The Indian Premier League is returning to India and with it, there are a few stars who are returning to the star-studded T20 tournament, which will get underway in Chennai on April 9. IPL 2020 was initially postponed and eventually moved out of India in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. After completing the tournament successfully, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) decided to hold the 14th edition of the tournament across 6 cities under strict bio-bubble environments.
As we head into what promises to be another exciting season of IPL, indiatoday.in takes a look at 6 comeback men who are set to grab headlines from later this week.
The 'Chinna Thala' is back! After pulling out of IPL 2020 due to personal reasons, Suresh Raina has reunited with MS Dhoni at Chennai Super Kings. Raina had been a pillar of strength for CSK over the years and his absence was felt as the 3-time champions struggled for momentum in the middle-overs in the UAE.
Raina had joined the Chennai Super Kings training camp in Chennai ahead of IPL 2020. In fact, he announced his retirement from international cricket hours after MS Dhoni brought the curtains down on his career on August 15, 2020. However, Raina decided to withdraw from the competition after reaching the UAE.
Raina strikes at close to 140 and he has been the main man for CSK in the middle-order, giving them the impetus that helped them post competitive totals. It will be a big boost for CSK as he returns to the IPL even as Dhoni's men are looking for a strong comeback.
There were speculations that Raina had a fall out with the CSK top brass and that he wouldn't be retained but CSK quashed all rumours by retaining the World Cup-winning former all-rounder for IPL 2021.
It remains to be seen if Raina will take over vice-captaincy as he joins a revamped line-up for IPL 2021.
Raina in IPL: 193 matches, 5368 runs and a hundred. 25 wickets.
Last played for Chennai Super Kings (2019)
Photo Courtesy: Chennai Super Kings
All eyes are on India's Test hero, who is returning to IPL for the first time since 2014. Over the years, Pujara has been seen as a Test specialist despite him stressing that he was ready to play white-ball cricket.
Pujara failed to get an IPL contract for the last 6 years. He last played in the IPL for Kings XI Punjab (now Punjab Kings) in 2014. The India star had played for Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders in the past. Pujara has played 30 IPL matches and has 390 runs at a strike rate of close to 100.
Despite the perception of being a Test specialist, Pujara averages close to 30 in T20s and strikes at 109.9.
Only in 2019, Cheteshwar Pujara had scored his maiden T20 hundred for Saurashtra in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy against Railways in Indore. Pujara hit a 61-ball unbeaten 100, slamming 14 boundaries and a six months after he was snubbed at the IPL 2019 auction.
After the Test heroics in Australia, Pujara bagged an IPL contract when CSK bought him at his base price of Rs 50 lakh.
Pujara has given CSK fans a lot to cheer for as he has been striking them cleanly in the training sessions. Will the veteran batsman find a place in the XI? Keep in mind, MS Dhoni has always loved "umbrella men" in the team and Pujara can get the job done as an anchor.
Pujara in IPL: 30 matches, 390 runs.
Last played for Punjab Kings (2014)
The 40-year-old is still willing to give his best. Much like Suresh Raina, Harbhajan also pulled out of IPL 2020 due to personal reasons. The off-spinner, who spent two successful seasons with CSK after joining them from Mumbai Indians in 2018, recently revealed that he took the decision last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Harbhajan's IPL future looked bleak when he was released by CSK before the IPL 2021 auction.
However, Kolkata Knight Riders snapped the World Cup-winner at his base price of Rs 2 crore. Despite not having played competitive cricket since 2019, Harbhajan is raring to go and training with the rest of the team in Chennai.
Speaking to Sports Today last week, Harbhajan had said he will give more than his 100 percent for KKR. Notably, Harbhajan has won an IPL title with his last two franchises. Can the senior off-spinner help KKR end their title drought?
Harbhajan in IPL: 160 matches, 150 wickets, 829 runs.
Last played for Chennai Super Kings (2019)
Watch: Pragyan Ojha on the comeback men at IPL 2021
Shakib Al Hasan
The highly-rated all-rounder was not part of IPL 2020 after he was handed a backdated ban by the ICC for failure to report a corrupt approach in 2019. The Bangladesh cricket icon did not play competitive cricket in 2019 and missed the IPL in the UAE.
However, he has come back stronger, having made a significant impact in a domestic T20 tournament in Bangladesh in December 2020. Shakib showcased flashes of return to form during an ODI series against the West Indies in January where he hit a fifty and a 40-plus score.
Shakib also played a Test match in February but he suffered a thigh injury and was ruled out of the 2nd Test of the series against West Indies.
Despite the setbacks, Shakib triggered a bidding war in the IPL auction in February. Punjab Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders went for the all-rounder, who was eventually bought by KKR for Rs 3.2 crore.
Shakib has linked up with KKR in Chennai as the all-rounder is expected to play a key role for the 2-time champions.
Shakib in IPL: 63 matches, 746 runs, 2 fifties. 28 wickets.
Last played for Sunrisers Hyderabad (2019)
The Bangladesh pacer made headlines in the 2016 edition of the IPL when he picked up a table-topping tally of 16 wickets. Fresh from success at the international level, Mustafizur showcased his wide range, especially those wily slower ones, to trouble the opposition batsmen.
However, plagued by injury concerns, Mustafizur managed to play 1 match for SRH in IPL 2017.
Despite the setback, Mustafizur was bought by Mumbai Indians in the IPL 2018 auction for Rs 2.2 crore. He played 7 matches but had to pull out of the league midway due to a hairline fracture on his toe, which prompted the BCB to be more careful of his workload management.
In 2019, the Bangladesh Cricket Board did not give the left-arm pacer NOC to take part in the auction as he was told earlier in that year that he would be preserved for international commitments and barred from playing T20 leagues overseas for a period of 2 years.
Having made himself available for the IPL 2021 auction, Mustafizur found a taker when Rajasthan Royals got him for Rs 1 crore -- his base price.
With Jofra Archer having been ruled out of the initial few weeks of IPL 2021, it's a great opportunity for Mustafizur to step up and deliver. The 25-year-old had ordinary outings during their tour of New Zealand last month but he will be raring to make a mark in familiar territory.
Mustafizur in IPL: 24 matches, 24 wickets.
Last played for Mumbai Indians (2018).