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Six players who unexpectedly starred in the first IPL

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IPL_Indian_Premier_LeagueApril 18 marked exactly ten years since the introduction of the Indian Premier League, a tournament that has proven to be a game-changer in more ways than one, and has led to extremely polarizing opinions surrounding it. Nevertheless, despite being rocked by a substantial number of scandals over the past decade, the IPL has managed to robustly sustain itself, and remains one of the most popular annual leagues across all sports.

One of the brightest aspects of the IPL is that rookies get to rub shoulders with veterans, imbibing invaluable tricks of the trade in the process. The first edition in 2008 saw no dearth of high-octane performances from greats like Shane Warne, Sanath Jayasuriya and Adam Gilchrist. At the same time, there were also unacclaimed hopefuls who shot into the limelight with their calibre and consistency over the course of the tournament. Here is a look back at six such names.

Swapnil Asnodkar (Rajasthan Royals)

A diminutive right-handed batsman from the cricketing outpost of Goa, Swapnil Asnodkar formed one half of the Royals’ successful opening partnership, the other half being South African captain Graeme Smith. As a pair, they put together 418 runs at 59.71, which was a catalyst to the Royals’ triumphant campaign. In his very first game, the 24-year-old Asnodkar flayed the Kolkata Knight Riders with a 34-ball 60 to set up an easy 45-run win for the Royals.

With the assured presence of Smith at the other end, Asnodkar took many a bowling attack by surprise with his carefree hitting. He was involved in two century opening stands, and finished with 311 runs from nine matches at an average of 34.55 and a strike rate of 133.47, including two fifties. Asnodkar could not maintain this standard at the IPL, and his last appearance was in the 2010 edition. He continues to be one of the batting mainstays for Goa on the domestic circuit.

Shaun Marsh (Kings XI Punjab)

Few would have bet on an uncapped foreigner to win the Orange Cap at the inaugural IPL, but Shaun Marsh, aged 24, showed that he was ready for the international stage by topping the run charts with 616 runs at 68.44 from 11 outings as an opener for Kings XI Punjab. Despite not playing his team’s first four games, Marsh’s run tally was 82 more than the second-highest - with a strike rate of 139.68 to boot - and was one of the major reasons for Kings XI’s semifinal entry.

The southpaw made an instant impact, scoring a match-winning 84* against the Deccan Chargers in his first game. He went on to score four more fifties and also a hundred – a 69-ball 115 against the Royals. Marsh came into the IPL on the back of a productive homeseason, after which he won the Lawrie Sawle Medal for being Western Australia’s best player. He deservedly debuted for Australia on the ensuing Caribbean tour, seven years after his maiden first-class appearance.

Manpreet Singh Gony (Chennai Super Kings)

MS Gony, a 24-year-old medium pacer from Punjab, initially attracted attention due to the fact that his name rhymed with MS Dhoni, his captain at Chennai Super Kings. However, by the time the tournament ended, Gony had done enough to garner the interest of the national selectors. He played in all of the Super Kings’ 16 games, ending as their joint highest wicket-taker (and the joint fourth highest overall) with a commendable return of 17 scalps at 26.05 apiece.

Gony’s best figures of 3/34 came in the Super Kings’ tense 13-run away win against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. He later shined in the semifinal, nailing Kings XI’s Kumar Sangakkara and Yuvraj Singh during a stifling spell of 2/14 to help his team to a nine-wicket win. Within a month, he made his debut for India at the Asia Cup in Pakistan. He played only two ODIs in all, and later turned out for three other IPL teams, the last of them being Gujarat Lions in 2017.

Dhawal Kulkarni (Mumbai Indians)

Although the Mumbai Indians were plagued by inconsistency throughout the tournament, they had the satisfaction of witnessing an impressive performance from their 19-year-old bowling talent Dhawal Kulkarni. The lanky medium pacer collected 11 wickets from his ten games at an average of 21.45, with a best of 3/33 against the Super Kings. Few months later, he played in his first Ranji Trophy, taking a tournament-best 42 wickets for Mumbai, the eventual champions.

Kulkarni was named in the Indian squad for the 2008-09 tour of New Zealand, but did not get to play. He made his international debut only in 2014, when he took the field in the fourth ODI on India’s tour of England. After five IPL editions with the Mumbai Indians, Kulkarni shifted to the Rajasthan Royals in 2013. With the Royals being handed a two-year ban in 2015, he changed teams again, this time going to the Gujarat Lions, before returning to the Royals’ set-up in 2018.

Yogesh Takawale (Mumbai Indians)

The most prolific wicketkeeper at the 2008 IPL was 23-year-old Yogesh Takawale, who was included in the Mumbai Indians squad on account of his hitting abilities that he showcased for Maharashtra in the inter-state T20 league. Though his display with the bat was ordinary, he proved his worth behind the stumps by affecting 11 dismissals (ten catches and a stumping) in seven games, while keeping to the likes of Harbhajan Singh and Shaun Pollock.

Takawale also recorded the most dismissals in a single match in the tournament - he took three catches and affected one stumping in his team’s home game against the Royals. He played only four games in the 2009 edition, after which the next time he played in the IPL was in 2014, now for the Royal Challengers. In 2010-11, he made a move to Tripura, for whom he continued playing domestic cricket till 2014-15.

Vijay Kumar Yo Mahesh (Delhi Daredevils)

Bowling alongside the great Glenn McGrath, Tamil Nadu all-rounder Yo Mahesh was the leading wicket-taker for the Delhi Daredevils. His medium pace fetched him 16 wickets from 11 matches at 23.12, and featured a haul of 4/36 in a must-win home clash against the Mumbai Indians. The visitors were cruising at 70/0 in seven overs, when Mahesh castled Sachin Tendulkar to put the brakes on. Chasing 177, the Daredevils held on for a nervy five-wicket win.

Mahesh, who had first made his mark at the 2006 Under-19 World Cup, played just one game in each of the next two editions of the IPL, before switching over to the Super Kings in 2012, which was his last season. In the 2017-18 domestic season, he made a comeback to the Tamil Nadu domestic team after a gap of three years, and celebrated the occasion with an unbeaten 103 against Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy.

 

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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