Every year the IPL launches several unknown players to overnight stardom. But along with providing a platform for young talents, the tournament also presents a window of opportunity for players who are in the twilight of their careers to make one final flourish.
As IPL 2023 draws towards the finish line, let’s have a look at the top six such comebacks by players who were out of favour before the start of the season, but have turned out to be some of the most impressive performers not only for their teams but across the league.
Stats are for IPL 2023 (till Qualifier 2)
Best comebacks of IPL 2023
299 runs @ 33.2, SR: 169.9, 2 50s, HS: 71*
Ajinkya Rahane has been one of the biggest surprise packages of IPL 2023. Across the last three IPL editions, he had scored 254 runs at an average of 16 and a strike rate of 104.5. Never before in his IPL career had his strike rate touched 140 in any season. Never before had his dot ball percentage been less than 33 in any season (it is 19.9 per cent this year). He had been dropped from the India Test team and was fighting it out in domestic cricket in hopes of making a comeback.
He got an opportunity at the Wankhede Stadium for CSK when Ben Stokes became unavailable, and never looked back. Not only did he cement his place at No.3 for CSK, he is also back in the squad for the WTC Final for India, and has a good chance to revive his international career.
301 runs @ 37.6, SR: 160.1, 3 50s, HS: 63*
Like Rahane, Vijay Shankar had also struggled to make any positive impact in the last three editions of the IPL. He played just four matches last season and was not expected to start this year for Gujarat. But according to the GT camp, he was batting too well in the nets before the season to be ignored.
They took the risk of starting with him despite having the likes of Abhinav Manohar and Sai Sudharshan in the squad. And he has paid them dividends. This is the first time he has scored 300-plus runs in an IPL season. His strike rate of 160 is also his personal best, and his three fifties this year are the most he has scored in a single IPL season.
22 wickets @ 22.5, ER: 8.11, 1 three-for, BBI: 3-22
Piyush Chawla was a commentator during IPL 2022 after having gone unsold in the auction. Mumbai picked him up at base price in the 2023 auction as they did not have any international spinner in their squad. They picked and played him out of compulsion, and he ended up having his best ever IPL season, at 34 years of age. Never before had he gone past the 20-wicket mark in an IPL season.
He took wickets in all but three matches and at one point had at least one wicket in nine consecutive games.
24 wickets @ 13.5, ER: 7.89, 3 three-fors, BBI: 5-10
Once a Purple Cap winner in IPL 2014, injuries had dented Mohit Sharma’s career. Between IPL 2019 and IPL 2022, he played just two games across four tournaments. After a good domestic season last year, Ashish Nehra, the Gujarat Titans coach, asked him if he wanted to be with the team as a net bowler, to which Mohit obliged.
This year, they picked him up at the auction in the main squad and gave him a go ahead of younger Indian quicks, and he didn’t disappoint. In just 13 games he has picked up 24 wickets, with a wicket almost every 10 balls. He has three four-fors already this season – the joint most by any bowler in an IPL season, and his best performance (so far) has come at the biggest stage – a game-breaking 5-10 against Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 2.
10 wickets @ 20.6, ER: 8.24, BBI: 2-19
Ishant Sharma played just four games across the last three IPL seasons and was unsold last year. Delhi got him at base price this season and benched him for the first five matches. With five defeats in five games, they needed to change things up and gave Ishant a game in the process. He not only brought his skills and experience, but he brought luck with him as well as Delhi went on to win four of their next five games.
Ishant did a stellar job in the Powerplay, picking six wickets at an economy rate of 7.88. His overall bowling average of 20.6 and bowling strike rate of 15 in IPL 2023 was his respective best in any IPL season.
12 wickets @ 25, ER: 7.89, 1 three-for, BBI: 4-15
Mayank Markande had a quick rise and an even quicker fall. He made his IPL debut in 2018, picked 15 wickets, got an India cap, and got discarded soon after. So much so, that after IPL 2018 and before IPL 2023, he played just six IPL games and got just two wickets.
Hyderabad gave him a break last year, but he played just two games. This year, he put up a personal best performance in the first game he got and ended up becoming the lead spinner for SRH. His economy rate of 7.89 this year is his best in any IPL season, which incidentally happens to be the fastest-scoring IPL season ever.