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Impact of the IPL – Part 1

April 28, 2008

This is the first of a 3-part post on the potential impact of the IPL on the game of cricket as we know it. I think of the three key components that will undergo change; current cricketers (international and domestic), future cricketers (little kids donning the whites) and the game of cricket as it might exist 5-7 years down the line.

Impact on current cricketers

There exists the potential for several tags to attach to any current cricketer; country, state/club, international, test-class, one-day specialist and now, IPL player. Given that the tags are not mutually exclusive, it is fair to think of the impact of the last tag on the others. Scanning the team rosters of the expansive yet unimaginatively named teams, there are 3 kinds of players that currently form some kind of royalty (Super Kings, XI Kings, Royals, Royal Challengers), job descriptions (Chargers, Daredevils), comic heroes (Knight Riders) or just plain passport holders (Indians); Type 1 (Test and ODI regulars), Type 2 (Uni-dimensional type 1 wannabes) and Type III (Greenhorn potential).

Type 1 – Test & ODI Regulars:

Think Adam Gilchrist, Graeme Smith, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, Brett Lee.

These guys have been around for a while and are no-brainers when their respective country’s team sheets are drawn up.¬† Not getting into the debate over contentious names like Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly et al, we still have enough to make a sizable set. Their motivations to suit up in the shiny colours is partly curiosity about the new franchised format and partly a need to prove to themselves in the slam-kaboom variety of the game.

T1 Batsmen: Having the technique and the temperament, they are likely to feel themselves through their first few innings and then make the necessary adjustments to open up angles with conventional cricket shots (yes, Gilchrist plays conventional shots, he just picks the length earlier than most others). As pitches are flattened to ensure high-scoring games, these guys will fill take on individual challenges against top class bowlers while mauling the mediocre ones.
T1 Bowlers: The truly hamstrung lot, top quality bowlers will look at varying their lengths and pace to outfox batsmen. Expect some innovative field placings and lengths to put batsmen off.

Type 2 – Unidimensional type 1 wannabes:

Think Yuvraj Singh, Shane Watson, Simon Katich, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan.

These are those that have been knocking on the doors to be type 1 for a while. They’ve all had their moments but never consistently enough to be considered shoo-ins. In the regular world, these would be the most driven type of player, having tasted some success in their national colours, to relentlessly work to improve their techniques that would make all the difference. In the IPL world however, these blokes stand to lose the most. Why bust your derriere improving against the short fast delivery aimed at the throat when you can make a packet swatting medium-paced dollops in franchise colours? Worst-hit (or rewarded depending on your point of view) will be the Indian (the country not the franchise) Type 2s who strut around with collars raised, preening for the camera as they manufacture dives to play to the gallery.

T2 Batsmen: The format is tailor-made for those who are already on the front foot before the ball has been bowled. Given that bowling is not considered a requisite skill in the newest form, there are enough slightly built slow-medium slingers pretending to be bowlers for this type to flay their bats at and do reasonably well. For the likes of Robin Uthappa, the strategy would be simple, scamper the single off the good bowlers, swing/scoop/bludgeon the others hard, give interviews
T2 Bowlers: Penetration and wicket-taking having been relegated to secondary activities, these bowlers will look at specializing in hitting just the right length with just enough wobble to make stroke-making irritating. Only problem is, all such bowlers will be a blur with their ‘acceptable’ returns of 1 for 42 off 4 overs

Type 3 – Greenhorn potential:

Think Rohit Sharma, Ishant Sharma, Virat Kohli.

These are the ‘young turks’, mostly of Indian cricket, with wins at the U-19 levels and dreams of the land of milk and honey of international cricket in their eyes. Which way they go will depend purely on what they are made of. Some will improve from their encounters with top class players. Some will reduce their games to similar to the T2s. Of little current significance, but the future of this lot will have tremendous bearing on that of the game itself

T3 Batsmen: Will have to resist the urge to shut their eyes and mow across the line of every delivery (given even that has its success rates). Instead, to learn more about their game and gain the experience of playing in front of packed houses alongside some of the legends. The choice of international player they model themselves on will make all the difference
T3 Bowlers: The odd spinner might gain operating under pressure, but the format closes the door on young fast-bowlers looking to hone their art, even the good ones will be easy meat for the T1 and T2 batsmen.

Too much of Type 2 and the IPL might just have a truncated shelf-life. At the end of the day, quality cricket is easy to spot.

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