Time to pull out all stops

Big investments have failed to yield desired results so far in this edition of the IPL. However, players of the calibre of Yuvraj Singh, Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, Dale Steyn and others cannot be written off in a hurry, for they are all genuine match-winners. By Vijay Lokapally.

Is it about the best? Or is it about the ones that command the top price?

The Indian Premier League, ever since its inception in 2008, has witnessed players who have made it to the various franchises at some astonishing price tags. And some of them have attracted criticism for not living up to the expectations as the richest, most expensive buys at the annual IPL auctions, and their uncharacteristic performances have been a cause for concern for the team owners. It is some sort of a challenge that these ‘stars’ find hard to tackle, because they are just not able to sustain the degree of consistency expected of them, match after match.

In the ongoing IPL, the best buys are struggling to justify their price tags. However, it is unfair to blame them for the situation they are in. “I was sleeping when the auction was going on. And I didn’t tell anybody to give me that money (Rs. 16 crore). Whatever money would have been given to me, I would have played (in the) IPL,” was how Yuvraj Singh reacted when asked if the tag of ‘The Most Expensive Player’ created any pressure.

Yuvraj, discarded by the National selectors, was the most expensive buy at the auctions for IPL-8. Last year, when he represented Royal Challengers Bangalore, he earned Rs. 14 crore. His performance was shoddy and the franchise promptly released him.

This year, Delhi Daredevils invested Rs. 16 crore to rope in Yuvraj, a move that was primarily aimed at securing a big player, with an eye on the sponsor. The Delhi outfit sorely needed a popular and established player in its ranks after releasing Virender Sehwag ahead of IPL-7. However, Yuvraj’s performance so far has been far from impressive owing to a lack of form rather than his potential, which is very well known.

A mere 124 runs in seven innings (at the time of writing) does not do justice either to his price tag or his reputation, and the decline in form has been the cause for such embarrassing performance.

Yuvraj is not alone here. Players such as Dinesh Karthik, David Miller, Dale Steyn and Glenn Maxwell are some of the prominent players who have hit a low this season. Their failures are magnified by the fact that the teams have relied on their individual brilliance but success has eluded them on the scale expected.

Yuvraj has been an enigma. Hoping to make a comeback to the National team, this gifted cricketer was expected to use the IPL platform to push his case for the T20 World Championship next year. He showed glimpses of his form when playing for Punjab in the domestic circuit, posting some outstanding knocks. However, he has failed to carry that form into the IPL.

The pressure of performance appears to weigh heavily on his shoulders, even as the Delhi Daredevils coach, Gary Kirsten, believes it is just a matter of one big innings for Yuvraj to explode. The South African should know better, having mentored Yuvraj in the 2011 World Cup. But Yuvraj is four years older now, and this certainly is a crucial factor when assessing his movements and reflexes on the field.

Karthik, who commanded Rs. 12.5 crore in 2014, was picked up by Royal Challengers Bangalore for 10.5 this time, but the wicketkeeper-batsman has failed to justify his marquee tag. He has so far scored just 70 runs in five innings. Poor form and shot selection has let down the brilliant cricketer, who has also been a huge underachiever at the international stage. Aiming to force his way into the India squad, Karthik has hardly helped his cause.

For Dale Steyn, IPL-8 has been nothing but a disappointment. He has so far conceded 89 runs in 11 overs and hardly looked the fearsome bowler that he is. The South African fast bowler can rattle the best of batsmen but at the same time get clobbered by lesser-known opponents.

The main reason for this is that Steyn looks to take wickets; he is not one keen on containing the batsmen. This approach means Steyn often ends up as an expensive bowler. He does not believe in dot balls and that makes him different from the majority of bowlers who look to escape punishment than make a statement.

Kings XI Punjab has not been able to progress as desired this season since Glenn Maxwell and David Miller, the two prominent members and heavyweights of the squad, have come a cropper. Maxwell came into IPL-8 with a huge image as a belter and game changer following his impressive performance at the 2015 ICC World Cup, but he is yet to make an impact here. The Australian’s best in five innings has been 33, and his aggregate of 62 leaves him at the bottom of the run scorers’ table.

For Miller, the experience has been no different. Hailed the most exciting batsman on the circuit not long ago, the South African stroke-player has not been at his best, scoring just a half-century in seven innings. An injury has also added to his woes.

IPL-8 has witnessed below par performances from some top players in all the teams. The players clearly look jaded. Coming close on the heels of a long ICC World Cup, the form and motivation of some of these players have been a bit low.

The lack of interest in their approach also comes across clearly, since the IPL is not a country versus country competition. The over-dose of cricket has only led to mediocrity on the field.

Big investments have failed to yield desired results so far in this edition of the IPL.

The pressure is clearly on the players since their future in the tournament depends on how they perform in the second half of the league. However, players of the calibre of Yuvraj, Maxwell, Miller, Steyn and others cannot be written off in a hurry, for they are all genuine match-winners. All they need is one big innings or a decisive spell, and the rest will fall in place.