with some fireworks as he took control of himself and smashed 26. He looked well set to match Phillips’ efforts, but a mistimed shot saw him caught at extra cover.

When Andre Russell had Rahkeem Cornwall caught and bowled in the next over it left the Zouks in trouble, and it got worse when Daren Sammy was out first ball.

Sandeep Lamichhane went even better than Russell when he picked up a hattrick, dismissing Mohammad Nabi, Roston Chase and Scott Kuggeleijn to leave the Zouks chase in tatters at 41/6.  

Some lusty blows from Chemar Holder brought some respectability to the Zouks total as he made 34 (7) but it was too little too late as the Tallawahs emerged winners by 28 runs.

 

Jose Mourinho and Gary Lineker led tributes from the football world to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, after his death at the age of 99 was announced.

Tottenham boss Mourinho broke off from answering football questions in a pre-match news conference, saying the loss of the husband of Queen Elizabeth II would be felt far beyond British shores.

The Portuguese head coach said: "I’m sorry, I will answer your question. I just read some sad news about Prince Philip. I would like to express my condolences to the Royal Family and to be very honest, and say I have deep, deep, deep, the utmost respect for the Royal Family.

"I believe that it is not just this country that is going to be sharing these feelings, because I'm not English and I know that many like myself will have the utmost respect."

Mourinho, who has spent much of his coaching career in England, added: "I feel sad for the departure of Prince Philip on a personal basis, because I have only positive feelings for the meaning of the family. I feel very sorry. But unfortunately his life ends and we have to keep going."

Former England striker Lineker, now a renowned broadcaster, wrote on Twitter: "Sorry to hear that Prince Philip has passed away. Served this country over many, many decades. Sincerest condolences to Her Majesty, The Queen and The Royal Family. RIP Prince Philip."

The Premier League said it was "deeply saddened" by the news, adding: "As a mark of respect, players will wear black armbands and there will be a minute's silence before kick-off at all Premier League matches played tonight and across the weekend."

The Football Association, which the duke served as president from 1955 to 1957, said it felt "Immense sadness".

The FA asked royal and government authorities whether football should be allowed to continue this weekend and was given the green light.

"Following the sad passing of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the FA has sought guidance from the Royal Household and Her Majesty's Government," the FA said. "We can confirm all football fixtures this evening and over the weekend (10-11 April) can continue at the discretion of competition organisers.

"The FA will be recommending that black armbands are worn and a minute's silence is observed before matches are played, including tonight's England women's international fixture in France. As a mark of respect, all flags at Wembley Stadium and St George's Park will fly at half-mast and the Wembley arch will also be lit."

Organisers of Saturday's Grand National said the race would go ahead at Aintree, preceded by a two-minute silence on the course, with "jockeys invited to wear black armbands".

Wimbledon, London's tennis grand slam, said it wished to "convey our deepest sympathy to Her Majesty The Queen and The Royal Family".

Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan and former captain of his country's cricket team, wrote on Twitter: "My condolences on the demise of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Britain has lost a wise elder who was imbued with a unique spirit of public service. His role in promoting Pakistan-UK relations will always be remembered."

Prince Philip was a two-time former president of the MCC and a noted cricket enthusiast, playing what was described as an "instrumental" role in introducing trophies for winners of the County Championship.

Ian Watmore, chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board, said: "I'm sure I speak for the entire cricket family when I say how sad I am to hear of the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh.

"His passion for the game we all love was well known and the trophies presented to the men's and women's county champions are a tribute to his dedication to our sport. We owe him a great debt for his support and passion over many decades."

Depleted South Africa will have to do without new captain Temba Bavuma as they look to quickly bounce back from ODI disappointment in a four-match Twenty20 series against Pakistan.

The Proteas went down by 28 runs in a high-scoring decider in the third and final one-dayer on Wednesday, coming up short in their run chase after the tourists had posted 320-7.

Bavuma suffered a strained hamstring while batting and will not be available for the first T20 contest on Saturday, which takes place at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg and will play no part in the series.

Heinrich Klaasen will lead the Proteas in the absence of batsman Bavuma, while the in-form Rassie van der Dussen is undergoing treatment on a quad muscle strain and Dwaine Pretorius misses out with a fractured rib.

Reeza Hendricks is also absent following the recent birth of his first child, with Quinton de Kock, David Miller, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje playing in the Indian Premier League.

Aiden Markram, Andile Phehlukwayo, Daryn Dupavillon and Wiaan Mulder have been retained from the ODI squad.

