When you watch A. B. de Villiers, Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle and Hardik Pandya slam those sixes at will, batting seems a very different art than what we got to see in the 1970s and ’80s. The game had some big hitters like Lance Cairns, Viv Richards and Ian Botham, who could produce a boundary when they wanted to. It was thrilling to see them in action. The crowds loved those six-hitters. Times have changed and six-hitting has become a common vocation.
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Looking back, one wonders how many of the past Indian strokeplayers would have earned a slot in the IPL. Sportstar picks five former India players who would have easily found a place in the tournament.
A captain’s delight if he was not leading the team. He would have taken to the IPL comfortably. In fact, he was a T20 player of his own kind during his prime when he could tear into the attack with his audacious strokeplay. What worked in Kapil’s favour was his awesome talent to pick the line early and he would be in the best position to do justice to his intent. Recall all his innings and what struck most was his flair to drive the ball. It was natural. He looked to play the shot once the ball left the bowler’s hand and his ability to bat fearlessly also helped him to develop his batting. The fact that he was a top-class bowler gave him the cushion of not having to worry about his place in the side. If he failed with the bat he would excel with the ball. “I don’t know how good I would have fared but I would have certainly enjoyed being in the thick of action,” says Kapil. There is little doubt he would have commanded a high price in the auction since his all-round skills suits the format. He would have been anyone’s first choice in T20.
Would he have loved playing the IPL? “What choice would I have if it was the most popular format of the time. I could not have chosen not to have played the IPL. Everyone loves the tournament and I also would have surely enjoyed playing in it,” says Patil. The bowlers certainly would have dreaded bowling to this majestic strokeplayer who famously carted Bob Willis and Dennis Lillee with his authoritative shots. Those electrifying knocks came in Test matches. He commanded a great following when he played in the Times Shield and Kanga League matches in Bombay. His six-hitting ability was legendary and eye-witnesses still speak of his knocks at the Gymkhana grounds along the Marine Drive. Many a time the ball would be sent soaring into the sea as Patil produced those sensational hits in the air. His approach was always aimed at dominating the attack. It cost him his wicket, too, at times but more often than not he would decimate the bowling. His reach allowed him to take liberties with the length of the ball and he would beat the man on the fence with ease. A perfect batsman for T20.
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He would have been a match-winner in the IPL. “I certainly would have played the IPL. It is all about entertainment, true, but there are some areas you have to be very good at to become a successful IPL player," says Azharuddin. His batting would have been a huge asset to the team. The ease with which he picked the gaps gave Azharuddin the space to call the shots. It was nearly impossible to contain him because he played his shots so late and so precisely. He revelled in hitting the ball to all corners of the field and most importantly he was an electric fielder. “I could stand in any position because I loved fielding. You have to love fielding to enjoy it,” says Azharuddin. His anticipation gave him that extra moment to field or catch the ball and he was not known to err. “My hands were used to the ball,” he says of his secret to brilliant fielding. His ability to study the batsman always came in handy for the bowlers and his amazing skill at rotating the strike, running the ones and twos, would have kept the opposition always under pressure. He would have been a rich asset for any IPL franchise.
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A most fearless batsman, he had a reputation to slam all high and far and franchises would have happily dug deep into their purses to get him in the team. A palm tree hitter really. His philosophy was to “hit hard” if the aim is to send the ball beyond the boundary. “I played my cricket aggressively and the IPL is about aggression. It is about taking the initiative. I definitely would have enjoyed playing the IPL. There is a great following for the tournament and it encourages my kind of cricket. I was positive in my approach and played to win. Playing for a draw was not my kind of cricket,” says Azad. At tournaments in Delhi, organisers were known to keep extra boxes of balls because of his big-hitting prowess. Volunteers were stationed outside the ground to fetch the ball when Azad hit them. “Many were lost,” recalls one of the tournament organisers. Azad had this ability to produce a six-hitting shot when the occasion demanded and it came from his skill to reach the pitch of the ball and give it a mighty whack. “I was born 25 years too early,” Azad says in lighter vein.
One cricketer any captain would have loved having in the IPL for his fantastic reading of the game. He loved studying the opponents. “You know about your teammates, their strong and weak points. It always interested me to know about my opponents because one had to be ready to tackle the challenges,” notes Jadeja. He loved being in the thick of action and this quality would have taken him far in the IPL. He was a player who can bat at any position, bowl at any stage of the match and field in any position. He met all these requirements. Being able to pace his innings was a feature of his batting. Also his running between the wickets would upset the rhythm of the bowlers since he was able to rotate the strike. He was an all-rounder who excelled in all conditions and on all surfaces. The greatest quality that enamoured him to the captain was his ability to study the opposition in quick time. His inputs were acknowledged by captains like Azharuddin and. To have him in the IPL team would have been a much-needed ammunition in the shortest format of the game. He always had an ace up his sleeve.