T20 will only improve performance

It has not taken New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum long to adjust his sights from the IPL T20 to England’s grassy pitches and pale light. Nor did the red ball confuse him. Given the licence granted to allrounders, he hit the bowlers off their length.-PTI

IPL cricket may be raw but it is instructive. Admittedly a player cannot leap straight from it to the Test side without any collateral but he can advance his case, writes Peter Roebuck.

Brendon McCullum’s plundering innings at Lord’s has silenced tongues grizzling about the damaging effect IPL will have on batsmanship. Entering the arena with an inexperienced batting order facing extinction and with the ball wobbling about like jelly in a strong wind, the Kiwi gloveman cut loose in brilliant style and charged to 97 in as many balls before Monty Panesar’s curve fooled him.

Along the way he smote sixes towards the sightscreen and over extra-cover. Combining improvisation, eye and audacity he produced a superb counter-attacking effort that brought his side back into the match. Bear in mind that a week or so beforehand McCullum had been dashing about in the madness and mayhem of T20. Indeed he scored the first hundred of the tournament in a dazzling display suggesting he was worth every rupee paid for him in the market place. Clearly it has not taken him long to adjust his sights to England’s grassy pitches and pale light. Nor did the red ball confuse him. Given the licence granted to allrounders, he hit the bowlers off their length.

Far from ruining batting and bowling T20 might improve them. It is easily forgotten that the introduction of one-day cricket had a fine effect on batting, especially in England where several tortoises were forced to emerge from their shells. Bob Barber and Dennis Amiss count amongst the batsmen whose range of shots and outlook was changed by the need to push the score along. Some of them turned into gazelles.

Even bowlers can learn a trick or two in IPL. Certainly their worst fears have been stilled. Admittedly they might get a worse flogging than the naughtiest schoolboy but they might take a bag of wickets. Trundlers blessed with scorching pace, late swing or deception have been effective. Does not the same apply in Test cricket? Or on the nearest maidan?

Far from ignoring performances in IPL, India’s selectors ought to take them into account. After all the skills required are not radically different. Batsmen must keep their heads, choose the right shot and resist pace, swing and wrist-spin. Bowlers must move the ball around, possess a wide range of deliveries and retain control under intense pressure.

Gautam Gambhir’s achievements deserve recognition. Many outstanding batsmen are taking part and none has been as consistent. T20 demands that risks are taken almost from the first ball against some of the most dangerous leather-flingers around so it is no small feat to keep scoring heavily. Moreover Gambhir has led his team’s batting, another indication of his confidence and the respect he commands amongst comrades.

Not that achievements in T20 can be conclusive, otherwise Jacques Kallis, A. B. De Villiers and Virender Sehwag might lose their Test places. Fewer short deliveries are sent down and concentration is not as important. Nevertheless it is instructive.

The sight of Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly creaking and croaking suggests their best days are behind them. The same applies to the bowlers. Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan have impressed, Zaheer Khan and R. P. Singh have fallen back and Praveen Kumar has held his own. As much might have been expected young wrist-spinners like Mishra and Chawla have caught the eye with nerveless and adroit contributions.

Indeed IPL has heralded the revival of the wrong ’un. Tail-enders find them as hard to read as a Bulgarian novel. IPL cricket may be raw but it is instructive. Admittedly a player cannot leap straight from the Daredevils to the Test side without any collateral but he can advance his case.