Pakistan, meanwhile, will be hoping for further white-ball success, having come out on top by a 2-1 scoreline when they hosted their opponents in T20 action earlier this year.

They have added Fakhar Zaman to their squad following his outstanding form in the 50-over fixtures on South African soil.

The opening batsman followed up his 193 in a losing cause in the second game last Sunday with a crucial knock of 103 in the winner-takes-all showdown, with back-to-back centuries moving him up to number 12 in the ICC rankings.

However, Shadab Khan is ruled out due to a fractured toe. The all-rounder will be sidelined for a month, meaning he will also miss the upcoming tour to Zimbabwe. Zahid Mahmood has been named as his replacement for the T20 games on that trip.

 

Opportunity knocks in absence of Proteas stars

South Africa have failed to win their last five series' in the shortest format and you have to go back to the 2019 whitewash of Sri Lanka for their last triumph.

Miller was man of the series in that 3-0 triumph but the dangerous batsman is among the key absentees for the Proteas' next assignment.

With a T20 World Cup to come in India this year, the players who get their opportunity must grasp it and stake a claim for a place in the squad.

Will Fakhar get his chance?

The left-hander's twin hundreds boosted his career average in ODI action to 49.17. However, his T20 record at the highest level is not so hot, as he has averages 22.05 in his previous 40 appearances.

Pakistan are not short of options to bat at the top of the order, either. Captain Babar Azam has tended to open the innings, while Mohammad Rizwan scored a century - just his country's second in the format - when batting there in the home series against South Africa earlier this year.

Former West Indies fast bowler turned analyst, Richard ‘Prof’ Edwards, believes batsman Kyle Mayers could blossom into a genuine all-rounder for the regional team, buts needs to consider shedding a few pounds.

The 28-year-old has had a splendid start to his Test cricket career for the West Indies, bursting on stage with 210 on debut against Bangladesh.  The innings helped lay the foundation for an expected away series win and catapulted the player into the spotlight. 

In the recently concluded Test series against Sri Lanka, he again garnered some attention this time with the ball. His brisk medium pace accounted for batsman Oshada Fernando and later Dinesh Chandimal at a crucial period on the third day of the opening Test.  The wickets were the first of his international career.  Overall, Mayers ended with 28 overs, 13 maidens, and four wickets.   On the back of such displays, Edwards believes the player could have the makings of a solid all-rounder.

“He did well.  He was a surprise package to the Sri Lankans.  They didn’t expect him to get the ball to swing and by the time they realized it was too late and he had wickets,” Edwards said in assessing the player’s performance on the Mason and Guest radio program.

“I’m saying that if he goes on and develops his bowling, he won’t trick batsmen as early as that again and he would have to consistently bowl well, but he can, he has the natural ability to bowl.  However, he has to lose about 25 pounds.  He is too young to have all that weight carrying around on him,” he added.

“He is a big strong guy, but he has got to drop 20 pounds at least.  He will bowl faster and he would be the genuine all-rounder in the side.  We wouldn’t be looking to get four overs out of him or five overs but he would be a fellow you can throw the ball to when you are looking to get wickets in a spell of eight overs are so.”  

 

Following the recently concluded 0-0 Test series between the West Indies and Sri Lanka, the first nearly since the nil-all stalemate between Bangladesh and South Africa in 2015, West Indies head coach Phil Simmons, believes Caribbean curators need to prepare better pitches, ones that can yield results.

The two sides battled to the two-Test stalemate in which some batsmen filled their boots but more often than not the bowlers struggled to get 20 wickets. In the first of the Test matches played at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Sri Lanka failed to get 20 wickets in the match as the West Indies had scores of 271 and 236-4.

The local bowlers had early success bowling Sri Lanka out for 169 only to toil as the visitors scored a mammoth 476 in the second innings. In the second Test, West Indies made 354 and 280-4 while Sri Lanka had scores of 258 and 193 for 2.

In both matches, batting became much easier for both teams while the bowlers struggled.

The trend was not lost on the West Indies head coach.

“I think we from a country standpoint need to get better wickets where we can have Test matches that will create a result,” he said.

“Even if we lost a Test match after it’s gone to the fifth day, you will still think that we’ve done well to get to the fifth day and were in with a chance of winning the Test match, so I think that’s an important part of it.”

Notwithstanding the struggles of his bowling attack, Simmons said he was comfortable with what he has now.

“We had the bowlers there who we wanted to be in the Test team,” he said.

