The latest BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) announcement regarding the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League came in as a relief for cricket fans. Clouds of doubt had surrounded the tournament schedule, which is now slated to kick-off from April 9, behind closed doors ‘to begin with.’ 

Six cities – Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata – will play hosts to the league games, all 56 of which will be played on neutral venues.

Click here for complete tournament schedule.

This news comes shortly after the popular T20 tournament’s Pakistani counterpart, the Pakistan Super League (PSL) was postponed due to a spike in COVID cases inside the teams’ bio bubble – a situation that the BCCI aims to keep at bay with its strict venue-related protocols for IPL 2021.

Before its unforeseen delay though, the PSL had been gaining momentum with some big names in action and exciting encounters unfolding. And it’s no secret that this T20 tournament is historically appreciated even by fans from across the border, in India.

According to stats released by PSL’s streaming partner Cricket Gateway, more Indians streamed the 2017 final than viewers from any other country, even Pakistan. 

Thus on that note, let’s imagine a utopian world where ties between India and Pakistan were not as sour; at least to the extent that cricketing relations remained unaffected. Pakistan cricket legend Wasim Akram had also advocated the participation of the men in green in the IPL, a few months back. 

Wouldn’t it have been fun to have some of our neighbours play in the IPL?

Rajasthan Royals could really use a presence like Sohail Tanvir, who had propelled them to their maiden title by ending up as the first season’s highest wicket taker. Both Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul had memorable stints with the Kolkata Knight Riders, while the likes of Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez also displayed their flair.

 A decade since the last time Pak players featured in the IPL, here are some fresh names that could add to the excitement of the world’s biggest franchisee-based T20 competition:

  1. Mohammad Rizwan

For not-so-frequent followers of Pak cricket, this wicketkeeper-batsman is barely a couple of years old on the international arena. Yet, he has successfully dislodged Sarfaraz Ahmed, the man who led Pak to a famous Champions Trophy final win over India in 2017, from both the long and short format lineups. 

He was the highest-scorer of the PSL before it temporarily shut shop, scoring 297 runs in five innings at a strike rate above 140. This tally included three 50-plus scores. He’s currently leading the Multan Sultans at the PSL, and could easily walk into a squad like the Delhi Capitals, in IPL 2021.

  1. Babar Azam

A name that’s of late been taken a lot in the same breath as the likes of Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson, Babar is a special talent. He averages almost 56 across 77 ODIs, and above 48 in 47 T20 internationals.

In the five games that he played in the latest PSL season, he crossed the 50-run mark thrice, with a high score of 90*in a successful chase of 196. The Karachi Kings star strikes at a shade under 140, and would be a welcome addition to current squads like those of the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Chennai Super Kings.

  1. Shaheen Afridi

The 2000-born left-arm pacer is already a mainstay of the Pak international team across all formats. Afridi is closing in on 50 ODI wickets having played under two dozen games and plays the role of a lethal death-overs bowler in T20Is. 

The Lahore Qalandars southpaw has already demonstrated his skill set with the white ball within the four games he’s played in the PSL, this season. The 20-year-old has been the second highest wicket-taker in the tournament, striking almost every tenth ball. His talents could’ve filled up gaps in the Sunrisers Hyderabad squad that remains shy of quality overseas fast bowlers.

  1. Hasan Ali

A student of the Glenn McGrath School of bowling, Hasan Ali has been one of Pakistan’s most consistent resources in international cricket. It’s also worth pointing out that the 26-year-old has played more than a hundred T20s, despite being considered a red-ball specialist. 

The Islamabad United seamer is among the leading wicket takers at the PSL, and more importantly has an economy rate of just 5.56 across four games. A team like the Punjab Kings could’ve used his services, having lost a bulk of games last season due to their death bowling inadequacies.

5. Wahab Riaz

Approaching the age of 36, Wahab Riaz is unlike any of the other names on this list. But he does bring in a wealth of experience, having played 272 T20s in a career spanning more than a decade. A lot of Indian fans still remember him for his five-wicket haul in the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup against India, at Mohali.

As a useful contributor both with the bat and the ball, the Peshawar Zalmi skipper could be a more-than-handy backup for the likes of Andre Russel and Sunil Narine in the Kolkata Knight Riders squad – both of whom have struggled with injuries in the recent past.

Do you agree with this list? Have any changes to suggest? Let us know in the comments.

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