The other half of the 14th edition of the IPL is all set to begin from September 19 in the UAE. This must have been music to the ears of the BCCI mandarins, as they were staring at a huge revenue loss, and good news for the cricket fans the world over. Those dying to watch their favourite cricket stars in action are also in for a treat because there will be the T-20 World Cup in October followed by the IPL. This season of the Indian T-20 league will be crucial for certain players, especially the ones who have given up their international careers. Some of them might feature in the next season, probably as a mentor or a coach, and for some, the 14th edition will be the dead-end to their careers. So, here are some players for whom this IPL assumes a lot of significance.
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MS Dhoni (CSK)
One of the few things that remained constant since the start of the IPL in 2008 was Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s association with the franchise Chennai Super Kings (CSK). The former Indian captain has led the Chennai team in all the seasons, except for the two in 2016 and 2017, when the franchise got banned temporarily. Despite having a tremendous record as a captain and as a player, Dhoni has battled indifferent form with the bat for the last few seasons, one of the main reasons for the team to finish 7th in 2020. In the first half of the IPL this year, the “boy from Jharkhand” has so far scored a mere 37 runs from 7 matches at an average of 12.33 and in 2020 MSD scored just 200 from 14 matches. A player of his stature can do much better than these figures imply. However, there won’t be any threat to his place in the side as CSK management has a special bond with Dhoni. However, for the sake of cricket fans, he should take a call on his IPL career if he suffers another mediocre outing.
Suresh Raina (CSK)
Suresh Raina also shares an intimate bond with the CSK franchise as he has been with the Chennai team since the start of the IPL. The “Chinna Thalai”, as he is fondly called by Chennai fans, has also been going through a rough patch in the IPL off late. So far in the 2021 edition, he has scored just 123 runs from 7 matches at an average of 24.60, which is just a notch above Dhoni’s returns and that is not even a small consolation. Also, his abrupt exit from the IPL 2020 had hurt his team’s prospects badly as they finished second last in the last season. So, Raina needs serious introspection regarding his imminent future in the IPL if he endures another below-par season and for the CSK management he is no Dhoni.
Ajinkya Rahane (Delhi Capitals)
Nobody would want to be in a situation that Ajinkya Rahane finds himself in. With the Sword of Damocles hanging over his Test career, the vice-captain in the longest format of the game is not in the right frame of mind to do something out of the ordinary in this year’s IPL. After shifting from Mumbai Indians to Rajasthan Royals, he finally ended up with Delhi Capitals in 2020, where he is not an automatic choice. So far he has scored only 8 runs in two matches and it is the lack of opportunity, as a result of the star-studded lineup of the Capitals, that is denying him a chance to prove his mettle. His future in the IPL hinges on the poor forms of other players in the Delhi franchise. In case, the Delhi team manages to stay afloat without him, then it can be extremely tough for him to remain in the mix for the next season.
Robin Uthappa (CSK)
After being in and out of various sides in the IPL, CSK seems to be the last resort for the Karnataka player in the IPL. Robin Uthappa, post several shifts, finally found a semblance of stability with Kolkata Knight Riders in 2014. Notwithstanding his average returns in the UAE leg of the 7th edition, he made amends for the same with a scintillating display of batting as an opening partner in the India leg of the same edition. He remained with KKR till 2020, when he was bought by Rajasthan Royals. After a poor season with the RR, he was not retained by the franchise and in 2021 CSK bought him at a modest price where he is yet to get a match. In case, he fails to get a match or doesn’t score despite getting a few chances, Uthappa will also be staring at an uncertain future in the IPL.
Virat Kohli (RCB)
The current Team India captain’s inclusion in the list is for a different reason as his future in the IPL is not uncertain. The Royal Challengers Bangalore with an enviable lineup, involving Virat and AB de Villiers, is yet to win an IPL title. The Bangalore franchise has also been runners-up in 2009, 2011 and 2016 editions. Their inability to go all the way has been haunting both Kohli and the RCB management. In the current edition, they are firmly placed at the 3rd position and have bright chances to grab the coveted trophy. However, one more disappointing season can force the team management to look for a new captain to lead the IPL franchise going forward or increase the clarion call to axe Kohli as the captain.