There are several new names in the IPL ranks following the auction earlier this year, and here we profile those who stand to make any impact for their respective franchises.
Richard Levi, Mumbai Indians
Levi's record Twenty20 century off 45 balls with 13 sixes against New Zealand this year meant the South African was immediately on the IPL radar. He went to Mumbai as a replacement for Andrew Symonds, and the franchise appears to have finally found the right man to partner Sachin Tendulkar at the top. The 24-year-old has expressed his excitement at the prospect of doing so, and considering his Twenty20 numbers – average 30.51, strike-rate 150.97 – it is indeed exciting to imagine him opening the batting with Tendulkar. Definitely one to watch out for this season.
Dinesh Chandimal, Rajasthan Royals
Chandimal, the Sri Lankan middle-order batsman, was one of the stars of the CB Series in Australia and comes with a reputation of being an outrageously talented batsman. He has eight half-centuries in Twenty20s and averages 33.89 in the format, having scored crucial runs in Sri Lanka domestic cricket. Rajasthan picked Chandimal up at the IPL auction for just $50,000 and he appears to be a solid bargain, considering he can keep wicket. Chandimal fits just what Rajasthan required, and if he gets going in the tournament the Jaipur-based franchised could be looking at a rejuvenated campaign in 2012.
Brad Hogg, Rajasthan Royals
Hogg, 41, is no Shane Warne but he could assume the lead spinner's role like his fellow countryman for Rajasthan. Hogg's left-arm wrist-spin were a major reason the Perth Scorchers made the Big Bash League final in February, and his success earned him two shock Twenty20 appearances for Australia four years after he retired from all forms of cricket. He then played in the BPL without making an impact, but considering Rajasthan need a quality spinner who can bat, Hogg could out to be a surprise package in IPL 5.
Andre Russell, Delhi Daredevils
Bought by Delhi for $450,000 – nine times his base price – the West Indies allrounder has proved to be a very handy Twenty20 player. In eight games during the recently concluded Bangladesh Premier League, Russell took ten wickets at 20.50 and averaged 40.33 at a strike-rate of 195.16. A Twenty20 career strike-rate of 148.58 shows how crucial Russell can be down the order, and his exploits at the international level too has been impressive. Delhi lacked batting and bowling firepower last season and Russell's presence gives them a big boost. If he can get going like his compatriots Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, Delhi will be the team to watch.
Sunil Narine, Kolkata Knight Riders
Narine, a nagging offspinner from Trinidad and Tobago, made headlines earlier this year when he was bought by KKR for $700,000 when his base price was $50,000. Narine has a good Twenty0 record – average 14.63, economy 4.95 – and in a short span has displaced last year's ICC Emerging Player of the Year Devendra Bishoo from West Indies' limited-overs squads. His rise to fame came from the 2011 Champion League Twenty20, and in eight ODIs for West Indies Narine has taken 14 wickets at 20. There is a strong chance he will be selected for the Tests against Australia, which means he won’t reach India until the end of April. If Kolkata can accommodate him into their XI, they will have a superb bowling attack.
Darren Bravo, Deccan Chargers
The younger brother of West Indies allrounder Dwayne and with more than just a resemblance to a certain Brian Charles Lara, Darren Bravo was purchased by Deccan for a relatively cheap price of $100000. For a side whose batting is one of the poorest in the tournament, Bravo could turn out to be a steal deal. A highly talented left-hand batsman, Dravo came into his own during the latter half of 2011 with two Tests centuries against India. He hasn't been in good form of late for West Indies but with knowledge of Indian conditions and guaranteed playing time with Deccan, Bravo could be the big-ticket player the franchise needs.
Marlon Samuels, Pune Warriors India
Samuels, 31, is no stranger to India. A stroke-making batsman and handy spinner to have in any side, the West Indian was signed up by Pune as one of their injury replacements. He has never played in the IPL, but with 983 runs and 25 wickets from 47 Twenty20 matches he is an experienced player. Samuels topped the batting list for the Duronto Rajshahi franchise in the recent BPL, and also chipped in with his quick brand of offspin. Pune need solid performances from their allrounders, especially in the absence of Yuvraj Singh, and Samuels looks like the man to fill the breach. He will join the franchise only after West Indies complete their Test series against Australia at the end of April.
Luke Wright, Pune Warriors India
Wright, the experienced Sussex and England allrounder, is a proven Twenty20 player with over 2000 runs in the format to go with 57 wickets. Wright was signed up by Pune after he smashed a 44-ball century during the Big Bash League for Melbourne Stars, and the franchise should look to play him as much as possible considering Samuels won't be available yet. A Twenty20 player for all seasons.
Michael Clarke, Pune Warriors India
Will he? Wont he? The questions over whether Australia's Test and ODI captain would finally join the IPL were answered last week when Clarke signed with Pune. He is not considered a strong Twenty20 player – he averages 22.03 from 40 games with just one fifty – and has stepped down from the format for Australia. In fact, Clarke has not featured in his state New South Wales' Twenty20 plans for some time. Pune, however, have reposed much faith in his abilities. Clarke won't be able to join the team until the end of April, but remains a player around whom there will be plenty of speculation and anticipation.
Azhar Mahmood, Kings XI Punjab
Now a county veteran, the former Pakistan allrounder brings to the Punjab franchise the worth of 2357 runs and 120 wickets in the Twenty20 format. Though Mahmood is 37, he is coming off a domestic season in which he was Kent's top scorer in the Twenty20 competition. In the BPL, he scored 298 runs and took nine wickets. In Stuart Broad’s absence, Mahmood can step up to play the allrounder's role.
Ben Hilfenhaus, Chennai Super Kings
Hilfenhais Version 2.0 has been a revelation for Australia, and CSK will hope the fast bowler can perform the same way in the IPL. His presence is a major boost for a side that lacks quality fast bowlers, and Chennai will be counting down the days until Hilfenhaus lands in India from the West Indies. The Tasmanian topped the bowling charts in the Australia-India Tests and picked up his maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs soon afterwards. Having played in India before, Hilfenhaus knows what is required. He's got a good Twenty20 record too – 28 wickets in 23 matches at 20.07 and an economy rate of 6.92.
Marchant de Lange, Kolkata Knight Riders
This tall South African fast bowler consistently reaches speeds over 140kmph and with his height, can extract good bounce. Those are facets that Wasim Akram, KKR's bowling coach, would have noticed before the franchise bought de Lange for his base price of $50,000. How much playing time he gets remains to be seen, considering KKR have Brett Lee and Shakib Al Hasan as bowlers in their ranks, but de Lange is a bowler to watch out for. His notable achievements for South Africa in a short career include taking seven wickets in an innings on Test debut and bowling an outstanding final over in a Twenty20 against New Zealand to fashion three-run win.