By Yajurvindra Singh
The panorama that the Indian Premier League (IPL) brings to a cricket lover is wonderful. Watching matches after matches unfold with such precision and in a professional manner is truly a remarkable achievement. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) must be complimented on being able to host the IPL, and from the looks of it they may become the hub of sports events in the future.
UAE is now the center of excellence for sports in this period of pandemic. India seems far away in reviving sporting activities at present and so one may see the UAE as a convenient alternative till normalcy returns. One does miss the hustle and bustle and activities that keep one entertained by spectators at stadiums, but to have cricket back on the screen is in itself a satisfying experience.
All eight IPL teams, unfortunately, have not had the normal preparation that they go through as a pre-tournament routine to strategise, plan and evaluate the squad. In the normal course, they also spend time in identifying players useful for conditions known to them at the various venues in India. The IPL auction is where they bid for specific players to enable them to get the entire spectrum of skills and capabilities that were necessary to implement their plans.
Unfortunately, the playing surface and the ground conditions at the three venues in the UAE, which were unknown to them, have put several of the team’s management and thinkers in disarray.
The teams that can quickly put their playing squad in order are the ones that will benefit in qualifying for the playoffs. At present, Mumbai Indians and the young and aggressive Delhi Capitals seem to have managed the change for the better, solely on account of the variety of player skill they have in their armory. Every other side, understandably, is on a chop-and-change mission, hoping to crack the combination as soon as possible.
The outcome of the trial and test, which the teams have had to undergo, has turned out for the better and is just the opportunity and golden platform for India’s international and domestic players. With no domestic cricket and tournaments in the near future in India in sight, the IPL is their only opportunity to stake their claim to either retain their place or get recognised. India have two very important series in the pipeline, against Australia and England. The venues and details for both these tours are being finalised, but with the UAE as an alternative option, cricket for the three top playing nations looks a good possibility.
The quality of young dashing cricketers being churned out in India is heartening to see. Cricket, for each one of them, is their key to a successful life and the passion, maturity and approach that most of them have shown when given an opportunity in the IPL has been quite astonishing.
Batsmen such as Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Devdutt Padikkal, Suryakumar Yadav, Sanju Samson, Ishan Kishan, Rahul Tripathi, the phenomenal power hitter from Haryana, Rahul Tewatia, and many more have shown how Indian cricket has progressed. Young bowlers such as Shivam Mavi, Navdeep Saini, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kartik Tyagi, Thangarasu Natrajan, Mohammed Siraj, and Ravi Bishnoi have already started rubbing shoulders with their elders in speed and ability.
All these young dynamites, along with the seasoned domestic performers and the India’s international stars, have brought a rainbow of joy to Indian cricket. One can envy the task of the new selection committee under Sunil Joshi, who very shortly will have to select the team for the T20Is, ODI, and the Test teams play Australia in November.
The fielding has had its ups and downs in the IPL. Players have dropped some simple high catches, which must be due to the lights and atmosphere. However, we have also seen some stunning catches. The highlight as regards fielding was the incredible save by the Kings XI Punjab and the West Indian player, Nicholas Pooran. His effort to save a boundary has gone into the annals of cricket history as arguably the best fielding save ever!
With 22 of the 49 matches to decide the four teams that will qualify for the playoffs stage completed, one does not see any one team showing superiority over the rest. The team management and the captains are getting a better insight into the potential in their squad and the success of many of the Indian players has brought about a feeling of comfort for some of them.
The Mumbai Indians, under the captaincy of Rohit Sharma, seem to have their batting, the power hitting, and their fast and spin bowling in place. Delhi Capitals, on the other hand, have a young talented side with both their bowlers and batters aiming to make their presence felt.
Rajasthan Royals, unfortunately, are still waiting for their superstar all-rounder Ben Stokes to stoke their fire. Royal Challengers Bangalore are breathing a sigh of relief with Virat Kohli back in form. They, along with SunRisers Hyderabad, have a super topline batting order but lack big hitters who can finish the innings.
Kolkata Knight Riders have a captain struggling for runs and they need to utilise the batting skill of England World Cup winning captain Eoin Morgan sensibly. He needs to bat much higher in the order as he is an established performer who could single-handedly win them matches.
One feels sorry for Kings XI Punjab, as they have lost some very close encounters and although KL Rahul, their captain, is in sublime form, he along with Mayank Agarwal are not being able to carry their team to the winning post.
The race is still open for the four slots to reach the playoffs. However, the IPL has turned the lives of cricket lovers all over the world into a blessing. While we applaud and revel in the exciting cricket and watch some unbelievable shots being played by the batsmen, “let the best team win”.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal)