Wes Spearman wonders whether the youth policies of some franchises reap dividends
IPL young guns, potential riches within their grasp but can they handle the pressure at such a young age
When Prayas Ray Barman walks out to make his debut for Royal Challengers Bangalore – even if it isn’t this weekend in the opening match against CSK – he will become the youngest player ever to play in the tournament at the tender age of 16 and little more than 150 days. The leg break and googly bowler, expected to act as a back-up for Yuvzendra Chahal, was bought by Virat Kohli’s side for 1.5 crore (about £175,000) after impressive performances for Bengal in the List A Vijay Hazare Trophy, and, should he get the nod to face MS Dhoni’s champions, he will line up against a team whose squad numbers ten players at least twice his age.
But while early exposure to cricket’s most-watched jamboree may give a welcome boost to a player’s bank balance, does the media spotlight, the scrutiny that comes with that, along with the demand for instant returns, help or hinder him in his career in the longer term?
Sarfaraz Khan (born Oct 27, 1997) was the youngest player to debut in the IPL in 2015 when he was also picked up by RCB and thrust into the limelight aged just 17 and 177 days. At a time when most of his age were finishing their final school exams, he found himself playing alongside the likes of AB De Villiers and Mitchell Starc.
He had shown promise from a young age, scoring a record 439 in a school match when only 12 and a call-up for India U-19 in 2013 saw him play a match-winning knock of 101 off 66 balls to chase down 271 against South Africa.
The youth World Cups became a favoured stage for Sarfaraz. In the 2014 U19 World Cup, he scored 211 runs in six matches at an average of 70.33, and two years later, he was the second leading run-scorer after England’s Jack Burnham (420) with 355 runs from six games.
Now 21, he missed much of the 2017 season with injury and his first-class career seems to have stalled, his last game coming in November 2016 while, released by RCB, his stock has fallen in the shortest form of the game: having cost 50 lakh when picked up in 2015, King’s XI Punjab paid little more than his base price of 20 lakh for the latest edition.
Sandeep Lamichhane (born Aug 2, 2000)
The Nepalese leg spinner made his IPL (and T20) debut in 2018 for the Delhi Daredevils, now the Delhi Capitals. Funnily enough, Delhi also gave a debut to fellow youngster Abhishek Sharma who scored 46 not out off 19 balls – more on him later.
Aged just 17 years 272 days, Lamichhane took 1-25 off four overs, his maiden wicket being that of ex-Indian keeper Parthiv Patel for just six.
In his first IPL, he took five wickets in three matches, at an average of 16.40 – lower than any other Delhi Daredevil wicket-taker – and an economy of just 6.83 – also the lowest of any Delhi Daredevil bowler.
Since then, young Sandeep has played in Nepal’s inaugural ODI against the Netherlands where he took 1-42 in 10 overs, as well as taking 11 wickets at 17.72 in eight games in this year’s Big Bash.
Whilst Lamichhane is yet to play a first-class match, his skills in the short formats are exceptional. It appears exposing him to some of the world’s best batsman at a young age has helped his bowling, and it will be interesting to see how he develops and matures as he plays more cricket.
Abhishek Sharma (born Sep 4, 2000)
As mentioned above, Sharma burst on to the scene in 2018 with a rapid 19-ball 46 not out in his debut T20, aged just 17 years 209 days.
So far, he’s played three T20s – all in the 2018 IPL – averaging 63. .
Since last year’s IPL, Sharma has only played six games; three List A and three first-class matches for where he’s scored only one fifty in eight innings and taken 1-208.
Pradeep Sangwan (born Nov 5, 1990)
Sangwan played in the inaugural IPL tournament way back in 2008, aged 17 years 179 days on debut, and took five wickets in seven matches. He had earned the call-up from Delhi Daredevils after taking 33 wickets in the Ranji Trophy at an average of 19.24
Although, the left-arm medium pacer kept the bench warm for much of that campaign his returns were much more impressive in the two years that followed before he moved on to Kolkata Knight Riders, Gujarat and then Mumbai Indians
However, in 2013, he was handed an 18-month ban after he tested positive for a banned substance in a drugs test and his IPL appearances have been limited to eight games in three years – he played 20 in his first two seasons.
Released by Mumbai for this edition, Sangwan was described as a “forgotten man” of the India domestic circuit by one website.
Washington Sundar (born Oct 5, 1999)
Sundar became the third youngest player to debut in the IPL aged 17 years 199 days when he played for Rising Pune Supergiant against Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2017. His debut was largely unnoticeable as he didn’t take a wicket in three overs and didn’t get to bat.
Since then, the teenager has moulded into a respectable all-rounder, averaging 32 with the bat and 27 with the ball in first-class cricket.
His most impressive feat so far is that he was handed his first ODI cap just eight months after his IPL debut, and his maiden T20I cap on Christmas Eve in the same year, becoming India’s youngest T20I debutant in the process.
With eight international matches already under his belt, Sundar is surely set for more if he continues to shine in Indian domestic cricket.