IPL 2021, UAE leg: 4 Players who could help teams cause a turnaround in form

The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 season will see its second phase start from September 19 onwards in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Earlier, the IPL 2021 season was played behind closed doors in India across limited venues. However, midway in the season, the BCCI suspended the tournament owing to COVID-19 hitting the IPL camp. The governing body decided on UAE as the host nation after they successfully hosted the tournament last season.

So far with half the tournament played, teams like Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings showed consistency and hold the top two spots. The Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians follow suit. The rest four teams – Punjab Kings, Rajasthan Royals, Kolkata Knight Riders, and Sunrisers Hyderabad haven’t been upto the mark and need a change of fortune to turn their respective campaigns around.

With a certain gap between the two phases forced by external factors, teams will need to start fresh and given this is the IPL, things can change quickly in no time. Ahead of an exciting second half coming up, we present the players who could play a role in causing a turnaround in the form for teams that are in a position of bother in terms of qualifying for the playoffs.

Shakib Al Hasan (KKR)

After playing the first couple of games, Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan was dropped to the bench in order to accommodate Sunil Narine. However, with Narine being ineffective and KKR in dire straits, the team management could bring Shakib back to the fold from the starting match itself. Shakib has been in the supreme form of late, playing a crucial role in Bangladesh’s T20I series win against Zimbabwe and Australia. He has also delivered the goods so far in the ongoing T20I series against New Zealand. Bangladesh have taken a 2-0 lead against a second-string Kiwi outfit and Shakib has shown his credentials. Shakib has raced to 106 T20I wickets at 20.22 and needs another two to become the highest wicket-taker in international T20Is. He has taken 14 wickets in his last 10 T20I matches, being economical as well.

Jonny Bairstow (SRH)

After an ordinary T20I series against Pakistan, England’s senior batter Jonny Bairstow played two games in The Hundred and smashed two half-centuries, Against India in the ongoing Tests, Bairstow has chipped in with useful contributions. He has got scores of 29, 30, 57, 2, 29, and 37. If Bairstow ends the series on a high, he will be confident going into the IPL. Bairstow, who made his IPL debut in 2019, scored 445 runs in 10 matches. In IPL 2020, he managed 345 runs in 11 games at 31.36. This season, the opening batter 248 runs in seven games at 41.33, SRH are a side that has struggled with the bat and Bairstow’s role becomes all the more important. If he gets going, it will be difficult to stop his run flow. Bairstow is a champion T20 performer and he can be lethal for the Orange Army.

Adil Rashid (Punjab Kings)

Punjab Kings have been highly inconsistent. If they are to make it to the playoffs, some key players may need to step up. With Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith unavailable, PBKS roped in senior England spinner Adil Rashid as one of the two replacement players. Rashid has plenty of experience in limited-overs cricket and is one of the leading performers for the Three Lions. The 33-year-old has 159 ODI wickets and 65 T20I scalps. He is the second-highest wicket-taker for England in T20Is. After spinning a web in the series against Pakistan, the experienced campaigner took 12 wickets in eight matches in The Hundred. Rashid has the dangerous googly up his sleeve and can outfox players in the slow nature of pitches in the UAE. Rashid is an excellent option for PBKS and he needs to be played in each of their remaining games.

Evin Lewis (Rajasthan Royals)

With Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes set to miss the tournament, RR have been hit hard. The Royals have roped in Evin Lewis and Oshane Thomas as Buttler and Stokes’ replacements. With a thin batting line-up, calling for experience, Lewis can be the perfect player to help RR salvage their campaign. The top-order batsman has played some crucial knocks in the CPL 2021 recently and featured against Pakistan, Australia, and South Africa at home in the limited-overs series. He has been in decent touch with the bat and his exploits could help RR in setting a platform for the middle-order. With 4,992 runs in T20 cricket, Lewis brings experience and character. The West Indian can ease the pressure on skipper Sanju Samson.