Some may criticise it as picking horses for the wrong courses, but first-class performances are making Indian Premier League teams take notice of young fast bowlers.
On Tuesday, the most successful IPL team, Chennai Super Kings, announced the signing of five young pacers, three of whom — Uttar Pradesh duo Imtiaz Ahmed and Ankit Rajpoot and Haryana’s Mohit Sharma — were standouts in the Ranji Trophy season gone by. The others are Maharashtra’s Ronit More and R Karthikeyan, who play in the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association’s first division.
Imtiaz was the leading wicket- taker for Uttar Pradesh with 37 from nine matches at an average of 25.45, including three fivewicket hauls. He was with the Pune Warriors in the 2011 IPL but did not get a game.
Rajpoot, in his maiden first- class season, took 31 wickets from seven matches at an average of 18.80.
Mohit played eight Ranji matches, taking 37 wickets, averaging 23.24 runs per wicket.
It is also rumoured that Delhi Daredevils have signed up Punjab’s Sidharth Kaul, the second- highest wicket- taker of the season, while the man at the top of the list, Madhya Pradesh’s Ishwar Pandey, was snapped up by the Pune Warriors about 10 days before the sixth auction took place on Sunday.
The trend is less prevalent among batsmen, since teams generally tend to stock up on foreign recruits for that and leave the role of the T20 cannon-fodder to Indian bowlers.
Abhishek Nayar was the second- highest run-scorer this season, and being a capped player, got richer by $ 675,000 when he was picked at the auction by Pune, but the top man, Punjab’s Jiwanjot Singh, hasn’t yet been linked to an IPL team.
Another parameter to test a youngster’s skill has been the under- 19 level, and some of the graduates of that program, including Virat Kohli ( 2008 u-19 World Cup-winning captain) and Ashok Menaria ( 2010 u- 19 World Cup captain) have become mainstays for their sides, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals respectively.
Last year’s junior World Cup- winning captain Unmukt Chand is entering his third season as a Daredevils batsman and needs to step up after a disappointing Ranji Trophy, while another member of his team, Baba Aparajith, has been signed up by Chennai Super Kings.