“Everybody else is still work in progress and still looking to put themselves in contention so right now these five bowlers are our main bowlers.”

 

West Indies chief of selectors, Roger Harper, has revealed that the panel remains in the dark regarding the future of spinner Sunil Narine who remains unavailable for selection.

The 32-year-old Narine is widely regarded as one of the best spinners in the world but has not appeared for the West Indies since 2019.  In total, Narine has played 6 Test matches, where he claimed 21 wickets, 65 One Day Internationals, where he has claimed 92 wickets, and 51 T20 Internationals where he has taken 52.

The player has, however, throughout his career been plagued by questions surrounding his bowling action.  In 2015, Narine was suspended from bowling in international cricket, after his action was deemed to be illegal.  He was reported during the ODI series against Sri Lanka.  He was cleared a year later after doing remedial work on his action.  Narine was reported again during the 2018 Pakistan Super League but was cleared soon after.  Again, in October 2020, the spinner was reported by on-field umpires for his bowling action in the 2020 Indian Premier League, which was cleared by IPL Suspect Bowling Action Committee in September.

According to Harper, at this point, the bowler does not seem comfortable enough with his technique to return to international cricket.

“Sunil Narine has indicated to us that he is not yet ready for the international scene,”
 Harper told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“He was still in the process of fine-tuning his action.  He had some issues with that so he is in the process of fine-tuning it,” he added.

“So, when he makes himself available and thinks that he is ready for international cricket, we will then have to make a determination at that point.”

Legendary West Indies fast bowler, Curtly Ambrose, believes the team could have been more aggressive in going for the win against Sri Lanka in the second and final Test but admitted to being pleased with the strides the team had made.

In the end, West Indies and Sri Lanka played to a 0-0 Test series draw with neither team really able to press home advantages at various stages in both matches.  In a reversal of fortunes, it was the West Indies who had headed into the final day of the final Test with a big lead and looking to put the pressure on the visitors.  The team, however, managed to take two wickets as Sri Lanka closed the day on 193 for 2.  Ambrose, however, believes the West Indies did not give themselves enough time to win the game.

“I think that we didn’t show enough intent to try and win that game. We batted too long in my opinion, we took too long to score the runs which means we didn’t have enough time to bowl out Sri Lanka on a very placid surface and I thought that the urgency in getting those quick runs wasn’t there. We batted too long,” Ambrose told the Antigua Observer.

During the second innings, with team captain Kraigg Brathwaite anchoring the unit on the third day, Ambrose believes the batting line-up should have been re-tooled in an attempt to score more quickly.

“We know the captain Kraigg Brathwaite isn’t going to take an attacker path. He is one of those guys who are going to bat for long and accumulate his runs and nothing is wrong with that,” Ambrose added.

“Kyle Mayers we know will go on the attack but I thought that later on after Kyle Mayers got out, we should have at least sent Jimbo [Rahkeem Cornwall] or Alzarri Joseph ahead of Da Silva to get some quicker runs so we could have enough time after the declaration to try and bowl out Sir Lanka. Sending Da Silva to me wasn’t a good move at that particular stage.”

Ambrose insisted, however, that there were several positives to be taken from the display.

“You can see that the guys are putting a lot more thought into the cricket which is very good to see. They have been patient, they try to construct their innings in terms of the batting and even in the bowling department, you could see they were really trying to bowl in good areas and not just trying to get a wicket every ball."

Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam produced more brilliance to help Pakistan seal a 2-1 ODI series win over South Africa on Wednesday.

Pakistan won the decisive third ODI by 28 runs at Centurion.

They set South Africa a target of 321 after Fakhar (101) followed up his memorable innings of 193 last time out – an ODI record score in a run chase – with another century.

Pakistan captain Babar scored a century at this venue in the first ODI and almost repeated the trick before falling for 94, while Hasan Ali smashed 32 from 11 balls as the tourists scored 320-7.

Janneman Malan (70), Kyle Verreynne (62) and Andile Phehlukwayo (54) ensured South Africa – who were playing without their Indian Premier League contingent – were competitive in their run chase.

But they were ultimately bowled out for 292 in the final over as Pakistan continued a fine ODI streak that has seen them lose only two of their last 12 matches.

It is only the second time in 10 attempts that Pakistan have defeated South Africa in a 50-over series, this win coming after their triumph on the 2013 tour.

The two teams now turn their attention to a four-match T20 series which begins on Saturday.

With an all-new seam attack due to the absence of the likes of IPL duo Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, South Africa struggled to make an impression with the ball.

