I call myself as a cricket fanatic. Give me any cricket game and I will watch it. It may be a International game or a domestic game or even a club level game, if it’s on TV then I will give it a go. It’s just the love for the game which drives me and not the level at which it is played. So IPL is something which I cannot let pass. Who wouldn’t want to see legends of the game all under the same roof? Even though I don’t agree with the elaborate and boring format of the tournament overall but watching young Indian players locking horns with International stars is something which makes IPL special.
Franchise based sport is new in India and it will take a little time to catch on. The American style will not work in India as the country has a national team which is playing throughout the year. So the Indian fans will be mostly loyal to the Indian team rather than Chennai or Mumbai or Kolkata. The fact that the teams are shuffled every three years also makes it hard for the fans to relate to their teams. You suddenly have Rohit Sharma playing for Mumbai Indians while he was playing for Deccan Chargers in the previous editions.
For me watching IPL is an avenue to have a look at future Indian prospects. It’s an opportunity for the youngsters to get noticed. This year has thrown some interesting names too. There were some known names that reaffirmed their status and there were some new names too. The biggest impact this year was made by two cricketers, one was Paul Valthathy and the other was Rahul Sharma.
Paul Valthathy did an excellent as an opener for Kings X1 Punjab this season. He was explosive and impressed one and all with his stroke play. He even held the orange cap for the while during the course of the tournament. Now we have to wait and see if he is a one tournament wonder (Asnodkar, anyone?) or if he would back up these performances in the domestic arena. The other standout performer was Pune Warriors Rahul Sharma. The young leggie who fought a career threatening injury to stage an inspiring comeback to competitive cricket was absolute joy to watch this season. A bowler of Anil Kumble mould was brilliant and one of the most economical bowlers of the season. He was the only shining light in an otherwise disappointing season for Pune Warriors. The other bowler to impress was Varun Aaron of Delhi Daredevils. Varun bowled with extreme pace and troubled the batsmen with bounce. It was unfortunate that we did not get to see more him in this IPL. I just hope that he keeps working on his bowling and hopefully will get selected for team India sooner than later if he maintains his consistency.
Ajinkya Rahane and Manoj Tiwary were others who impressed with the bat. Both these youngsters are rated highly by the experts and we got to see why during the course of the IPL. The others such as Iqbal Abdulla of KKR, S Aravind of RCB and Abu Nechim of Mumbai Indians impressed in the IPL 4.
There were few comeback stories too. RP Singh and Ishant Sharma made a great comeback after being out of radar for the Indian team selection. Ishant was brilliant with his bowling and it seems like he has regained his pace and control which he had lost about a year back. He has been rewarded with an Indian call up for the upcoming West Indies tour. RP Singh too was brilliant for Kochi Tuskers. He bowled with pace and troubled the batsmen with movement of the pitch. I hope that he continues on this trail and makes a comeback to the national side in the near future. The others who were consistent among bowlers were Ashwin, Mishra, Bajji and Munaf, all of whom will be travelling to West Indies earlier next month.
In the batting front, Subramaniam Badrinath was rewarded for having a brilliant domestic season and for performing brilliantly for CSK in the current IPL. His selection for the West Indies tour was a great reward for his consistency. Rohit Sharma also continued his great form in IPL and we have to wait and see if he can translate that form to International cricket. The biggest disappointment of the season was Irfan Pathan, who albeit returning from an injury was way off color with both bat and ball. He did bowl some good spells but lacked consistency with the ball. Ambati Rayudu was brilliant once again for Mumbai but Saurabh Tiwari was unable to replicate his success from last year for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
All in all IPL 4 was great as it threw some new names into the mix of youngsters. Even though these names add lots of spice for the future we have to keep in mind that IPL performances cannot be considered as a yardstick for national team selection. I guess this just gives the selectors a list of names whose progress needs to be followed in domestic cricket. All these players are extremely talented but performance in domestic cricket and “A” tours need to be given more importance for the Indian team selection. IPL 4 has been great for the new talent but I am still disappointed with the franchises reluctance to try out young players. A tournament which began as platform for young talent has just become a money making exercise. The teams are mostly interested in playing established International stars. Players like Varun Aaron did not get enough opportunities due to the same reason. Even though long, IPL 4 has been good viewing this year and if the organizers can cut the tournament little shorter we might actually have more people interested in the same.