The journeymen who make the IPL their own
From Nitish Rana to Sandeep Sharma, here's a look at players who have become vital for their IPL teams despite not succeeding at the international level
Every year in the Indian Premier League (IPL), there are various categories of players in each of the teams. There are the Indian stars likes Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma who play a key role in pulling in the crowds. Then there are the overseas stars who lend great firepower to their sides. The youngsters and uncapped players bring a sense of excitement with their presence. And finally, there are the local journeymen cricketers.
These players don’t feature much on the international stage but as far as the IPL is concerned, season after season, they do important jobs for their respective franchises.
One doesn’t need an introduction to how competitive Indian cricket is. There are countless high-class players on the domestic circuit but only a handful of spots on the national side. This is why the IPL has always been an incredible platform for more players to get opportunities in front of a huge audience.
Some players sustain themselves at the top level and some end up fizzling out of the IPL in a season or two, but there are also those who remain constant features of the T20 competition alone. Here’s a look at the ones that stand out:
Nitish Rana: He’s perhaps the one who fits the bill perfectly when it comes to journeymen players in the IPL. The left-handed batter from Delhi has played just three international games, all of which were during the 2021 tour of Sri Lanka. But he’s been a mainstay in the Kolkata Knight Riders middle order for years, so much so that they’ve appointed him captain in IPL 2023 as regular skipper Shreyas Iyer recovers from an injury. Rana, who was acquired by KKR in 2018, has batted consistently in the upper middle order and played a number of crucial knocks for the franchise, including 12 half-centuries.
Sandeep Sharma: He isn’t the fastest bowler going around but he’s accurate and can swing the ball both ways. Sharma has played just two games for India – T20Is against Zimbabwe back in 2015 – but the 2012 U19 World Cup winner has been a regular name in the IPL for a decade. He has played for three teams so far – Punjab Kings, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals – and competed in over 100 IPL games. In IPL 2023, he showcased his utility again by denying MS Dhoni’s CSK with two brilliant yorkers in the end to help RR bag their third win of the season.
Piyush Chawla: Having made his international debut in 2006, the leg-spinner from Uttar Pradesh has played 35 games for India across the three formats. But the last of those was in 2012. In the IPL, though, he has appeared in every season except one (2022) and played more than 160 matches. Wrist spinners have always been among the wickets in the T20 tournament and Chawla is no exception. He has had stints with four teams so far – Punjab Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, Chennai Super Kings and now Mumbai Indians – and is among the top 10 wicket-takers in IPL history.
Amit Mishra: Like Chawla, Mishra has has also featured in every IPL season except 2022 and is among the top five wicket-takers in the history of the tournament. Although with 68 matches, he has played more international cricket but the last time he wore an India cap was in 2017. Mishra is the only bowler to have taken a hat-trick thrice in the IPL. The Impact player rule introduced in the 2023 season has made senior players like him more valuable and at 40, he is continuing to make contributions for Lucknow Super Giants.
Ambati Rayudu: Many would probably argue that the fact that he played just 61 games for India doesn’t do justice to the immense talent he possesses. However, as far as the IPL is concerned, there is no denying that Rayudu has left a significant mark. The aggressive middle order batter has taken the best bowlers to the cleaners and scored over 4,200 runs in the T20 competition. He was hired by Mumbai Indians in 2010 and went on to win three IPL titles with them. And since 2018, he has won the tournament twice with CSK. In the IPL 2023 player auction, CSK pipped Delhi Capitals and Sunrisers Hyderabad to retain the 37-year-old for a massive ₹6.75 crore.
Manish Pandey: He made his international debut in 2015 and has played a total of 68 matches for India, the last of which came in 2021. Pandey, too, remained in-and-out at the highest level but when it came to the IPL, he found a middle order spot consistently. He, of course, had become the first Indian to hit an IPL ton back in 2009. An asset as a fielder as well, he has represented a total of seven teams so far in the IPL – MI, RCB, Pune Warriors India, KKR, SRH, LSG and now DC.
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