Change is the only constant. In keeping with that aphorism... a change of massive proportion has touched cricket in India in recent years with IPL being the causative agent. However the tendentious question is: has this change been beneficial, at least on important levels?
It has certainly brought wealth to budding local cricketers but it has also brought the less-welcome trappings of wealth — the bling, with tattoos, ear studs & gold chains increasingly becoming normal, and not to mention, cocksureness.
Meanwhile, the cricketing standards have been less than satisfactory, which is easily noticeable when these same young IPL stars get the opportunity to play for India. The cons of the T20 league are particularly explicit in terms of player development.
To begin with, the IPL appears to have made fast bowlers thoroughly defensive. All they want now is to give away fewer and fewer runs; taking wickets is not a priority anymore. They experiment so much that you don’t know when a pacer becomes military-medium and an off-spinner becomes a leggie just in the space of six balls. Whatever happened to the idea ‘stick to the basics’!
Back in the day bowlers who could bowl fast walked like stallions. They carried a lot of ego and a six off their bowling simply meant a declaration of war to them. No fast bowler liked if a tail-ender hit them aerially even beyond the 30-yard circle.
It’s all changed now. They walk like a fatalist, totally resigned to their fate. There is no ego, no anger, no revenge feeling and as a consequence plenty of averageness has seeped in.
Ankit Rajpoot, Jaydev Unadkat, Tushar Deshpande, Kartik Tyagi, Umesh Yadav, Mohd Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Avesh Khan... the list is tediously long.
Some would argue cricket is favouring batsmen terribly these days with better pitches, bomb bats and conducive rules. Granted, but that doesn’t mean fast bowlers forsake dignity, self-respect, and take the thrashing as if it has been pre-ordained by deities.
They can sure do much better than that. Remember how Anrich Nortje got his own back on Jos Buttler having conceded a six and two fours previously in the same over!
Believe it or not, spinners are more aggressive than fast bowlers these days.
Batsmen, meanwhile, have turned into flat-track bullies. Give them an innocuous surface, and everyone of them appears capable of breaking all batting records.
Commentators too make instant comparisons with past masters. “He reminds me of Sachin Tendulkar,” will say one. “He reminds me of Virender Sehwag,” will say another commentator another day about the same player.
Seems like every commentator out there is performing some kind of exaltation duty. Lesser batsmen are often dubbed great long before the ball has even crossed the boundary rope.
Give these same batsmen a tough surface and their world comes crashing down. All of a sudden even singles start to appear a Herculean task. Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw, Ishan Kishan, Nitish Rana, even Sanju Samson to some extent... the feux geniuses abound.
It’s been more than seven years since India won an ICC trophy and these have been the strengthening years of the IPL; these have been the real harvesting years. And, if truth be told, it’s been an average harvest having the international level in mind. Barring the fielding and fitness departments, there is not much to speak of.
It’s no secret now that all year round young players try to mould themselves to the requirement of the IPL as it brings them instant stardom and money; they don’t train to the requirement of international cricket. One really wonders if the IPL is at the centre of this limited glory in the international arena.
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