2020 has been a year of inhibitions as Covid-19 reigned supreme that led to sporting activities coming to a screeching halt. Call it Olympics, Euro 2020, World T20, and whatnot, the menacing virus compelled humanity to re-think their strategy of survival in accordance with the sport continuing, incorporating the necessities of the new normal. It wasn’t easy, however, it was a fascinating showdown on the entire planet that saw the sport’s greatest heroes making peace with the ghostly stadiums that saw flags and banners of the clubs, disseminating themselves like a giant serpent, reminding everyone that life of every activity is the crowd that attends it.
Despite all the odds stacking up, we still stayed witness to some resolute tenacity from youngsters who got their first opportunity in this challenging year, and they simply refused to give up. Going along with the odds that needed them to walk abreast, they defied the ones who blocked their paths and paved new ways for themselves. It wasn’t an easy journey to make the world turn their eyes towards them but when the planet did, it was a treat for the sore eyes.
We will be looking at five emerging cricketers who left a significant mark in this year’s limited cricketing activities that saw them building their momentum for the ages to come.
1. Josh Philippe
Though his international debut is still to arrive, this young lad from Australia has already sparked ripples with his dynamic batting ability. The way he went on to bat against Melbourne Renegades, garnering 95 from 57 deliveries was nothing short of sublime.
His showdowns in the hallowed IPL were limited but once he found his footing in the dicey surfaces of the UAE, he gave out sparks of love with the willow as he racked up a respectable score of 32 against Sunrisers Hyderabad and a blistering 33 against the formidable bowling line-up of Mumbai Indians.
His wide arsenal of strokes makes him an exciting newcomer in cricket and with the threat he poses with his dynamicity in the middle, he can lay waste to any bowling line up that comes in his way on his heyday. His impressive numbers also boast of a scintillating half-century against the mighty Proteas bowling line-up that comprised the likes of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, and Lungi Ngidi.
Time is of the essence to this youngster but his initial promise of excellence can prove to be a pivotal point in Australia’s pursuit of the next Adam Gilchrist.
2. Noor Ahmad
This 16-year-old youngster from Afghanistan went on to rock the cricketing canon for miles with his dicey wrist spin. Known for leaving the batsmen nonplussed with his unpredictable movement, Ahmad has already started riveting the eyeballs towards him.
The youngster was picked up by Renegades for this year’s BBL and went on to impress against Hurricanes that saw him registering impressive bowling figures of 1 for 27. In the Afghanistan T20 tournament, he was at the peak of his form that saw him claiming scalps at an intense frequency.
His best bowling figures of 3 for 12 in T20’s was indeed a stellar showdown from the kid. Despite the fact that he has a long way to travel, his initial rise to stardom has been nothing short of stunning. With Rashid Khan and Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman already creating waves for Afghanistan, the incorporation of this wunderkind can be a real nightmare for the opposition.
3. Shubman Gill
It is a rare spectacle where batsmen love to play short balls and the ones who do have all went on to become greats of the game, let’s say, for instance, Jacques Kallis, Rohit Sharma, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Rick Ponting and the list, despite being exhaustive is quite a notable one. However, amongst youngsters, it is not quite an expected spectacle where the batsmen love to pull the ball away, especially those were targeted at his ribs. A tiny miscalculation of timing, and you can have your ribs handed over to you in a platter. However, when pulls and hooks become your strength, you are in for a long race and that is exactly the case with India’s young gun, Shubman Gill.
Making his Test debut against Australia and going toe-to-toe with the formidable Australian trifecta of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood, this youngster reflected a lot of guts. The way he ambled down half the crease to trade Cummins for a neat pull of the ball was a déjà vu of how Matthew Hayden used to use his gigantic wrists to punish the fast bowlers.
Being a part of the third ODI against Australia, Gill stitched together a crucial cameo of 33 runs that helped India to get the much-needed start to save themselves the blushes of a whitewash. He also posted a resonating showdown in this year’s IPL, being KKR’s solitary shaft of hope with the bat alongside some significant assistance from their skipper, Eoin Morgan. With a long mile to walk, Gill can be India’s next big thing alongside Rohit Sharma in the long and the shorter format of the sport.
4. Tom Banton
This English wicket-keeper batsman hasn’t really been able to underline the brilliance that he possesses in his repertoire but the sparks that flew around him were pretty big enough for others to notice. His half-century against Ireland was indeed a delectable treat for the sore eyes. His comforting 32 against a formidable South African bowling attack led England to believe that he can definitely be their next big thing.
His fluid 46 and 71 against Pakistan were indeed the catalysts in the youngster’s career that raised the hopes about him higher. Picked up by Kolkata Knight riders just ahead of IPL, he couldn’t really live up to the expectations of the management.
Being an exceptionally hard-hitter of the ball, Banton can turn himself into an absolute nightmare for the bowlers, the day he gets going. Unfortunately, he couldn’t end the year on a high note as his performances dipped. However, given the fact that he holds a lot of potential with the willow, it is expected that he will turn the tide around in his favour.
5. Jayden Seales
There used to be a time when the West Indian bowling line-up comprised the monikers of the Whispering Death, the Big Bird, and the Two C’s that used to terrorize the batting line-ups of the opposition. Forget the timbre, those nasty bouncers were more than enough to rattle your teeth into smithereens and knock the living street lights off your eyes. Just to be more specific, we are talking about Michael Holding, Joel Garner, and the infamous duo of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, respectively. That glided down to the likes of Pedro Collins, Fidel Edwards, Kemar Roach, Mervyn Dillon, and Cameron Cuffy, where the speed-gun still used to read more than 140 clicks. However, that was the very end of the Caribbean pace generation that left the batsmen browbeaten.
The newer generation is more about medium-pace and once fast bowling is off your charts, the fear-factor in the batsmen ebbs away way too fast unless you have a Warnie or Muralidaran in your ranks. However, raising the hopes of the West Indies, a new star has been rustling off the shelves of history. Just 19 years old, Jayden Seales has been kissing the 140 to 143 kays regularly and given his gigantic stature and his consistency with pace, it is expected that he can be one of those forgotten heroes of fast bowling who can once again lead the renaissance of what used to be an absolute nightmare for the batters.
Seales has so far managed 8 wickets from the 6 games that he has played at an impressive bowling average of 17.87 in T20 cricket which promises a lot of good things to come for the young lad in the years to follow. With cricket being charted out in abundance with the proper safety measures in place, 2021 can bring a lot in these emerging stars of the ending year.