Fakhar had nine fours and three sixes as he put on 112 with Imam-ul-Haq (57) and then 94 with Babar to leave the tourists at 206-2 by the time his 104-ball innings came to an end.

He was dismissed by Keshav Maharaj, the pick of the Proteas bowlers with figures of 3-45.

The Pakistan innings had a huge finish when Hasan fired four maximums off the bowling of JJ Smuts (1-67) in the penultimate over.

Babar remained until he fell on the final delivery, caught by Verreynne on the boundary as he sought a six that would have taken him to three figures.

South Africa were left needing 76 from the last seven overs with five wickets in hand.

But their hopes of a successful run chase ended when they lost both Verreynne and Phehlukwayo – who put on 108 for the sixth wicket – in the space of seven balls.

It meant defeat for new captain Temba Bavuma, who has been handed the job through to the 2023 Cricket World Cup, in his first series at the helm.

Ryan Harris believes "natural leader" Rishabh Pant can guide Delhi Capitals to a maiden Indian Premier League title.

Pant was appointed as Capitals captain last month after Shreyas Iyer was ruled out of the tournament due to a shoulder injury.

India sensation Pant has emerged as one of the most dangerous batsmen in the world and will start the IPL in outstanding form, having dished out some brutal treatment to the England Test and limited-overs attacks.

Harris saw Pant's captaincy credentials when he was Delhi's bowling coach for their run to the final of the 2020 IPL, which they lost to the Mumbai Indians.

The former Australia paceman says the 23-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman can thrive on the responsibility of being skipper.

He told Stats Perform News: "Obviously it's a blow to lose Shreyas, but Rishabh is a natural leader and a great competitor.

"He was already doing a lot of leading when I was over in Dubai last year for the tournament. There were times when Shreyas was fielding on the boundary, so Rishabh was taking on responsibility then.

"He's a bit talker and an outspoken character. It's not something he will be coming into blind and he will relish it.

"Rishabh is a natural leader, a popular member of the squad and he was an obvious choice to step up as captain and he should be massively confident following some brilliant performances against Australia and England."

The Capitals will have a potent bowling attack once again, with South Africa duo Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje retained along with Ishant Sharma and the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin.

Harris feels this could be the year for Delhi, who have also recruited prolific Australia batsman Steve Smith, to claim an elusive first IPL crown.

"They have a few of the best fast bowlers in the world in that squad and if they can stay fit, they can have a really good tournament again," he said.

"Rabada and Nortje were outstanding last year and they have also added Tom Curran. Ashwin and [Amit] Mishra are great spin options and the batting line-up is strong, so they have a good chance."

The Capitals face Chennai Super Kings in their first match of the tournament on Saturday.

The Indian Premier League is back on home soil as the 14th season of the Twenty20 tournament begins on Friday.

Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 edition was not only delayed until late in the year but also transported away from India, with the United Arab Emirates hosting proceedings.

There was still one constant, however. Mumbai Indians once again came out on top, making it three titles in four years. The reigning champions will take some stopping again this time around, but their rivals will hope some fresh faces can help a different name secure the trophy.

Ahead of a new campaign, Stats Perform News makes use of Opta data to pick out six intriguing players who will hope to make a difference for their franchises in the coming weeks, as well as capitalise on the opportunity to impress with a Twenty20 World Cup to come in India later in 2021.


Kyle Jamieson (Royal Challengers Bangalore)

Boom or bust? Bangalore paid a premium in a three-way bidding war to get Jamieson, who became the second-most expensive player purchased at this year's auction, eventually going for 15 crores (around $2million).

The Royal Challengers went all in betting on the potential of a player who, while still in the early stages of his international career, has impressed in all formats for New Zealand. He had played just four T20 games for the Black Caps at the time – and has since endured a tough series against Australia on home soil, during which there was just one wicket at an average of 175.

Jamieson has been one of the top performers for his country in Tests, picking up 36 wickets at a staggering average of 13.27 since his debut against India last year. There have been eye-catching performances at domestic level in T20 outings – he claimed figures of 6-7 for Canterbury.

The pressure will be on to live up to the hefty fee in his first taste of the IPL, while it should help his cause that he can contribute with the bat down the order, too.

Dawid Malan (Punjab Kings)

The numbers do not lie – Malan averages 50.15 in T20 action for England, scoring his runs at a strike-rate of 144.31 runs per 100 balls. His performances have him perched at the top of the ICC batsman rankings, comfortably clear of nearest rival Aaron Finch at the summit.

