The 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) will hold significance for its passionate fans.
The showpiece tournament, set to start on April 9 in Chennai, serves as key preparation for players and teams in the T20 World Cup to be held in India in October and November this year.
One of those teams is Australia, whose unusually scarce mid-year calendar and quest for a maiden T20 World Cup title puts greater attention on how our players perform in this tournament.
Mumbai Indians, back-to-back champions and the league’s most successful franchise, start as favourites.
Chris Lynn, one of the BBL’s biggest names, didn’t even get a game for the franchise in 2020. So the key Australian player to keep an eye out for is Nathan Coulter-Nile.
His performance in the IPL 2020 final was superb, and a big season will keep our selectors on notice. Given the sheer talent in the team’s ranks, Coulter-Nile could be looking at another IPL title.
The greatest attention will be on Glenn Maxwell at Royal Challengers Bangalore.
After a poor 2020 season for Kings Punjab, RCB still forked out a huge fee for Maxwell ($2.5 million), such is his potential. If he delivers, it will not only help RCB’s quest for a maiden title, but also lift his confidence ahead of a crucial role for Australia later this year.
RCB also have four other Australians in their squad. Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa will be looking to contribute, as will Dan Christian after a magnificent BBL 10 campaign.
Daniel Sams was also picked up by the franchise. If he bowls well at the death – a stage he has struggled at in T20Is – the Australian selectors will look at that with favour.
For RCB, though, their death bowling looks a major concern. So Maxwell, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers will have to bat out of this world to achieve IPL glory in 2021.
The Punjab Kings will also be of interest to Australian fans. A successful tournament for Jhye Richardson, who was purchased for $2.45 million, will mean good news for Australia.
Also, eyes will be on Riley Meredith, who recently made his T20I debut in New Zealand. His slippery pace and effective yorker can help the Kings sort their death bowling woes, and give Australia another option at this key stage.
Moises Henriques is the other Australian in the Kings’ squad. With middle-order spots up for grabs in the Aussie T20I side, Henriques will want to take advantage of any opportunity that comes his way. However, opportunities are likely to be limited.
Now to Ricky Ponting’s Delhi Capitals. Steve Smith was purchased for a bargain price of $390,000. IPL 2021 is an opportunity for Smith to prove his T20 doubters wrong after a good period in T20Is in 2019-20.
Also, keep an eye on Marcus Stoinis, who is improving in his role as a middle-order finisher. These two, along with a good bowling attack, can push last year’s finalists towards their first title.
For the Rajasthan Royals, the franchise who released Steve Smith, Andrew Tye is the only Australian in their squad.
With Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Chris Morris and Jofra Archer in their ranks, it might be difficult for Tye to get a chance. If he does take the field, it will be an opportunity to build on his promising BBL campaign, where his pace was up.
Tye’s Royals are the best they’ve been placed in years to win their first title since 2008.
For Chennai Super Kings, Josh Hazlewood is the only Australian in their squad. Like Tye, Hazlewood might find playing time difficult to come by given the overseas players in the squad including Faf du Plessis, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran.
Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders have two Australians in their ranks. One of them was 2020 record purchase Pat Cummins, who will be key to Australia’s hopes in the World Cup.
The other is Ben Cutting, who is expected to be an injury back-up to Andre Russell. If Cummins can combine wicket-taking with economic prowess, Australia’s T20 bowling stocks will be viewed with greater optimism.
And, of course, eyes will be on Sunrisers Hyderabad to see how David Warner performs.
Warner is one of the greatest IPL batsmen in history, as he is the only player to win the orange cap three times.
If he can produce again, this team will be a threat to the title and Australia will benefit by having Warner firing in the country where the T20 World Cup will take place.