New Delhi: With the crowds fading, the popularity of the Indian Premier League (IPL) dipped in the fourth season but it continued to be a platform for the cricket crazy nation`s domestic talent.
Kings XI Punjab`s explosive opener Paul Valthaty, who is yet to make a first class debut, Kolkata Knight Riders all-rounder Iqbal Abdulla, Bangalore Royal Challenger fast bowler Sreenath Aravind and Pune Warriors` Rahul Sharma have been the new stars this season and have staked their claim for a potential national cap in the future.
Valthaty took the IPL by storm with his match-winning 120 runs off 63 balls for Kings XI Punjab against eventual champions Chennai Super Kings in a league match at Mohali. He overshadowed his opening partner and captain Adam Gilchrist on many occasions during the league stages, smashing the ball from the word go with the great Australian batsman being a mere spectator.
Valthay, with 463 runs from 14 matches, ended up as the sixth-highest run-getter despite being inconsistent. "Paul has an attacking style of play and in such a style results are always inconsistent. I know this because I am speaking through personal experience," said Gilchrist.
Mumbai`s Abdulla also had a fairytale run and from a bench-warmer emerged as a match winner for Knight Riders.
Abdulla had an impressive Ranji season and continued in the same breadth in the IPL as well.
The left-arm spinner from Azamgarh played a crucial role in turning the fortunes of Kolkata Knight Riders, who made their maiden second knock-out appearance after faring poorly in the last three seasons. With 16 wickets in 15 matches, Abdulla was the pick of the bowlers for the Kolkata franchise.
The 21-year-old delivered whenever the team needed wickets in the first six overs and was also handy down the order. Abdulla, who has played for India A, was adjudged as the rising star of the tournament.
"I never thought I will get this award before the start of the tournament. It will motivate me to get into the Indian team," said Abdulla.
The IPL was also the turning point of Punjab youngster Sharma`s career as one time he thought of giving up the game due to a career-threatening facial nerve dysfunction during his stint with the Deccan Chargers last season.But the leggie has fought back strongly as looked as if he was the lone warrior in Pune Warriors team, who finished ninth in their debut season.
The leggie took 16 wickets in 14 games, conceding a mere 5.46 runs per over, the best economy rate of the season.
"IPL 4 has been the turning point of my career. I had played for Deccan Chargers in previous season and took six wickets in as many matches. But this time, I am extremely happy with my performance. I played well in the Ranji circuit also but unfortunately those matches do not get telecast," Rahul said.
But among all Indian bowlers, Karnataka boy Aravind was the show stealer. He was the second highest Indian wicket-taker in the IPL with 21 scalps.
Aravind came into the Royal Challengers as a replacement for Dirk Nannes and the made the most of the opportunity that came his way.
"During the last two years, I have been improving a lot on each day by watching the seniors. I can say that in Karnataka, many people are helping me out in domestic circuit.
First Published: Monday, May 30, 2011, 00:15