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The good side of the IPL coin

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The grand Indian ‘maha-mela’ (funfair) has begun; not the Kumbhmela that traditionally is known to be a go to place for siblings to get lost and ending up meeting each other years after with an intense dose of affection. This ‘mela’ though is not the one that will bring together the lost siblings and create a story with a happy ending. Infact, it’s the story of a ‘mela’ that puts benefits of the group over the great sibling revelry. Welcome to this grand royal feast where revelry gets tested and where careers are made. Welcome to the world of Indian Premier League or IPL, a magnum opus designed and created by Lalit Modi- a man with immense passion and amazing money making ability. It’s been called as a stage where the dreams get fulfilled and where the money bags weigh up, almost always. The IPL since the beginning has been exacting opinions. Few have been extremely critical about it whereas few tout it to be the platform where the players’ dreams are recognised and which might as well earn them a national cap.

IPL has now entered into season 5, with its creator of dreams no longer in the picture but engrossed in the court-room drama and the new CEO being hardly spoken about with the same curiosity. The IPL season 5 has commenced to ferry across the cities garnering attention of almost all, right from the housewives who otherwise cannot spare too much time to the children who more often than not make sure they spare lots of time and even to those who sit in the Parliament and pretend to make some absolute crucial decisions in concerns with national importance. All and all, the IPL has grabbed the viewers’ hearts. Well done, IPL.

In the words of Peter Schwartz, a writer for the Forbes, the IPL has come a long way “from a pipe dream to the fastest appreciating sports business on the Earth”. And like many products that the common man in the society consumes, the IPL too has its own share of supporters, detractors and sides that vary from good, bad and as few might say, ugly too. This piece is by no means a ‘be all and end all’ article. Infact, let’s call this a piece that was put forth after a research that the IPL and the issues surrounding it deserve. Hence, this article and its writer won’t claim it to be the whistle-blower or a revelation. What it is though, is an honest attempt to highlight what IPL has done to the world of cricket.

Considering the vast canvas the IPL covers, it will be impossible to cover both the sides (the positive and negative side) in a single piece. Hence, the IPL issue will be separated on the basis of good and bad effects. This piece will aim to focus upon the benefits that the IPL has on the game of cricket and also on the lives of cricketers. The perils if any will be covered in a separate piece that shall be up on the website in a span of few days.

Player Mining

Amongst many other things that IPL has done to cricket, it has broadened the pool to spot and unearth talent. In this sense, it stands in a direct contradiction with Test cricket that is keener to opt for a player who specialises in one aspect of cricket, be it batting, bowling or wicket-keeping. IPL has allowed the entry of the bits and pieces players who play 20 odd balls, score 35-40 runs, come in and bowl 3-4 overs for 20-25 runs and in the process take 1-2 wickets. The IPL in that sense has made its priorities very clear since the beginning. It has never made any tall claims of providing countries across the cricket globe with their next Test debutant.

On the other hand, it does create a platform for the players who are good enough to represent their country in the 50 overs and 20 overs cricket format. IPL, although not entirely but certainly to an extent, has strengthened the pool of players. To borrow from our many commentators the IPL has opened the floodgates of opportunities, for those who have been on the fringes, to rub shoulders with the bigwigs of International cricket. This holds a great deal of significance for the Indian domestic players considering that the top-notch Indian players barring a few have been extremely miserly with their appearances at the domestic level cricket.

The Opportunity Chain

As they say, an individual is the product of the surroundings he lives in. The young generation of India, well most of it, is confident about the way it is. As Harsha Bhogle says very often, “it is ready to take over the world. The zestful, exuberant and confident generation looks at the IPL as a stage appropriate to show their skills and let the world notice it. There are few who are of the opinion that IPL has divorced from temperament and more importantly technique. But well it will be too cynical to say that the IPL has marred cricket. For ones, it has opened the doors to the larger canvas (of varied opportunities). Like the free market lovers like to say,‘a place where everyone who enters the business or economic exchange gets benefitted’.

In cricketing sense, it is of representing or association with a club or franchisee. To sum up, the IPL gives the players the exposure that a guy from the backwaters of Kerala or the north of English city of Sheffield looks forward to. It for sure is not about that one IPL opportunity and yes, the IPL for many is the means to an end. A good show in a franchisee in IPL is the ticket to the many tourneys of such types and vice versa and in some cases a national call up too (read- Rahul Sharma).

Legendary Learnings

Another important thing the IPL has done is allowed the youngsters to play alongside their idols or the players they look upto. By all means, it is a golden opportunity to understand the finer nuances of the cricketing facets. However, as much important it is to excel in the trait you aspire to, it also is equally important to be aware of the work-ethics, discipline, about how to carry oneself on and off the field. There are likes of Kohli who initially had lost the focus amidst the frenzy of media attention and glamour and then have been helped to a great deal with the advice, suggestions and actions of the likes of Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis and Anil Kumble. As it is about a young Harshal Patel of Royal Challengers Bangalore getting few basic and absolutely quintessential bowling tips from Zak or a young Jaydev Unandkat getting a chance to learn from the bowling great Wasim Akram.

A recent example can be of Ajinkya Rahane. The presence of Rahul Dravid, his idol, in the Rajasthan Royals camp shall be an opportunity he had waited for since he started playing cricket. Thus, IPL has for sure broken down those regional shackles that the knowledge of the game is restricted by.

The Coach-Umpire Unison

As the discussion I was fortunate to have with few people via the medium of social networking tools of interaction, the IPL has provided a good chance for the domestic Indian umpires to have a go at the high pressure events where every action or decision of their’s is watched closely if not scrutinised. The pressure they feel will be at the crescendo if one compares them with a local or state tournament.

There has not been any intention on my behalf to run down the significance, history and legacy these established schools of cricket carry along, but they very rarely provide a local umpire with a chance to co-umpire with someone like Ian Gould, Simon Taufel or Asad Rauf. Considering the fact that, there has not been any Indian umpire in the ICC’s Elite List of Umpires, this exposure shall be held with a great respect and given due credit for. Same can be stated about the national coaches who lack the experience to mingle with International players and coaches of international repute.

Financial Security

Although loved by millions across the country, pursuing cricket as a professional career especially at the initial stages can be a bit too heavy on the pockets of the parents or those who look after that player or on the players too. The IPL on the other hand, has provided many of them with a financial security they couldn’t have dreamt of at this stage of their careers. It is not possible for everyone to play the top-flight cricket, may be because they lack the ability to shine at the top level cricket or may be the opportunities provided are less in number  or it might well be because of the players missing out when the chance was up for grabs.

The IPL has made sure that it not only creates the ground of playing opportunities for players to get noticed but it also has backed the players and taken care of the financial worries the players have. There are cases of players, especially those belonging to the domestic (state teams or the clubs) teams, who are left with no other option but to balance between work and the game. In the end, neither they are earning income sufficient enough to look after their family nor are they able to pursue their dream with enough passion. IPL has changed that for hundreds of players.

Goodness concluded

To conclude, it can be said that the IPL is one of the huge stages that provide players, domestic umpires and coaches with an opportunity to learn various playing as well as non-playing aspects of the game. Add to it, the financial security it has given to the players. It also is a field that will help broaden the pool of players who might eventually be a part of their respective national teams. And even though it has not been too long since it has arrived on the cricket scene and occupied the mind space of the viewers, the IPL has surely turned out to be a pot full of opportunities.




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