IPL 2021: Avesh Khan’s Coming-Off-Age Season

By Saurabh Nagpal


Players like R. Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Rishabh
Pant, and more recently, newcomers like Mohammed Siraj, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Rahul Chahar, and T. Natarajan, for all of them, the IPL was the platform that allowed them to express themselves and make the jump to the biggest stage. And honestly, this list is not exhaustive, there are many more like them who adorned the national colors because the IPL highlighted their talent. The ability of the IPL to empower and employ numerous domestic cricketers while also providing them with a space to springboard into the national side is truly special, both for the players and the Indian cricket ecosystem.

Like every previous season, there was an abundance of heartening displays from local players and lesser-known names. There was the commanding second-coming of Prithvi Shaw, the emergence of Chetan Sakariya, the purple-cap acquisition of Harshal Patel, and an exhibition of strokeplay from the young Devdutt Padikkal, among other uplifting storylines. But, it was Avesh Khan’s coming-of-age that perhaps triumphs over all these other performances.

Avesh, who made his IPL debut for Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2017, was procured by
Delhi Capitals (DC) next season for ₹75 lakh and has stayed with the franchise ever since.

While he had only featured in eight games and grabbed merely four wickets over the course of three previous seasons, this time around he became a mainstay in the playing XI, appearing in all eight games and becoming the joint second-highest wicket-taker of the
tournament with 14 scalps.

Unlike many others, Avesh arrived on the domestic scene fairly early and has been on the fringes of the Indian side for quite some time now. He has been regularly traveling as a net bowler ever since January 2018. He also represented India in two U-19 World Cups, first in
2014, then in 2016, being the country’s leading wicket-taker, with 12 dismissals in six games, in the latter edition. For the Madhya Pradesh Ranji Team, he debuted also in 2014 against Railways. In 26 First-Class matches, he has grabbed 100 wickets at a healthy strike-rate of 44.80. The 2018-19 Ranji Trophy season was the finest for him, as he was his team’s highest wicket-getter, amassing 37 wickets. Most recently, in the latest Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he bagged 14 wickets in just five games, and was the tournament’s third-highest wicket-taker.

The 24-year-old pacer from Indore has always had at his disposal the essential attributes to become a top bowler: he is quick; has a fluent action; can deliver a mean yorker, a sharp bouncer, a deceiving off-cutter; and can move the ball both ways. Yet, despite the massive potential, he has come to the limelight and truly proved his mettle only in this season.

The biggest reason behind this is the fact that he has learned to be more responsible, has
come off age, both on and off the field. Following the last season, Avesh has doubled up on
his fitness, lost 6 kgs, and hired a personal dietitian, who ensures that he intakes a regulated and advantageous diet. He has stated in his own words that giving up biryani has been one of the toughest parts for him. This change of lifestyle and attitude often reflects a paradigm shift in the career of a modern professional sportsperson.

More importantly, when he was given a chance on the pitch because of Umesh Yadav and
Ishant Sharma’s unavailability, he not only grabbed it with both hands, but he also embraced the responsibility that was levied on him. In the opening game against Chennai Super Kings, with the absence of last season’s stalwarts Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, Avesh was practically leading the line, and with the figures of 2 for 23 in 4 overs, he repaid the faith that the coach and captain had put in him. After that, he did not look back. While Rabada returned to the playing XI after the first game, but never found his form, it was Avesh who became the team’s most trustworthy pacer. Candidly employed by Rishabh Pant in the powerplay, the middle overs, and at the death, Avesh played a major role in helping DC – the most economical bowling unit during the powerplay – be so dominating in the field this season.

Throughout the tournament, he bowled 72 dot balls – fourth-highest in this season.
The rapid rise of Avesh Khan also benefited the overall team balance of DC. His emergence
permitted the DC think-tank to ditch their regular tactic of playing two foreign pacers, thus
opening up space for playing three foreign batsmen, and hence compensating for the
immense loss of Shreyas Iyer in the playing XI.

While we never got to see the end of this season’s IPL, Avesh has been rewarded for his
brilliant season and he finds himself traveling, as a stand-by, with the Indian Test team for the WTC final and the England series. If the Border-Gavaskar Series is an example of how long tours function in a pandemic, there is a big chance that this youngster from Indore will get a chance. And there’s no better place than England for a pacer to make his debut.


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