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Wisden’s ’IPL unearthed gems’ XI

Wisden's IPL Unearthed XI - a team of players who first made their mark in the IPL
by Naman Agarwal 5 minute read

Wisden’s “IPL Unearthed Gems XI” is a team of players who made their mark in the IPL without having much international or, in some cases, even domestic cricket experience.

Every year, the IPL converts unknown names into overnight superstars. Some are able to adapt to the newfound fame while some are not, but the IPL does live up to its motto of “where talent meets opportunity”. This team of unearthed gems features players who first came into prominence with IPL performances before having much exposure at international or – for Indians – even domestic level.


The stats under each player’s name refer to their IPL numbers.

Shaun Marsh

2477 runs @ 40, SR: 132.7, 20 50s, 1 100, HS: 115

Marsh had not played international cricket before the inaugural edition of the IPL. There, he did not merely perform: he aced it. Indian uncapped players were an important part of the basic structure of the IPL, but to see an overseas uncapped player finish as the highest run-scorer in the first edition was surprising for many.

Marsh had been in form in Australian domestic cricket, and grew in stature after a stellar season for Kings XI Punjab, where he became the first winner of the Orange Cap. He was soon rewarded with an Australia cap, and went on to have successful international and IPL careers.

David Warner

6211 runs @ 41.4, SR: 139.4, 59 50s, 4 100s, HS: 126

Warner had played six ODIs and three T20Is for Australia before making his IPL debut, in 2009 – but the catch is that Delhi Daredevils had signed Warner in December 2008, before he had set foot in international cricket. He had been impressive for New South Wales and didn’t take a lot of time in converting his promise and potential into performances at the top level.

Fourteen years down the line, he is the only cricketer to have won the IPL Orange Cap thrice as well as one of the greatest across-format opening batters Australia have produced.

Dewald Brevis

161 runs @ 23, SR: 142.5, HS: 49

Mumbai Indians picked ‘Baby AB’ – the nickname is a tribute to the legend whose batting Brevis’ is reminiscent of – after he ended as the leading-run scorer at the 2022 Under-19 World Cup. While the world had got a Brevis’ talent, they had not seen him play at the senior level, and Mumbai provided him with a platform for just that.

Brevis made his IPL debut in 2022 and played seven games. He didn’t set the stage on fire in those seven matches, but there was a trailer for the future. There is little doubt that his his four sixes off four consecutive deliveries against Rahul Chahar will be talked about when he attains greatness.

N Tilak Varma

671 runs @ 39.5, SR: 141, 3 50s, HS: 84

Mumbai Indians included little-known Tilak Varma in their first match of IPL 2022; he ended up emerging as Mumbai’s hope for the future, with some even touting him to be a leader down the line.

A part of India’s 2020 Under-19 World Cup squad, Tilak had played a bit of domestic cricket before his IPL debut, but hadn’t done anything of note before Mumbai gave him the centerstage and he made it his own.

Hardik Pandya

2240 runs @ 30.7, SR: 145.3, 10 50s, HS: 91
53 wickets @ 32.5, ER: 8.74, BBI: 3-17

One of the greatest finds of Mumbai Indians, Hardik burst onto the IPL scene in 2015 when the Mumbai scouting system unearthed the all-rounder from Baroda. He had shown potential in a couple of seasons of domestic cricket, but the numbers had not been quite exceptional.

But John Wright & co., who were leading the MI scouting team, were impressed and got him in and the rest is history. Pandya has now led his national team and can potentially be the full-time captain for India in limited-overs cricket going forward.

Nehal Wadhera

183 runs @ 36.6, SR: 147.6, 2 50s, HS: 64

Adding to the list of talents unearthed by Mumbai Indians is Wadhera, the young left-hander from Punjab. Much like N Tilak Varma in 2022, not many people had heard of Wadhera when Mumbai included him in 2023. Six weeks down the line, he has two half-centuries from six innings: one of these came when no one else stood up around him, and the other in a successful 200 run-chase.

What makes Wadhera’s inclusion even more astonishing is that he is yet to play in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (or even the Vijay Hazare Trophy), India’s two domestic limited-overs tournaments.

Sunil Narine

159 wickets @ 26.1, ER: 6.75, 8 four-fors, BBI: 5-19
1039 runs @ 14, SR: 160.3, 4 50s, HS: 75

Narine made his international debut for West Indies in 2011 and was very young in his career when he caught the eye of several IPL teams including Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians. He had impressed in the 2011 Champions League and Gautam Gambhir, then Kolkata captain, was convinced that he wanted the mystery spinner in his team, given Eden Gardens’ spin-friendly nature.

Kolkata did eventually manage to get him, and Narine was an instant success, bowling KKR to victory in two of his first three seasons. Over time, he also evolved as a top-order hitter.

Jasprit Bumrah

145 wickets @ 23.3, ER: 7.39, 3 four-fors, BBI: 5-10

Bumrah had barely played a handful of T20 games for Gujarat in March 2013 when John Wright, Mumbai Indians’ scout, spotted him and got him drafted into the MI squad. He played just two games in his first IPL season before featuring in more than 10 the following year. Consistent performances followed, and by 2016 he was fast-tracked into the national team – though, by then, he had been making a mark in domestic cricket as well. Today, he is regarded as one of the most complete fast bowlers India has ever produced.

Matheesha Pathirana

12 wickets @ 21.7, ER: 7.61, BBI: 3-15

Pathirana came into the spotlight during the 2020 Under-19 World Cup when his slingy action reminded everyone of Lasith Malinga. He played the 2022 Under-19 World Cup, as well but did not get much exposure at the senior level until Chennai Super Kings signed him as a replacement for Adam Milne in 2022.

After coming across a viral video of his bowling, MS Dhoni and the Chennai management brought him in as a net bowler in 2021; and when the opportunity came in 2022, they gave him a cap. He’s having a breakthrough season now in 2023, with Dhoni himself singing his praises.

Suyash Sharma

10 wickets @ 25.8, ER: 8.06, BBI: 3-30

Suyash had not played any recognised senior-level cricket before making his debut for Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL 2023. He had been impressing people in the Delhi club cricket and Under-25 cricket circuit, which got him recommended to several IPL teams ahead of the 2023 auction.

Kolkata went all out for him and handed him a debut against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in front of a packed Eden Gardens. Young Suyash didn’t seem overawed by the occasion as he ended up taking three wickets and has since gone from strength to strength, securing Kolkata’s spin-bowling future.

Dirk Nannes

28 wickets @ 28, ER: 7.29, BBI: 3-27

Nannes had a very interesting career as a sportsperson. He had represented Australia in the skiing World Cup and was close to being an Olympian before turning to cricket. He was picked by Delhi Daredevils in 2009 any international cricket experience, and ended up leading their bowling attack, keeping Glenn McGrath out of the XI.

He took 15 wickets in IPL 2009 and soon made his international cricket debut for the Netherlands in the 2009 T20 World Cup, and later played for Australia as well.

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