Fearlessness & Confidence: IPL’s a Boon For India, Make It Count
The IPL gives wings to a number of players, improves their lives in ways that we cannot imagine.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is a tournament which divides opinions across the cricketing spectrum.
Some consider it to be a boon while the others look at it as a bane.
India’s ICC tournament performances post the IPL have always come under scrutiny. But times when the young and the fearless emerge from the rubble like they did at Gabba in Brisbane, the same IPL is not credited enough.
Look at Shubman Gill and Rishabh Pant, two young performers who stormed their way into our hearts at Gabba on Tuesday with their daredevilry. This is all because of the fearlessness that they have gained by rubbing their shoulders with the best in the world over the past five years.
Gill gets to meet and play alongside Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, he is interacting with team coach Brendon McCullum when in the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) camp. Pant has Ricky Ponting as team coach, has played alongside a whole host of international stars like Quinton de Kock, Angelo Mathews, Carlos Brathwaite when at Delhi Capitals.
In a way both know the best of the world as back slapping mates or revere them as mentors. They are learning from the best at all times about situations, game awareness and about never being overawed about a situation.
This is a far cry from an average Indian cricketer emerging in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s, who would look at the rest of the cricketing world in awe. India’s cricketers forever were deferential and found it difficult to immediately announce their arrival on the world stage. Ofcourse there were some glaring exceptions, but overall India was a cricketing nation happy competing rather than achieving. We have therefore remained a largely underachieving cricketing nation, who have had a number of champion individual cricketers and performances, but the collective is still well below India’s actual potential.
The earlier schooling for cricketers or the guide for cricketers used to be when they got to play county cricket. But Indians were far and few between in English county cricket. County sides preferred Pakistanis and West Indies in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. They ruled the roost and that also reflected in the way the two sides were on top through skillful batsmen and terrifying pace bowlers.
Indians on the other hand were awkward and could never adjust to the culture of county cricket. Meeting mates post a game in the bar of the club was something that superstars of Indian cricket never really understood. Very few adjusted and hence became part of folklore in England. Farokh Engineer, Dilip Doshi, Bishen Bedi, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Ravi Shastri, Murali Kartik were some who really made a name for themselves in their counties.
While the other superstars as recently as in early 2000s struggled to be one of the boys.
That hoodoo is now being broken because now a cricketer from India is confident of meeting the world as equals. It is now no longer about seeking validation from the world, but the situation is now reversed. They are the ones now validating others.
This has helped the younger cricketers fight fire with fire in a much more calibrated fashion.
But there is a flip side too.
The 2009 and 2010 T20 World Cups happened right after the IPL. Then coach Gary Kirsten alluded to having tired bodies leading to injuries at times and hence early exits for the side. It created quite a stir. But in 2011 when the World Cup happened before the IPL, the trophy stayed home and the world celebrated. However right after the IPL and the World Cup triumph there was a 0-4 debacle in England during a Test series, but no alarm was raised.
We have had different instances over the years when it was felt that the players need to be secured before a major ICC event. There was some loose talk of restricting the playing schedule of a contracted player during the IPL in 2019 because the World Cup was on the anvil. But what was forgotten was that the franchise are professional outfits with commercial and legal commitments with everyone. They cannot be flippantly asked to play and drop a player. There had to be an institutional framework for the same.
Till that comes into place, it is useless to blame the IPL for players’ dip in performances or injuries.
The IPL gives wings to a number of players, improves their lives in ways that we cannot imagine and exposes them to the rest of the world. There have been players who have been pulled out of abject poverty and have gone onto improve their standard of living. It has made them much more confident. Varun Chakravarthy, T Natarajan and Mohammed Siraj come straight to mind when thinking about such instances.
Pant and Gill are also prime examples of making the most of the opportunities that have come their way. Pant for example could have easily lost his way with his fitness and attitude always being questioned. But he has fought all that and come forth. Gill on the other hand had always been earmarked as the future superstar, so everything right now is an obvious bonus.
But not every player manages to keep their head above the water when looking at unimaginable riches on offer. Very few manage to stay afloat without losing focus. There have been many one hit wonders in the IPL, who have disappeared into oblivion, because they have not managed to stay in the game.
It is a fantastic school to have every year with the likes of Ponting, Mahela Jayawardene, McCullum, Jacques Kallis, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman, Muttiah Muralitharan speaking to you before and after every game.
But for the young and upcoming cricketer, IPL should only be a stop in their journey, the destination should always be the national colours. Till that is clear, IPL will no longer be a divisive topic and will only aid in making India a true cricketing superpower, on the field.
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