IPL: A platform to gain attention

The IPL has seen reputations being made and marred. It would, however, be naïve to suggest it is the grooming ground for a youngster looking to make it big. It was not that young talent was discovered only at the IPL. The state selectors were aware of these young ‘stars’ but knew their capabilities well enough too to keep them on the waiting list for a first-class debut.

Sanju Samson has learnt from his mistakes.   -  PTI

The glamour quotient of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is a huge factor and it continues to impact the competition, now in its 10th season. When the league was launched very few backed the concept since the tournament involved city v city matches. There were apprehensions when the first ball was bowled at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in 2008 but a packed house was treated to a feisty century by Brendon McCullum and the IPL had made a spectacular debut.

Over the years, the tournament has come to become an important segment in the international cricket calendar with some of the top stars not missing an opportunity to leave their mark. It is also a platform for the young talent of domestic cricket to interact with seniors and pick up a few lessons. It has worked mostly but it can’t be considered a ticket for recognition at the highest level.

Manan Vohra squandered the chances given to him, but has the ability to make good.   -  IPL/SPORTZPICS

 

The IPL has seen reputations being made and marred. It would, however, be naïve to suggest it is the grooming ground for a youngster looking to make it big. The case of Paul Valthaty is worth recalling. He made a splash in the initial stages of the IPL and earned a first-class debut but failed to capitalise on the break. He faded away as expectations grew and he was not able to cope with the demands. What was good in IPL could not help him in sustaining a career at the next level.

It was not that the young talent was discovered only at the IPL. The state selectors were aware of these young ‘stars’ but knew their capabilities well enough too to keep them on the waiting list for a first-class debut. The point was best driven home by Sachin Tendulkar in his autobiography, Playing It My Way.

Tendulkar wrote, “While I agree that IPL performances are important enough to open doors to the national team, I am sure that IPL performances should not be used as a reason to pick players for the Twenty20 format, or, in exceptional cases, for ODI cricket. Playing well in the IPL does not make a player good enough for Test cricket. A major apprehension concerning the IPL is that its riches will make playing for India somewhat less significant and correspondingly less appealing.”

Yuzvendra Chahal is a wily leg-spinner and could be in the Indian team for the Champions Trophy.   -  IPL/SPORTZPICS

 

In the context of Tendulkar’s brilliant analysis of IPL-related performances, it would be important to assess the ability of some talented youngsters to take the next big step. There has been talk of Sanju Samson, Manan Vohra, Nitish Rana, Rishabh Pant, Manish Pandey and Yuzvendra Chahal pushing their case for a spot in the team for the Champions Trophy to be held in England in June. Are they that good and ready to step into the fiercely competitive world of international cricket?

Samson, mentored by Rahul Dravid, was considered a precocious talent when he made his first-class debut in 2011 but lost his way despite getting to play a T20 match for India. He ran into disciplinary issues this season and was dropped from the Kerala squad. It helped him rediscover himself.

“You need to have bad times to learn certain things about life. As a cricketer, if you make mistakes you learn from it in order to become a better person. I think my past has helped me to become a better cricketer and a better human being. I’ve learnt from it and I’m happy that my present is very good now. So I’m happy that I played this knock, but there’s a long way to go,” Samson said after his IPL century against Rising Pune Supergiant. India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh hailed Samson’s performance with an encouraging tweet, “Superb 100. What a young talent.”

Delhi left-hander Nitish Rana needed two half centuries to earn praise from stalwarts like Sunil Gavaskar and Michael Clarke. “This boy Nitish Rana is a very good player. Fantastic 50,” tweeted Clarke while Gavaskar said nice words in his column.

Strange that it needed an innings of 45 against Sunrisers Hyderabad for the cricket fraternity to discover Rana’s talent. He had struggled all through the season to put bat to the ball. “I was very disturbed mentally, (because) I had put myself under pressure by thinking too much. I was not able to play my natural game; I was not able to enjoy the game. After getting out a couple of times I had gone into a shell. After coming here (Mumbai Indians), my mind became clearer. My practice game was good and I did fine in the practice match and gradually it all came back,” Rana revealed.

“I shared the details of what had happened with me during the season with the senior players and they shared some of their own experiences with me, from which I got a boost,” said Rana, who aggregated 492 in 20 innings in all formats this season, including a brilliant 146 in the first Ranji match. For those who may have discovered Rana’s potential after that knock of 45 it may be mentioned his first-class debut came in 2015 and the zonal selectors have been following his game closely.

Amidst the glory attained by the batsmen — Rana, Samson, Pandey, Vohra — the Haryana leg-spinner Chahal has stood out in a format where bowlers are at the receiving end mostly on placid pitches and small grounds.

“Compared to other spinners, the wrist spinners are totally different. On a flat wicket, they can turn the ball more as compared to an off-spinner or left-arm spinner. And if the wicket is turning, leg-spinners can be potent. I think, in IPL, the leg-spinners are always on top,” said Chahal on his consistent performances. “I love to bowl on flat wickets. I don’t like bowling on turning wickets. On turning wickets, most balls would just beat the batsmen. On flat wickets you can plan — when to bowl sliders, when to bowl googly. For me, I just like a little bit pace in the wicket.” He stands a decent chance of making it to the Indian squad.

Rishab Pant has talent aplenty and should go far.   -  IPL/SPORTZPICS

 

Vohra and Pant have made the most of the chances that have come their way this year. After his first-class debut in 2011, Vohra had failed to make an impact despite the backing of the selectors. Lack of consistency apart, his inability to put value to his wicket has cost the Punjab youngster a place in the national squad.

In comparison, Pant has made a steady progress after a fruitful first-class season which saw him slam a triple century for Delhi against Maharashtra. He has been recognised as an “awesome” talent by the national selectors and looks a good prospect for the future.

As Tendulkar observed it would be tough for the national selectors to pick an individual on the basis of one or two IPL innings. National selection committee chairman M. S. K. Prasad has insisted on consistency as the criteria for recognition. Whether the selectors would undermine first-class cricket by offering an India cap on the basis of a good showing in the IPL would be interesting to watch.