Sunil Gavaskar: Spare a thought for the bowlers in IPL

The Twenty20 format is brutal on the bowlers and the suggestion to divide the 20 overs between four bowlers — each allowed to bowl five — is hardly going to make it a level playing field as captains will include one more batsman in their team!

Action during the match between Delhi Capitals and Kolkata Knight Riders at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, in the United Arab Emirates. “Today not only are the players stronger and fitter but the bats have become better. So even somebody not massively built or with a sculpted body can hit the ball out of the same Sharjah stadium where the likes of Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Kapil Dev were getting caught on the fence not too long ago,” says the author.   -  Sportzpics / BCCI

This year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) is turning out to be a huge platform for young emerging players from India to showcase their skills. The overseas stars are doing their bit but the tournament has been dominated by Indian players, especially youngsters, like never before.

They have shown great temperament in trying and tough situations and come through with flying colours. The shortest format of the game brings even more pressure as questions have to be answered very quickly and there’s no time to ponder and reflect.

The youngsters have risen to the occasion impressively and answered with great style and elan. This augurs very well for Indian cricket.

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The IPL is frowned upon by many a purist and understandably so, but with the world moving at a frenetic pace the game also needs to adapt to the changing expectations of a newer viewing public and entice them to watch it. The T20 format does that and the new generation whose focus time is seconds and not minutes is drawn in by the non-stop action and razzmatazz that the format brings to the fore. Many a country has started its own T20 league and while those may pale in comparison to the IPL, they have given the youngsters in the country an occasion to showcase their skills and these leagues have given them the chance to rub shoulders with some of the legends of the game and to learn from them. Watch how the superstars prepare and get ready for action, see how they react and respond to pressure and observe how they cope with failures and how they celebrate success.

That is a great learning curve and in doing so the youngster also sees the human side of the superstars and how they are really no different from them. The awe factor disappears after a while and so when the youngster gets to wear his country’s colours, he is less likely to get overawed as he has seen his heroes in the opposition country’s team and maybe even shared a change room with him for his T20 franchise.

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As usual, despite the enormous success of the format there are some who would want to show that they are ahead of the times and want to bring in changes that they feel would make the format even more exciting or make it even for both batsmen and bowlers. The format is brutal on the bowlers, there’s no doubt about that, but to divide the 20 overs between four bowlers, each allowed to bowl five overs, is hardly going to make it a level playing field as captains will include one more batsman in their team. Why fix if it ain’t broke, is an old saying and that’s true in this case. What could be done and can be done is to increase the size of the boundaries wherever possible. The longer boundaries in Dubai and Abu Dhabi hasn’t meant less number of sixes but certainly more batsmen have been caught inside the boundary ropes than in Sharjah where the boundaries are much smaller.

The reluctance of the ground authorities to increase the boundaries is baffling and unless the ICC Cricket Committee puts its foot down and instructs that the LED boards should be no more than 18 inches away from the fence, the ground authorities are going to have them four to five feet away from it which shorten the boundaries considerably.

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Today not only are the players stronger and fitter but the bats have become better. So even somebody not massively built or with a sculpted body can hit the ball out of the same Sharjah stadium where the likes of Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Kapil Dev were getting caught on the fence not too long ago.

Some of the sixers in Sharjah would have been caught inside the fence back then so there’s plenty of reason to lengthen the boundaries. Yes, the fielders today slide and dive and could get badly hurt if they crash against the LED advertising boards but there’s enough space for these boards to be pushed back till within 18 inches of the fence and thereby lengthen the boundaries which can make the difference between a six and a dismissal. Sadly nobody is looking at this aspect which can help the bowling fraternity in this day of big muscles and big bats resulting in big hits.