The Indian Premier League (IPL) may have been suspended after the Covid-19 virus breached the bubble, but the 2021 season of the world's biggest T20 franchise league still saw impressive performances from some unheralded Indian players.
The IPL has been a wonderful platform for local players to show their talent and learn from some of the biggest names in the game.
When Covid-19 cases brought an early end to the IPL on Tuesday, the 14th edition of the tournament saw only 29 matches of the scheduled 60 games.
The virus-hit season even sparked debates on the merits of having a tournament like the IPL amid a national crisis, but let's not take anything away from some of the unheralded local players who grabbed their chances with both hands in the premier competition.
One such player was Harpreet Brar, the Punjab Kings spinner. In his first match of the season for the Punjab Kings, Brar broke the back of the Royal Challengers Bangalore batting line-up with three big wickets -- Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell, and AB de Villiers -- with the first two wickets coming in the same over.
It was Punjab's seventh game in the tournament, and Brar was given a chance after having played only once in the previous edition. The 25-year-old went on to pick Prithvi Shaw's wicket in the team's next match against Delhi Capitals.
Not just the four wickets in two games, Brar also made an impact with the bat, scoring 29 runs in the tournament.
Then Shahbaz Ahmed is another underrated spinner in the tournament. Known for his exploits in domestic cricket, the RCB spinner is on his way to becoming a household name. The 26-year-old Ahmed took four wickets in five matches with his best performance (3/7) coming in the game against the Sunrisers Hyderabad. The RCB also allowed Ahmed to bat at number six for his all-round ability.
Meanwhile, Delhi Capitals pacer Avesh Khan has soared this season despite having played only one match each in the last two editions. Khan is the joint second-highest wicket-taker with 14 wickets in eight games, just three behind RCB's Harshal Patel who took 17 wickets from seven matches. However, in terms of getting the big wickets in crunch moments, Khan was clearly ahead of the other bowlers until the league was suspended.
When it comes to a young underrated batsman, Ruturaj Gaikwad is the name that pops up. This year, Chennai Super Kings' Gaikwad made the most of the playtime, something which he did not get enough of in the previous edition.
The 24-year-old batsman made 196 runs in seven matches, with his highest being 75. Gaikwad overcame a slow start to the season and showed his class and huger for runs with some fantastic innings. Gaikwad's partnership with Faf du Plessis at the top is one of the key factors in CSK's resurgence this year.
Then last, but not the least, Chetan Sakariya, the Rajasthan Royals' 22-year-old pace bowler, was brilliant. The son of an auto-rickshaw driver, Sakariya overcame the tragic loss of his brother before the start of the IPL and left his mark on the tournament with some impressive left-arm pace bowling.
His best performance came against Punjab Kings in a high-scoring thriller. In a match where all the experienced bowlers proved expensive, Sakariya showed remarkable control and composure, taking three wickets, including the big ones of KL Rahul and Mayank Aggarwal.
Now fans will be eagerly waiting for the return of the IPL to get some more glimpses of these fine local players.