If you’re keen to watch Aussies in action then check out the Royal Challengers Bangalore, who have five Australians in their squad and look likely to play three in their starting XI.
Steve Smith will rebound with a vengeance
Pundits, fans and, most pointedly, IPL franchise owners were quick to sour on Smith after his poor 2020 IPL campaign. The former Aussie captain never built any momentum last season and averaged just 26 at a strike rate of 131 for the Rajasthan Royals.
That one underwhelming campaign was enough to seemingly erase from many people’s memories his past excellence over a long IPL career. In his previous seven seasons he averaged 37 at a strike rate of 129, very similar IPL numbers to those of Indian megastar Virat Kohli.
Yet that 2020 season tanked Smith’s IPL reputation so badly that at this year’s auction he earnt one-seventh of the price tag of New Zealand quick Kyle Jamieson, who’s flopped outside of Kiwi domestic T20s, averaging 70 in eight international T20s.
Smith doesn’t even seem to be guaranteed a spot in the starting XI of his new team, the Delhi Capitals. But if and when he does get an opportunity this season, expect his pride to be hurt and his determination to be extreme. The Australian champion has underlined time and again that he’s most lethal when he’s being underestimated and has a point to ram home.
Smith’s also been in hot white-ball form for Australia since the end of his ball-tampering ban two years ago. In that time he’s averaged 40 at a strike rate of 140 in international T20s and averaged 50 at a strike rate of 97 in ODIs.
Riley Meredith will get a rude awakening
Riley Meredith fetched a massive $1.4 million for what will be his debut IPL season. He’ll soon learn that express pace alone doesn’t trouble the world’s best batsmen. And in the IPL the young Aussie tearaway will bowl to extraordinary talents like Kohli, Warner, Smith, AB de Villiers, Rohit Sharma, Jos Buttler, Rishabh Pant, Quinton de Kock, Andre Russell, Keiron Pollard and Kane Williamson.
Those champions, as well as many other IPL batsmen, are brilliant at exploiting pace on the ball. To challenge such batsmen, express quicks need to couple startling speed with unerring accuracy and deceiving changeups.
Meredith is yet to prove he is such a well-rounded paceman. Certainly he produces wicket-taking deliveries and rushes batsmen by consistently bowling in the range of 145 to 150 kilometres per hour. His precision and variety are not great strengths though, and leading IPL batsmen will punish Meredith’s errors as well as lining him up if he can’t keep them guessing with subtle changes of pace.
Glenn Maxwell will end his horrendous run of IPL form
It makes little sense. Why has Glenn Maxwell been so consistently excellent for Australia when playing in Asia yet floundered so often in the IPL? The dynamic all-rounder has been imperious in limited-overs international cricket in Asia, averaging 41 at an insane strike rate of 165 in international T20s and averaging 38 at a strike rate of 123 in ODIs
Yet for years now he’s greatly underperformed in the IPL regardless of whether that league’s been hosted in India or in the UAE, as it was last year. Maxwell has averaged less than 20 with the bat in four of his last five IPL seasons. That includes his worst-ever campaign last year when he not only averaged a paltry 15 but had a terribly low strike rate of 101 and infamously didn’t strike a single six in the whole tournament.
Maybe I’m crazy for predicting Maxwell to regain the form that saw him dominate the IPL in 2017 and in 2014, when he was named the player of the tournament. In that season he smashed an incredible 48 sixes in 16 matches while scoring at a jaw-dropping strike rate of 188.
Maxwell is clearly a better batsman now than he was back in 2014. He has been Australia’s most valuable international T20 player in the past five years, averaging 40 at a strike rate of 165 in that time. He’s also now in career-best ODI form, averaging 48 at a strike rate of 145 in the past two years.
I’m heavily biased given Maxwell is my favourite batsman in the world, but I feel the dam is going to burst for him very soon in the IPL. I think 2021 is the year this league will once again be flooded by his brilliance.
Contingent of Aussies in the IPL
Steve Smith, Riley Meredith, Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, Marcus Stoinis, Pat Cummins, Ben Cutting, Chris Lynn, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jhye Richardson, Moises Henriques, Andrew Tye, Daniel Sams, Adam Zampa, Daniel Christian and Kane Richardson.