The strength of a team in the Indian Premier League (IPL) depends on the quality of Indian players as only four overseas players are there in the eleven. That gives the Indian youngsters plenty of opportunities to impress the national selectors.
Gone are the days when the IPL was seen as some kind of a circus or tamasha for entertaining spectators on summer nights after a hard day’s work. Talent scouts in the eight franchises watch the fresh faces going round the country during the domestic season.
All those who derided the popular Twenty20 league as a corrupt influence on young cricketers are now seeing virtues in it. Even the national selectors are taking it seriously and an impression is gaining ground that the IPL is the place to see the temperament of a young player in a matter of seven weeks, that, too, in a tough competition wherein he is competing with some of the top careerist limited-overs specialists.
The selectors had a wide range of young fast bowlers to pick from when they sat to pick teams for Test, One-Day and Twenty20 internationals and India A. There are seven of them, Barinder Balbir Sran, Mohammad Siraj, both of whom have already played for India, Shivam Mavi, Deepak Chahar, Avesh Khan, Mohammad Asif and Prasidh Krishna, who came in as replacement for Kamlesh Nagarkoti, one of the star performers of India’s junior World Cup winning team, in the Kolkata Knight Riders squad.
Strangely, Rajneesh Gurbani, who is chiefly responsible for Vidarbha winning the Ranji Trophy taking 39 wickets in six matches, including a hat-trick in the final, had no IPL takers, though the selectors did not forget him and included him in the India A team to England.
Among the young batsmen, Rishab Pant has been a big hit with his Delhi Daredevils teammate Prithvi Shah. Also Nitish Rana, Shubhman Gill and Ishan Kishan can keep reminding the selectors of their presence.
Youngsters playing in the IPL or hoping to make it must see Pant’s repertoire of strokes and his improvisation. His hundred against Sunrisers Hyderabad was something one doesn’t see all too frequently. Such hitting is associated with batsmen like Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Brendon McCullum of yore, David Warner and Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Yuvraj Singh on their day.
Yet, Pant had no place in India ODI or Twenty20 teams either as a batsman or as reserve wicketkeeper. Dinesh Karthik is preferred, also on current form and experience. Twitterati predictably went after the selectors and they would have done the same if Karthik had been dropped giving the same argument.
Pant went on the rampage soon after the squads were announced, cracking the IPL’s highest score, 128 off 63 balls hitting seven sixes, against table-toppers Sunrisers, after hitting 51 off 34 balls with four sixes against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the previous match. In his last two innings he smacked 69 (29 balls, 5 sixes) against Rajasthan Royals and 79 (45 balls, 4 sixes) against Chennai Super Kings to make the selectors squirm.
Like Pant, Rohit Sharma also must be feeling let down as he could have been given one last chance in the Test against Afghanistan, but then the selectors chose to reward Karun Nair for his heavy domestic scores.
Is it the end of the road for Rohit, as he may not have many opportunities to fight his way back into the Test squad for the series against England or even Australia unless he shows such remarkable touch in the limited overs cricket. Rohit though cannot complain about not getting enough chances.
If the limited-overs sides are picked on the basis of the IPL performances, then one would have liked to see the young Punjab leg-spinner Mayank Markande, who bamboozled even the big guns with his brilliant wrist work. It’s nice to see Nitish Rana, Krunal Pandya, Suryakumar Yadav, Krishnappa Gowtham and Ankit Rajpoot in the A squads.
The selectors thus spread the net wide to catch quite a few youngsters at the right time and even remembered Siddharth Kaul after his splendid death-overs bowling in the IPL. Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayudu will also thank the IPL for their return to big-time cricket.
Pant is there in the India A ODI side for the tri-series in England with West Indies as the third team, but not for the four-day “Test” match for which Andhra’s wicketkeeper-batsman Kona Srikar Bharat was preferred on his showing in domestic cricket. Chief selector Mannava Sri Kanth Prasad should know about wicketkeepers, being a former international ‘keeper himself.
Look at the number of players, playing for India today, first noticed in the IPL. That adds up to a healthy number.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])