Impact of the IPL – Part 2
Impact on future cricketers
Pre-IPL school kid: Wakes up, dons whites, shrugs on his kit bag, warms up, visualizes his hero (one of top 10 list of run-scorers/wicket-takers on test matches over the last 5 – 10 years) , practises hard, dreams of donning the test cap…
Just over three decades ago, life in India was simplicity itself. Dyanora and Crown were the only widely available brands of television sets, the portly Ambassador or the angular Premier Padmini were the only two passenger cars available, Pele, Cryuff and Beckenbauer were the soccer-loving public’s icons and Sunil Gavaskar was the cricket-loving public’s homegrown ideal. For every kid who fantasized about the epitome of sporting achievement, it was simple; a match-winning performance (a hundred for 97% of the population, a ten-for for the remaining 3%) to win India a test match.
Today, electronics ‘uber’stores showcase 23 brands of plasma televisions and 27 brands of the LCD variety, there are roughly fourteen different models of sedans, each with not less than 3 variants, Raikonnen jostles for poster space alongside Rooney and Lebron, and Yuvraj, Dhoni and Harbhajan are the cricketing superstars. While the fame was based on the on-field spats, chest-thumping sound bytes interspersed with the odd performance of cricketing relevance, it was still relatively easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. Obvious deficiencies in technique leading to failure to make it to the test team (which still counts for something) or to be sorted out by well-prepared batsmen meant that kids were clear about the difference between a Rahul Dravid or a VVS Laxman versus a Yuvraj Singh or a Mahendra Dhoni. The ubiquitous ‘fan’ might already be swooning at the sight of a ‘Dhoni special’ as he bludgeons the ball with the end of the bat describing a full circle as his feet leave the ground but the kid in the nets will still dream of standing tall on the backfoot and punching through the covers like he’s seen Tendulkar do because he knows the supreme balance and coordination needed.
But what of it, three, maybe four years from now, when the IPL will hold consistent sway? When the TRP race will have elevated the bits and pieces cricketers to demi-god status, when those with the ‘swishiest’ blades (made that word up, but i think it conveys the meaning) will endorse their team owners’ products? With test cricket relegated to those times of the year when the IPL can’t be played (like monsoon season on the subcontinent), practising the long hit will make much more economic sense than getting in line and playing on length. Those knocking on the doors of the U-19 teams of their respective states will prefer adding part-time slow-medium bowler to their resume in addition to big-hitter than refine that non-essential skill of a backfoot defensive. The simple reason being the prospect of a bidding war that will pit his wares against his peers and that additional skill might tilt the balance. Sure, fielding skills will be significantly elevated in the manner of a season or two (amazing how much less grass burns hurt when they fetch you the additional $200K), but the younger generation of batsmen will look like mass-produced assembly line products, ugly ones, that move their front foot towards mid-on and rapidly bring their shoulders around to take almightly heaves at the ball, irrespective of line or length. The shortened boundaries and the ever-improving bats will ensure that any contact upwards of feathered edges will send the ball ballooning over the ropes and the crowds rapturous. Combine a continuously declining standard of bowling for no reason other than neglect and you only accelerate the decline in the standard of the game.
Post-IPL school kid: Wakes up later (coz of the IPL game last night), dons his multi-coloureds, snaps on the franchise headband of the Ahmedabad Kiteflyers, remembers the roar of the crowds as he attempts to launch each delivery out of the ground while complaining about the tinge of grass left behind by the groundsman, dreams of franchise cap/helmet/paraphernalia…
The doomsday scenario about the cricket has been overdone to highlight one thing, the short-term (hopefully) impact of the IPL will be to narrow the gap between the great and merely competent, between the sublime and the almost ridiculous. The impact on the next generation of cricketers might be enormous and far-reaching. Everyone has to have heroes, important that they be the right kind.