The threat of the pandemic had pushed back IPL 2020 indefinitely. But the wait is finally over. The thirteenth season of the beloved Twenty-20 league is here at long last. It is a bummer that the venue was moved away from India. Indians will have to settle for live broadcasts on the screen. But this would not be the first time for IPL to be hosted in UAE. Neither will its faraway venue alienate the Desi audience or lessen its broad appeal. After all, one of the unique charms of IPL is its truly multicultural diversity. So on that note, now would be a good time to get a rundown of the biggest international players we are excited to watch this year.
Pat Cummings (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Due to UAE quarantine rules, English and Australian players will likely not come on the playing field for the first round of matches. But when they do get around to it, all eyes will be on Cummings, the current Aussie co-vice-captain. KKR was his first IPL team back in 2014 before his reins changed hands. But they spent a whopping 15.5 crore INR to bring him back. Cummings deserves the tag of IPL 2019 auction’s most expensive player. He is an all-rounder and dubbed as Test Cricketer of The Year 2020. His runs at the England tour leading up to IPL has also been nothing short of phenomenal, with four total wickets from the three ODI and twin T20I matches. KKR’s big 15 crore purchase will prove to be a wise investment in bolstering their bowling lineup.
Faf du Plessis (Chennai Super Kings)
CSK fans were really thrown for a loop when domestic star Suresh Raina suddenly announced his exit from the current IPL season. It is not the end of the world for CSK, but Raina’s usual no. 3 slots will be a gaping void. As a ripple effect, the CSK batting order will certainly undergo a revision. While the likes of Dwayne Bravo are there for the middle order, former Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis might have to lead the attack alongside either Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, or MS Dhoni. Unfortunately, Faf has not seen much international cricket action for about half a year after the Australia tour in February. In that sense, the IPL ordeal will also be proving grounds for him.
Chris Gayle (Kings XI Punjab)
Chris Gayle is practically the poster boy for IPL. He has been the very face of the last generation’s T20. Above all, he is a batting hurricane with unmatched raw power on a good day. All of his numerous achievements can testify – the top net score in T20I, the highest number of T20 centuries held, fastest T20 century (off 30 balls!), the list goes on. To top it off, many of these records also echo in IPL, including the mantle of the only player to hit 300 centuries in league’s history. However, Gayle is also an aging giant; about to be 41 just a day after his opening IPL 2020 match with KXIP. But this way, it will be all the more fun to watch him send the ball flying across the stadium. Will his fading fire burn the brightest?
Steve Smith (Rajasthan Royals)
Steve Smith is often heralded as one of the top players of our time. He has delivered consistently good performance over the years. He also has an impressive Test batting averages. Unfortunately, he also got involved in the 2018 ball-tampering controversy. IPL, in a way, has been Smith’s rope back to his former glory. It was his comeback platform after his one-year ban ended in 2019. It was also his return to leadership when he slipped into the Rajasthan Royals skipper’s armband. Granted, that was a clutch decision in a time of leadership crisis. Smith will be starting as a proper skipper in the 2020 season. With the fervour to get his team to their second league trophy now stronger than ever, it will be intriguing to watch how things pan out in his quest as the helmsman.
While all of these heavyweight players work their cricket magic in the limelight, another spectrum of the IPL craze will be the young debutants. Josh Hazlewood for Chennai Super Kings, Tom Banton for Kolkata Knight Riders, and Sheldon Cottrell for Kings XI Punjab – all are promising youngsters eager to make their mark after their experienced trailblazing teammates from across the world, their imminent rise to fame will make for a very exciting watch.
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