The 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2020) is now past the halfway mark, and the competition for the playoff spots are increasing with every game. With this year being one of the most tightly-contested seasons of the IPL, all 8 teams are locked in an intense battle to qualify for the knockout stages.
IPL 2020: 5 benchwarmers who could play key roles
One of the major talking points surrounding IPL 2020 in recent days has been the fact that the pitches are showing signs of slowing down. Spinners are getting more purchase from the surface, while openers are looking to go hard in the powerplay in order to maximise the hard new ball.
Given how the wickets are expected to deteriorate more, here are 5 players who have warmed the bench so far but are likely to have an impact on IPL 2020 at the business end.
#5 Manan Vohra (RR)
RR's opening combination has shuffled repeatedly in IPL 2020. Yashasvi Jaiswal doesn't seem to have the trust of the management, while Robin Uthappa is bizarrely being used in the middle order.
Steve Smith even opted to use Ben Stokes at the top of the order alongside Jos Buttler, and although the English all-rounder played a good knock in the previous game, him opening leaves the batting lineup too top-heavy. The solution for RR could be the IPL-tested Manan Vohra.
The former Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) man could be the ideal foil to Buttler at the top of the order, and Stokes could move to either No. 4 or No. 5, where he is most comfortable. RR don't seem like making the playoffs in IPL 2020, but Vohra's inclusion could turn their fortunes around.
#4 Moeen Ali (RCB)
Moeen Ali has played only one game in IPL 2020 in which he didn't make much of an impact, but he could be one of RCB's key players as they attempt to make the playoffs for the first time in 4 years.
The Englishman would add great balance to the side, and fellow off-spinner Washington Sundar's success would certainly embolden the team management to field him.
Ali would also provide depth to a batting lineup that is slightly threadbare outside the top 4, and his leadership and experience would also come in handy. The all-rounder could replace Isuru Udana, who hasn't really impressed with the ball so far in IPL 2020.
#3 Sandeep Lamichhane (DC)
DC are perhaps the only team in IPL 2020 who are currently operating without a wrist-spinner in their first-choice XI, and they don't have much of a choice given that Amit Mishra was ruled out of the tournament. However, they have an excellent option on the bench in the form of Sandeep Lamichhane.
DC can afford to play an extra overseas player due to the depth of their Indian contingent and Lamichhane - along with Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel - could form a deadly spin trio. The Nepal leggie was in splendid form in the Caribbean Premier League before IPL 2020, and would be a valuable addition to a bowling attack that has already struck fear in opposition batting lineups.
#2 Kuldeep Yadav (KKR)
Kuldeep Yadav played only 3 games in IPL 2020 before being moved to the bench in favour of Varun Chakravarthy, and the Tamil Nadu mystery spinner has made a spot in the KKR playing XI his own. However, with Sunil Narine having been reported for a suspect action and Chris Green failing to impress in his only game of this season, the left-arm wrist-spinner could force his way back into the side.
Yadav is clearly low on confidence, and his erstwhile captain Dinesh Karthik didn't seem to have much faith in him either. But with Eoin Morgan now taking over the reins at KKR, the Indian spinner could be given a new lease of life.
#1 Imran Tahir (CSK)
Perhaps the best T20 player who hasn't played a game yet in IPL 2020, Imran Tahir has been frozen out of the CSK side, who are currently fielding two leg-spinners in Piyush Chawla and Karn Sharma. The South African picked up 26 wickets last year en route to the Purple Cap, but finds himself stuck on the bench in this tournament.
Both Chawla and Karn have impressed in flashes, but Tahir is in a class of his own. The 41-year-old is an out-and-out wicket-taking threat, and given MS Dhoni's propensity to play 3 (or even 4) spinners on slow tracks, we could see him make an impact on IPL 2020 at the business end.
It remains to be seen who he'll replace in the CSK playing XI given that they have 4 overseas players who've performed well, but surely space can be made for a bowler of Tahir's calibre.