The 2019 Indian Premier League season is playing host to an entire team’s worth of England-qualified players. Ben Jones casts his eye over the 11 Englishmen about to take to the stage, starting with the specialist batsmen.
JOS BUTTLER – Rajasthan Royals
Has an Englishman ever had a better IPL than Jos Buttler did in 2018? Even when Ben Stokes was voted Most Valuable Player in 2017, he arguably had less of an impact than Buttler did for Rajasthan Royals, almost single-handedly dragging them into the play-offs following a transformative move to the top of the order. Only twice in IPL history has an opener scored more runs than Buttler did last year whilst maintaining a higher scoring rate. As shown below, he’s in decent company.
Heading back to Rajasthan this year, he’s nailed on to slot back into that opening berth, having established himself as one of the premier openers in T20 cricket. Since Buttler was promoted to open, he’s made 908 runs in that position. Only six other men have made more, and only one (Aaron Finch) has done so whilst scoring more quickly.
Chance of playing: 10/10
Chance of success: 9/10
JOE DENLY – Kolkata Knight Riders
Kent veteran Joe Denly has enjoyed something of a career revival in the last few seasons. After a period of solid success on the T20 domestic circuit, beginning in the 2017 BPL, Denly has begun to force his way into the thoughts of both major T20 leagues and the England set-up. At the 2019 auction KKR secured his services, banking on his mixture of batting nous and canny leg-spin.
Typically batting at the top of the order, Denly is extremely unlikely to dislodge either Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine from the opening partnership. Equally, since that 2017 BPL season, Denly’s batting has been extremely secure, dismissed every 30 balls against pace and every 26 balls against spin. That is slightly at odds with KKR’s traditional gameplan of charging out of the blocks, but it does make Denly ideally suited to the rebuilding in the middle overs that will inevitably be required. KKR could well use him as a safety net middle-order option, particularly on turning tracks where his leg-spin becomes a greater weapon.
Chance of playing: 6/10
Chance of success: 6/10
JONNY BAIRSTOW – Sunrisers Hyderabad
A recognised international star now, and with a serious claim on being the best ODI opener in the world, Jonny Bairstow is in a peculiar position at Sunrisers. Given the nature of the overseas players in the Sunrisers squad, he’s unlikely to get a game, competing with established SRH stars David Warner and Kane Williamson for a place in that top order.
Equally, his strong record has largely been based around dominating pace, rather than spin. In and of itself that is not a flaw, but it may limit his effectiveness on the Sunrisers home surface, the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium. In the last two seasons, only the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur has seen a lower economy for spin bowlers – Bairstow will be working against his home conditions. Given his all-format commitments with England, Bairstow has had little experience of T20 cricket in recent times; indeed, he’s only played 16 T20 matches in the last 24 months.
All that comes with the caveat that Bairstow is a man who undoubtedly prides himself on proving people wrong, and may be spurred on by the challenge. Given a full season in Hyderabad, you wouldn’t bet against him dislodging some more established names, but on this occasion the curtailed opportunities from World Cup commitments may limit him.
Chances of playing: 5/10
Chance of success: 7/10
LIAM LIVINGSTONE – Rajasthan Royals
Livingstone has garnered a serious reputation as a dangerous white-ball hitter, and while his opportunities to prove it on the highest stage have been limited, it is a reputation he deserves. He has scored faster than almost everyone in domestic T20 cricket over the last 12 months – indeed, everyone with a better record than him is an established star.
Still – he is unlikely to feature for the Royals, certainly before the World Cup exodus begins. The overseas-heavy leanings of the RR squad does dictate that Livingstone’s opportunities will be few, but as a team they are lacking in late innings firepower. With his career scoring rate of 9.4rpo in the last five overs, Livingstone could be well placed to come into the side once that problem has been established in practice, not just in theory.
Chance of playing: 4/10
Chance of success: 7/10
SAM BILLINGS – Chennai Super Kings
Abundantly talented and under-exposed, Sam Billings has suffered for being born in a generation of wonderful English batsmen. In particular, his career has been in the shadow of Buttler’s, both being audacious wicket-keeper batsmen with huge potential, born within 12 months of each other. The consequence of being squeezed out of international recognition is that he has gained considerable T20 experience – of the 11 English players at the IPL, only Buttler has played more matches in this form of the game.
Equally, he’s had a boost in public profile following his superb 87 (47) against Windies in St Kitts and Nevis, and all signs suggest he’s in excellent form. His batting against spin is excellent, scoring at 8rpo since 2016 and dismissed only every 21 balls, making him a useful option against spin-dominated attacks likes Sunrisers Hyderabad, used as more of a horses-for-courses selection.
Chance of playing: 5/10
Chance of success: 6/10