1) Sanju Samson
There's absolutely no doubt about the fact that he is one for the future. Recommended by S Sreesanth, handpicked by Rahul Dravid, nurtured by Rajasthan Royals and propelled by his own gifts, Samson is among the most talented players in India today. And much like MS Dhoni and numerous other small-town stars, his humble background hasn't deterred him one bit. All along, his father — a former policeman — has tried to soothe the snubs he suffered in New Delhi as a little boy. Samson, who aspires to be an IPS officer, is best placed to take over from MS Dhoni behind the stumps. After taking extra workload all these years, the skipper can now afford to take a breather.
2) Ambati Rayudu
It's been 13 years since we first heard of Rayudu, the batting prodigy. It was in 2002 that he really burst onto the scene with a blazing 177 in Under-19 colours in England. Such was the impact of his knock that many a commentator suggested that he be drafted into the ODI side immediately. Incidentally, India were playing that epic NatWest series then. As one thing led to another and the Mohammad Kaif-Yuvraj Singh combine scripted history, Rayudu was slowly forgotten. A combination of factors, ranging from discrimination to a bad temper, delayed Rayudu's initiation into international cricket. It was only last year that he made his ODI debut.
3) Karn Sharma
Sharma loses his cool if you call him 'Karan'. "Why are you adding an 'a' to my name? Haven't you heard of Karna, one of the central characters in the Mahabharata? I have been named after him," he explains. Hailing from Meerut, the same Uttar Pradesh town which produced Praveen Kumar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sharma's first-class record — 64 wickets in 33 games — is nothing to write home about. But you've got to discount the fact that he represents Railways, an unglamorous. But a take a look at his IPL record and his partnership with fellow leg-spinner Amit Mishra for Sunrisers Hyderabad, and you know that he isn't an also-ran.
4) Dhawal Kulkarni
Kulkarni has been turning heads in Mumbai since his Under-17 days. His maiden Ranji Trophy season (2008-09) saw him pick up 42 wickets. To put it simply, he was to the bowling unit what Ajinkya Rahane was to the batting department: hungry for success and dependable. But that's how thankless a job bowling is in these parts. Look where Rahane is. Alas, Kulkarni has yet to play an international game. Several bowlers — undeserving at that — have already played for India. For some strange reason or the other, including injury, Kulkarni has had to wait. His biggest strength is that he strikes early, often in the first over. No wonder they call him Mumbai ka Daryl Tuffey.
5) Mohit Sharma
Another of India's small-town heroes, Sharma rises to the occasion whenever MS Dhoni gives him the new ball in the IPL. Tall, reasonably fast and smooth in delivery, Sharma's biggest strength is his accuracy. The Haryana seamer, who has a no-nonsense approach, is often hailed as one of the best Powerplay bowlers around. By his own admission, Sharma feels lucky that Dhoni is his captain at India and Chennai Super Kings. "If I get hit for a six and two fours in the same over, Mahi bhai does not grumble. He will say that I bowled well but the batsman hit a good shot. Such support from your captain puts you at ease during pressure situations."