That bug caught up with me again. It made me feel I was quite busy and I did not have the time to write and I should sacrifice it for the more “significant” facets of my life. True, I have been a bit busy, but not so much that it has taken me a month to come up with my next post. Devoting time to this blog is a promise I have made to myself and is one I will try to stand by.
So, it’s that time of the year again. The IPL is upon us. In all probability we are going to witness another huge opening ceremony today before the IPL takes us around the country for an extravaganza of glitz, glamour and of course let’s not forget, T20 cricket. There has been a lot of debate on what the IPL has done to Indian cricket, it terms of impact. The opinions are diverse and far-ranging. Some say it is the way ahead and some say Mr. Lalit K. Modi has unleashed a monster on Indian cricket, which the current regime has continued to feed, thereby making it more hazardous. My personal opinion is a bit divided.
|CSK - The most consistent IPL team so far|
When the IPL was announced and exhibited 5 years ago, like everyone it caught my fantasy. Indian players playing with overseas players in the same team combined with the prospect of Indian players playing against Indian players in different teams was indeed a mouth-watering prospect. Jayasuriya opening with Sachin, Brett Lee sharing the new ball with Ishant Sharma, Dhoni and Yuvraj walking out together, not to bat, but for the toss were some of the possibilities which could get any cricket lover excited and I was no different. Four seasons later the world has turned upside down. India went to the top - and were then unceremoniously dislodged - as the world’s no. 1 Test playing nation; India won a World Cup after 28 years - thereby bringing joy to a billion hearts; and have also suffered an 8-0 mauling in away tests recently. To say it’s been up and down would be a serious under-statement. So where does the IPL fit in all this?
One thing that you can’t take away from the IPL is that it has unearthed a lot of new talent and also provided a wonderful platform for existing talent to showcase their skills. Ravichandran Ashwin, Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay, Umesh Yadav, Rahul Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Saurabh Tiwary, Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh are just a few of those names in a long list who owe their inclusion/resurgence at the international level to the IPL. It has given us a unique opportunity and privilege of watching greats like Warne, Hayden, Gilchrist, Murali and now even Dravid in action again. The IPL has also led to the development of India as probably the most formidable force in limited overs cricket at the international level. It has inculcated a confidence and a sense of belonging at the highest level amongst the younger players. It has also been a huge source of income for numerous young players and pulled more youngsters towards the game. Like it or not, but lots of households are enjoying a better standard of living thanks to the IPL. Another pleasant aspect of the IPL is that it has almost a created a sense of nonchalance towards chasing huge targets when it comes to the Indian players. They believe in their ability and know that as long as they stay out there any target is gettable. We have seen two examples of it in the recent past, one against Sri Lanka in the CB series and one against Pakistan in the Asia Cup to go along with a lot of other brilliant chases over the past 4 years. It is all thanks to the IPL that any required run rate is no longer is out of reach for the next generation of Indian cricket. The confidence and self-belief is abundant.
On the flipside though, the Indian team plays too much cricket throughout the year. Even in the 10 days between the Asia Cup and the IPL, the team travelled to South Africa for just one T20 game. To add to the cramped international schedule, we have the IPL in which they play at least 16 high intensity games and travel across the whole country, from Punjab to Chennai, from Mumbai to Kolkata, which does take a toll. Physical fatigue is just one part of it, what often gets neglected is the mental fatigue. Imagine life for someone like a MS Dhoni or a Gautam Gamhir. They play for India consistently in all 3 formats. Dhoni is captain, keeps wicket and is a very important batsman for the team. Gambhir opens the batting and till very recently was Dhoni’s deputy for Team India. Then they come to the IPL where Dhoni continues to captain the team, be the wicketkeeper and is also the most important batsman for his franchisee and Gambhir also leads KKR and bats at the top of the order. These are just two names but most Indian players, not to mention fast bowlers, are subjected to this fatigue, mentally as well as physically. Fitness-wise, Dhoni is probably the fittest cricketer in the country and is almost a machine, but it is the mental fatigue that is bound to catch up with him sooner or later. When team India uses Zaheer Khan sparingly, only for selected matches, him playing all 16 or 18 matches for RCB is certainly not fair. Another potential problem is that it has exposed youngsters to the lure and riches of T20 cricket and the fame and glamour associated with it. It could prove to be a costly distraction and can undermine the importance of the longer version of the game. This is an area where guys like Dravid, Sachin, Ganguly, Gilchrist, Jayawardene, Kumble, Vettori must come in and stress on the importance of the longer versions and make sure that the youngsters realize that test cricket is the ultimate form of cricket. It is these senior guys and the coaching staff around the young players that need to ensure that they don’t fall prey to any such distractions.
|Sachin and Dhoni - Talismans for MI and CSK|
To add some sense of balance for these overworked players, we could have a solution where these players play only a stipulated number of games, say 10 or probably 11, out of the 16 league games and then the 2 or 3 knockout games if their team makes it through. They can probably take a small break or continue to stay with the team and impart their experience and knowledge to the youngsters. This will also create a window for more youngsters to play in the 11 when these senior pros are sitting out. It will prevent the over-exertion to an extent and give a few reserves a chance to play in the 11 and rub shoulders with the big boys of international cricket, thereby giving them invaluable experience. This is just a suggestion and I am sure quite a few of you may have a different opinion and I would be glad to know and discuss them. The bottom line is that these players need some kind of break from this continuous grind and for me, an Indian player playing his full quota of IPL matches and then later seeking rest from international commitments is totally unacceptable.
As a viewer though, it makes for good viewing and great entertainment. It generates a huge buzz, a brilliant atmosphere and has surely captured the imagination of this cricket crazy nation. It is a win-win situation for the players, the board, the television channels and the viewers. Analytically speaking, it is a fantastic business model. So what do I have to say about IPL 5? Bring it on!!!