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Photo: RCB Official @ Flickr

English players in the IPL: From reluctance to acceptance?

In the early days of the Indian Premier League, there were few English players participating in the competition as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) was reluctant to allow players to skip the county season and earn mind-boggling sums of money for 6 weeks of T20 cricket.

Kevin Pietersen was a trendsetter as he bagged a lucrative contract and played in the 2009 and 2012 IPL seasons, albeit only for half the tournament, before leaving at the beginning of the English summer. For a while, he looked like the only one who would make this journey.

However, in recent times, the ECB has started to see the benefits of allowing players to take part in the IPL. We are now seeing several talented English players taking part in the IPL and being key players for their franchises. None made a bigger impact than Ben Stokes did for Rising Pune Supergiants in 2017, becoming the then highest paid foreign player and also winning the MVP award.

Until last year, the IPL was played from April to May and thus collided with the start of the English cricket season, implying that players would come back halfway through the tournament. The result: disgruntled franchises and unhappy players — the ECB was the only real winner here! This season, due to the pandemic, the IPL was shifted to September to November, and for the first time since the inception of the IPL, the English players will play the entire season.

This article highlights some of the English players that play a prominent role in their teams and have an impact on this edition of the tournament.  

The Curran brothers: Sam Curran (Chennai Super Kings) and Tom Curran (Rajasthan Royals) 

The Curran brothers are pace bowling all-rounders. 22-year-old Sam bowls with his left while his 25-year-old elder brother Tom bowls with his right. In their short international careers so far, Sam has managed to make an impression in the test circuit while Tom has been an impressive death bowler for England in white-ball cricket.

Whatever the situation of the game, the Curran brothers usually find a way to make and impact. As Kevin Pietersen has often said, “the Currans thrive under pressure”. They will be looking to do the same throughout this edition of the IPL.

Sam Curran has already managed to make an impression in the IPL, picking up wickets while bowling with the new ball and at the death as well as playing aggressive cameos floating around the order. He earned effusive praise from his skipper MS Dhoni who called him a “complete cricketer”.  His form will be crucial to turning around CSK’s fortunes in this year’s tournament. 

Jonny Bairstow (Sunrisers Hyderabad) 

An explosive wicket-keeper batsman, Bairstow opens the innings for England and SRH, often getting his team off to flying starts. He formed a potent opening combination with David Warner during the last season, scoring 445 runs in just 10 innings before leaving for World Cup preparations.

This time he’ll get to play the entire edition and will be looking to better his record, attempting to take SRH all the way. Barring one good innings of 97 against the Kings XI Punjab, Bairstow has been fairly mellow by his own standards so far this season. He often sets the tempo of the Sunrisers innings and with the tournament at a crucial juncture, his performances will be vital in setting the game up for SRH’s bowlers to then take charge.    

Photo: Dainik Bhaskar @ Flickr

Jos Buttler (Rajasthan Royals) 

Yet another wicket-keeper batsman, Jos Buttler opens the innings for RR and will be looking to give his team explosive starts. Buttler has been around in the IPL for 5 seasons, including 2 seasons with Mumbai Indians in 2016 and 2017 before being bought by Rajasthan in the auction prior to the 2018 season. His best season by far was in 2018 for RR, when he scored 548 runs in 13 matches to help them qualify for the playoffs.

In the last couple of seasons, Buttler has played some sensational knocks, carrying his bat through the innings to lead Rajasthan Royals to some impressive wins single-handedly. However, he has gone through a lean patch like countrymate Bairstow and hasn’t been up to his usual standards so far this season.

In a recent game against CSK, he stroked a fluent 70* on a difficult wicket showing his tremendous ball-striking ability and Rajasthan will hope that he can continue that run of form. Buttler will be looking to make an impact at the business end of this tournament and help RR sneak into the playoffs.   

Photo: Linnes Sandy @ Flickr

Jofra Archer (Rajasthan Royals) 

Teammates with Buttler at England and Rajasthan Royals, Archer is a rapid right-arm fast bowler, with the ability to bowl extremely quick, touching speeds in excess of 140 kph. He has impressed in his brief international career, bowling impressively at the World Cup last year.

Leading a relatively inexperienced Royals bowling attack, Archer bowls the key overs to close out games for his team. He is also a useful lower-order batsman and can strike the ball a long way in the later stages of the game. He’s been having a prolific all-around season so far and is in the running for the Purple Cap and MVP awards. As one of the overseas stars around which the Royals team is built, he has a vital role to play as the tournament heads towards the business end.    

Eoin Morgan (Kolkata Knight Riders) 

Eoin Morgan is having the best few years of his illustrious career at the moment. Having taken over as England captain, he transformed their style of play in white-ball cricket and led them to a long-awaited World Cup win.

A calm and composed captain built from the same mould as MS Dhoni and Kane Williamson, his batting style is the exact opposite — aggressive and free-flowing. A left-handed middle-order batsman, he can strike the ball a long way to finish off games for his side. He is a part of KKR’s lethal middle-order trio alongside Karthik and Russell.

An experienced player, he will have the responsibility of finishing off matches, especially those close games. Taking on a leadership role as KKR’s vice-captain initially, he could often be seen talking to the young Indian bowlers and helping them find their feet on the big stage.

In a dramatic turn of events, Eoin Morgan took over the KKR captaincy from Dinesh Karthik before their game against MI. Being the current England skipper, he shouldn’t have a problem dealing with the added responsibility, but there will be some pressure to steer KKR into the playoffs after they missed out last season.

With nothing left to prove as a player, Morgan should be able to play with complete freedom and impose himself on this tournament. For such a talented player, it is extremely surprising that his record in the IPL is unimpressive. He would be keen to set that right this season but, barring a couple of innings, he hasn’t lit up the IPL as was expected of him.

Despite his patchy form, KKR is still in contention for a playoff spot and with key games coming up over the course of the next week, Morgan will look to contribute with some handy knocks. This is especially vital for KKR as their other finishers Karthik and Russell have been indifferent at best, and the onus is on Morgan as a batsman and now as captain as well, to do the job for the men in purple and gold!  

The emergence of English stars on the IPL scene has certainly contributed to raising the standard of cricket in the league and with youngsters like Tom Banton coming through, we can only hope that more English cricketers including the likes of Sam Billings, Ollie Pope, and Matt Parkinson, embrace the IPL and take part in the tournament!    

Tags: ECB, english cricket, Eoin Morgan, Indian Premier League, IPL 2020, Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran

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