And yet, for all that the left-hander has achieved, there still remains the odd doubter over his fit in England's XI, particularly as he has often built momentum through an innings, rather than putting the pedal to the floor immediately like so many of his international team-mates.

Still, in the recent series against India, Malan was the third-highest scorer with 148 runs. That tally included 68 in the decider when he showed how he is more than capable of going on the attack from the off.

Despite the impressive numbers, Punjab Kings had no competition to secure Malan's services at the auction. He now joins a franchise who has to deal with a logjam when it comes to top-order batsmen, considering the presence of captain KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Chris Gayle on the roster. 

Moeen Ali (Chennai Super Kings)

The England all-rounder was one of 10 players released by Royal Challengers Bangalore, having featured in only six games in 2020 as the franchise endured yet another disappointing campaign.

However, considering his ball-striking capabilities and capacity to have an impact with the ball, it was hardly surprising to see him find a new home in the auction. Now he is a member of a Chennai Super Kings franchise that has freshened things up after failing to make the play-offs for the first time in their history.

Moeen managed 309 runs and claimed 10 wickets in 2020, posting an economy rate of 7.1 runs per over, but did RCB get the most out of a player whose career IPL strike-rate sits at 158.5 runs per 100 deliveries? The 33-year-old has excelled up the order in the English domestic T20 competition, capitalising on more regular opportunities with two hundreds and 13 half-centuries.

It was perhaps surprising to see him not used in the recent five-match T20 series by England too, considering his off-spin bowling would have added a different dimension to the attack. In T20I games played in India, Moeen has an economy rate of 7.8 runs per over – that is his best in any country where he has played three or more times.

Rahul Tewatia (Rajasthan Royals)

Tewatia had made 20 IPL appearances combined across the previous five seasons before becoming a regular in 2020 with the Royals, who secured the all-rounder via a trade with the Delhi Capitals.

A left-handed batsman who also bowls leg-spin, the 27-year-old had made his debut with the same team back in 2014, then also spent a season with Kings XI Punjab (now rebranded as Punjab Kings) in 2017. However, Tewatia finally fitted in with Rajasthan last year, including claiming 10 wickets in 14 matches while going at a respectable economy rate of 7.08 runs per over.

It was his batting exploits, however, that raised his profile – and one innings in particular against Kings XI. Having laboured to 17 from 23 deliveries in a run chase, he then proceeded to hit six of the next seven he faced over the boundary. The stunning spell of hitting included five maximums in an over off West Indies paceman Sheldon Cottrell, as he helped his team reach a target of 224. 

While picked in India's T20 squad to play against England, Tewatia did not feature in the series. Still, his ball striking – he scored at a strike-rate of 160.3 against pace in the last IPL, with a boundary strike-rate of 19 per cent – could lead to international opportunities in the future.

Shahrukh Khan (Punjab Kings)

To say the IPL auction was a life-changing moment for Shahrukh is an understatement. The 25-year-old batsman eventually went to the big-spending Punjab Kings – who out-bid Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore – for over 50 times his base price, a hefty sum based on his big-hitting potential.

Shahrukh's domestic Twenty20 record is underwhelming, but teams were interested after his exploits for Tamil Nadu in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, including 40 from just 19 balls in a quarter-final against Himachal Pradesh.

Kings head coach Anil Kumble has been suitably impressed by the new signing during practice sessions ahead of this year's competition, even heaping a little extra pressure on the right-hander's shoulders by saying he sees similarities to Kieron Pollard.

If Shahrukh can translate his domestic results to the IPL stage, it will help balance out a batting line-up that lacked depth, even with KL Rahul finishing as the leading run-scorer in 2020.

Abdul Samad (Sunrisers Hyderabad)

At 19, Samad looks a real prospect in white-ball cricket, having become just the fourth cricketer from Jammu and Kashmir to earn an IPL contract when picked up by the Sunrisers in 2020.

A first IPL experience did not have eye-popping numbers in terms of his overall output, finishing with 111 runs in 12 matches. However, a top score of 33 against the Delhi Capitals showcased his talent, including taking 14 runs off three deliveries from South Africa paceman Anrich Nortje.

The right-hander finished up with a strike rate of 170.76 for the season, aided by a boundary strike-rate of 21.5 per cent. 

Hyderabad have tended to front-load their batting line-up, though the absence of all-rounder Mitchell Marsh – the Australian has pulled out of the 2021 season for personal reasons, with opener Jason Roy signed as a replacement – may benefit Samad, if he is given the chance to continue in a middle-order role.

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