IPL 2019: As Overseas Stars Go Missing, IPL Can Find India Again
With a World Cup around the corner, international players are on a tight leash from respective boards for IPL 2019.
“Where talent meets opportunity.”
Take a good, hard look at the cover picture for this story. These are four individuals who, in varying capacities and to differing extents, have shown themselves as potential flag-bearers for the future of Indian cricket.
Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant, Krunal Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah.
Each comes with his own back story, but there’s one highest common factor to their propulsion into the Team India fold, a shared galvaniser to the rise of all four within Indian cricket circles – eye-catching IPL performances (be it over one season, or a prolonged patch).
Add a Vijay Shankar into the mix, and you get a perfectly balanced squad for a five-a-side, if cricket decides to venture that way in the near or distant future.
Add a handful more (and more than a handful exist in the present day), and you’re looking at a potentially solid next decade for cricket’s 21st Century superpower.
‘Atithi Devo Bhava’
It literally translates to ‘the guest is God’. And teams in the Indian Premier League, traditionally, have followed that philosophy.
From the early days till now, overseas buys have fetched hefty price tags. Think Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen in 2009, or Glenn Maxwell in 2013, or Shane Watson in 2016, or Ben Stokes, twice over, in 2017 and 2018.
There’s been merit behind the moolah, too – they’re not just lavish purchases of luxury.
IPL teams – and seasons – have typically been headlined by big-ticket overseas stars. A majority of title-winning campaigns, in fact, have had key, season-defining influence(s) arriving to the Indian summer from foreign shores.
- 2008: Shane Warne (captain, 19 wickets), Shane Watson (472 runs, 17 wickets, named MVP), Sohail Tanvir (22 wickets, Purple Cap).
- 2009: Adam Gilchrist (captain, 495 runs).
- 2011: Michael Hussey (492 runs).
- 2012: Sunil Narine (24 wickets, named MVP), Jacques Kallis (409 runs, 15 wickets).
- 2013: Kieron Pollard (420 runs, 10 wickets, Player of the Final), Mitchell Johnson (24 wickets), Lasith Malinga (20 wickets).
- 2014: Sunil Narine (21 wickets), Shakib al Hasan (227 runs, 11 wickets).
- 2015: Lendl Simmons (540 runs), Lasith Malinga (24 wickets), Mitchell McClenaghan (18 wickets).
- 2016: David Warner (captain, 848 runs), Ben Cutting (Player of the Final).
- 2018: Shane Watson (555 runs, 6 wickets, Player of the Final),.
With the exception of Chennai Super Kings in 2010 and Mumbai Indians in 2017, there hasn’t been one successful IPL campaign without a sizeable contribution from the overseas contingent.
No Foreigner(s), No Cry
The 12th edition of the Indian Premier League comes with a unique add-on: Never before has an IPL season been immediately succeeded by a Cricket World Cup.
Which is why, for months ahead of IPL 2019, the gaze of the global cricket community has been further ahead, to a 45-day period from 30 May to 14 July in the United Kingdom.
While IPL teams usually have international stars of their liking with them through vast portions of the season, World Cup preparations, obviously, take greater precedence. As a result, the availability of overseas players is severely hit this time around.
IPL 2019: Overseas Players’ Availability
- Afghanistan: ODI series in Scotland and Ireland from 8 May
- Australia: ODI series in UAE until 31 March, deadline for WC players 30 April
- Bangladesh: Deadline for WC players 15 April
- England: Deadline for WC players 25 April
- New Zealand: Available all season
- South Africa: Deadline for WC players (tentative) 10 May
- Sri Lanka: Deadline for WC players 6 May
- West Indies: Available all season
With the exclusion of New Zealand and West Indies, players from all other countries have deadlines that ensure their absence from the business end of the 2019 IPL season (if not more).
It leaves all participating teams with squad composition issues – some severe, some others not so much.
In either case, what’s the solution? To blood Indian players. Young, old, seasoned, unheralded – whoever they are.
Unleashing the Untested
Let’s delve a little deeper, and examine just how much the early departures (or late arrivals) could impact teams this season.
Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Capitals, Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders don’t appear to have too many World Cup casualties, with most of their vital overseas picks facing cut-off dates being South African players (who are available, tentatively, till 10 May).
Mumbai Indians have potential early exits in Jason Behrendorff and Lasith Malinga, but are adequately stocked when it comes to overseas fast-bowling options.
But for the three remaining teams, there are concerns aplenty.
- Sunrisers Hyderabad will lose Shakib al Hasan and Jonny Bairstow midway through IPL 2019, while Rashid Khan is likely to be unavailable if they make it to the play-offs.
- Royal Challengers Bangalore are set to remain without two key acquisitions – Marcus Stoinis and Nathan Coulter-Nile – for large parts of the campaign, while a third in Moeen Ali, too, will leave early.
- Rajasthan Royals, potentially, could be worst hit: Steven Smith, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and (potentially) Jofra Archer – their first-choice overseas picks, in all probability – will be gone when the season hits crunch time.
Which is where, when faced with team composition troubles, they could be pushed into trying the untested.
Will Sunrisers give Abhishek Sharma – under-19 World Cup winner last year, and a like-for-like replacement for Shakib, on paper – a run when the Bangladeshi flies back? Will they look at Sreevats Goswami – an under-19 world champion from Virat Kohli’s batch of 2008 – as a possible substitute to Jonny Bairstow?
Will Kohli himself be ready to test the inexperienced skills of a Washington Sundar or a Pawan Negi in the absence of the more reputed all-round powers of Stoinis and Moeen?
Will Rajasthan – fabled finders of untapped talent – hand outings to the likes of Aryaman Birla or Prashant Chopra or 17-year-old Riyan Parag when stripped of their heavyweight English-Australian spine?
The Turning of the Cycle
It’s not just the new kids on the block who can crack the big leagues out of one-odd opportunities. What of the ‘have-beens’, the ones seemingly discarded from the national setup?
Dinesh Karthik has been in a year-long will-he-won’t-he tussle for the back-up ‘keeper’s role in India’s World Cup squad; his second wind in Team India, the mantle of ‘finisher’, had a lot to do with his enviable track record in recent seasons of the IPL.
The same held true for Ashish Nehra, who, after years of injury-ridden exile, returned to the Indian T20I setup and was able to get a belated swansong as a 38-year-old in 2018 on the back of solid IPL outings.
Even Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh – revered Indian middle-order greats of the past decade – have put themselves back in contention time and again due to their seasonal heroics.
International cricket teams, at least the top ones, work on long-term cycles even while keeping their eye on the present. That cycle, more often than not, is a four-year one – from one ODI World Cup to another.
The ongoing such cycle for the Indian cricket team ends two months after IPL 2019.
- Whether you hate the notion and are hiding away from it, or love it and can’t wait to see it, you know that MS Dhoni will be gone come the end of the upcoming World Cup.
- Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma will be on the wrong side of 35 by the time the next World Cup rolls around; Virat Kohli will be grazing the mark.
- Kedar Jadhav will be touching 38, Ravindra Jadeja will have turned 34.
- Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami will be well into their thirties.
What that means is that in the very conceivable future, India will be hitting a rebuilding phase. It’s a rather tricky place to be – this current setup, itself, has seen varying sides of the rebuilding coin.
While in ODIs India have been a template for the world to follow – never losing too many ‘stars’ in one go, nearly always having a ‘ready’ product to take over – in Tests, India were a bit of a sinking ship from the time the ‘golden generation’ started leaving the stage until Kohli took charge following Dhoni’s retirement.
So far, the cyclical World-Cup-to-World-Cup run has been fairly successful: There was a semi-final finish in 2015, and that would appear, at the very least, replicable if not likely-to-better going into the summer in England.
If India are to successfully ‘reinvent the wheel’ again, a cycle needs to start two months ahead of the upcoming World Cup.
IPL 2019 may likely meet the Indian Premier League’s founding motto – it’s time for talent to meet opportunity, again.
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