Chance for little known players to showcase talent

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is a stage for little-known Indians to showcase their skills in make-or-break situations before a world audience.

The sky is the limit for first-class cricketers adept in T20 format, like wicket-keeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha of the Kolkata Knight Riders, stylish strokeplayer Manish Pandey, pace bowler Vinay Kumar of Royal Challengers Bangalore, all-rounder Rajagopal Sathish of Mumbai Indians, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin of Chennai Super Kings and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla of Delhi Daredevils. Most of them are on the Indian probables list for World Cup T20.

Punjab medium-pacer Harmeet Singh used the opportunity to play under Adam Gilchrist in IPL 2009 and went on to become an integral part of Deccan Chargers's road to victory.

Two wickets (Rahul Dravid, Mark Boucher) and one catch (Vinay Kumar) in the final game catapulted him to the frontline.

Useful bowler

He is now a useful bowler in coach Darren Lehmann's unit for IPL 2010, when DC commences its title defence against KKR at the DY Patil stadium, Navi Mumbai on Friday.

For a youngster whose first-class debut happened last year, the opportunity to rub shoulders with likes of Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Herchelle Gibbs boosted his confidence and the handy medium-pacer is a regular in the IPL champion's line-up, operating with India's swing bowler R.P. Singh.

The absence of foreign players from New Zealand, West Indies and England for the initial phase in IPL's third edition is a golden opportunity for these talented youngsters to blossom into effective performers under a confident captain and stable team management.

New Zealander Brendon McCullum's non-availability offers Saha the chance to boost KKR's chances. An efficient performer behind the stumps, he is an attacking batsman high up the order.

Saha has in Sourav Ganguly a skipper who will back him, besides new coach Dav Whatmore known for his ability to get the best out of Asian players.

Attacking batting

The Bengal player's attacking batting will come in handy in the absence of powerful West Indian Chris Gayle.

DC will similarly miss West Indies pace bowler Kemar Roach, forcing Lehmann to distribute bowling responsibility among Purple Cap holder R.P. Singh, spinner Pragyan Ojha, Harmeet and the experienced Sri Lankan Chaminda Vaas.

Gilchrist's team is the defending champion, but the DC captain is aware of dramatic swings in form and fortunes where T20 cricket is concerned.

“Everyone starts with a clean slate in IPL,” said the Aussie, whose team moved from bottom place to champion in a year.

Similar situation

KKR finds itself in a similar situation this year, finishing eighth and last in IPl 2009, resulting in Whatmore's appointment as coach in place of John Buchanan and captaincy reins back in Ganguly's experienced hands.

He is clear about the task ahead. “It's all about delivering at the big stage. It's all about delivering in the middle for all teams in the world, all teams in the competition. It's the same for us.”

The Kolkata side is packed with experience and talent in Murali Karthik, Ajit Agarkar, Sri Lankans Angelo Matthews and Ajantha Mendis, Australian Brad Hodge and England's Owais Shah. Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Ashok Dinda, Rohan Gavaskar and Manoj Tiwary comprise the Bengal players.

Ganguly is aware of their strengths, so along with coach Whatmore, striking the right combination is the challenge.

The teams (from): DC: Adam Gilchrist (captain), Rohit Sharma, R.P. Singh, Pragyan Ojha, V.V.S. Laxman, Herchelle Gibbs, Andrew Symonds, Chaminda Vaas, Harmeet Singh, Ravi Teja, Rahul Sharma, T. Suman, Azhar Bilakhia, Anirudh Singh, Mohnish Mishra, Venugopal Rao, B. Sumanth, Arjun Yadav, Ashish Reddy. Coach: Darren Lehmann.

KKR: Sourav Ganguly (capt), Manoj Tiwary, Murali Karthik, Ajit Agarkar, Ishant Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, Ashok Dinda, Cheteshwar Pujara, Iqbal Abdulla, Angelo Matthews, Ajantha Mendis, Brad Hodge, Owais Shah, Charl Langeveldt, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Ganapathi Vignesh, Rohan Gavaskar, Mandeep Singh, Harshad Khadiwale. Coach: Dav Whatmore.

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