By Yajurvindra Singh
The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 in this uncertain pandemic situation was a complete success. One has to salute the Brijesh Patel-led IPL Governing Council for organising an immaculately run tournament in the United Arab Emirates. To do so in such a short period of time truly highlighted the capabilities of the Indian cricket board and, to me, they scored a Perfect 10.
The franchise owners and their staff and especially the players must be praised for adhering to the strict norms and regulations and ensuring that it was followed to the tee.
To be cocooned and isolated from the outside world in a bio-safety bubble must have been a frustrating and mentally challenging experience and for all to come through without any adverse incident, truly reflected as to how well the IPL was administered.
The Mumbai Indians, by retaining their IPL title, were the deserving winners. The sparklers on their arrival to the ground for the final was just the fitting welcome required to ignite the cracking form that they exhibited to win the match. It was a perfect Diwali gift to a team that showed resilience, consistency and tremendous teamwork.
A proud replica of the most successful domestic state side Bombay/Mumbai. Cricket in the city of Mumbai is more than a religion and the name itself brings in that extra responsibility and spirit on the cricket field. The Mumbai Indians, a side replete with players from all parts of India and the world, under the ‘Mumbai’ banner seem as portent and difficult a side to beat as the Mumbai sides of the past.
The IPL 2020 was a well contested tournament. None of the sides looked more superior to any of the others. The Mumbai Indians were beaten on five occasions in the league stage. The bottom of the table, Rajasthan Royals, got the better of them in their last league encounter and so did the SunRisers Hyderabad in their last league match. But this tournament differentiated teams by their resilience to recover and rediscover. Mumbai Indians came through brilliantly when it counted.
There were several positive outcomes from the IPL for Indian cricket. It became the ideal platform for India to get their cricket stars back on the field after many months of isolation. It also gave the selectors a chance to watch the upcoming young talented players and asses the form of the established ones.
The IPL has always brought out skills and performances of Indian players languishing without being recognised in the domestic cricket arena. Rahul Tewatia, consistently brilliant performer Suryakumar Yadav, Devdutta Padikkal, and Ishan Kishan as well as Ruturaj Gaikwad, none of the mare in the touring squad of the Indian side to Australia. Their performance will now be definitely etched in the minds of the national selectors, who could be criticised for not selecting them, if the Indian team fails to perform down under.
The biggest plus that has come out of the 13 years of the IPL has been the process, professionalism and administrative capabilities, which have been brought into Indian cricket by franchise based teams. This should be a good learning for the 36 Indian domestic state associations to imbibe. The art of supporting the players not only in cricket but also mentally and physically would be truly beneficial to the domestic players at all levels of the game. The state associations need to be operating like a business unit with a team of professional individuals. They need to become independent profit making units that may get support from the BCCI but are sustainable in their own right. At present the cricket associations are like a spoilt child being given lavish amounts of money from the parent body with no accountability as to where and why the money was spent.
Cricket is booming all over the country and the success of the T20 has made cricket a serious profession to pursue. Associations, especially in the districts, require enlisting the help of former cricketers to hunt for talent and identify a path for them to follow.
This is one area that the BCCI, together with the newly formed Indian Cricketers Association (ICA) with 1,500 former cricketers as its members, could play a major part in servicing all the cricket related matters at the bottom of the Indian cricket pyramid. Indian cricket is becoming so much richer with players mushrooming from the smaller towns of India. The C.K. Prahalad theory is very much appropriate if Indian cricket wants to unearth the fortune that lies at the bottom of the huge base of Indian cricket.
The stylish, brilliant and effortless stroke play of one of the leading batters in women’s cricket, Smriti Mandhana from Sangli, a small town in Maharashtra, is a good example. Although the town was the birthplace of one of India’s greatest batsmen, Vijay Hazare, the facilities in Sangli are abysmal. To have a cricketer of the stature of Smriti emerging from there showcases the hidden pearls that could blossom in the future, if a correct infrastructure is put in place. Having organised the IPL in a foreign land, the BCCI has shown that nothing is impossible. They should now put into place a well laid out plan covering every nook and corner of the Indian cricket crazy country. A perfect 10, then, would benefit Indian cricket for years to come.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal)