May 24, 2010

Indian cricket

Domestic T20 leagues have a lot to offer

Aakash Chopra
Sachin Tendulkar walks back after being dismissed, Mumbai Indians v Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2010, 1st semi-final, Mumbai, April 21, 2010
Domestic tournaments based on the IPL could unearth the next generation of Indian T20 stars  © Indian Premier League
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Karnataka was the first to do it; a year later, Maharashtra followed suit. Soon more states will have their own Premier Leagues based on the IPL model, albeit a lot smaller. These leagues have a lot to offer, both to the IPL franchisees and the players involved.

First the IPL teams

So far the IPL teams have been picking players on the basis of their performances in the domestic season. Since very little T20 cricket is played in a year, the selection was seldom based on their showing in this format. Hence, they had to rely on feedback from their scouts or senior cricketers. But now these leagues are giving the franchisees an opportunity to watch little known players in competitive match situations. These leagues are also bound to unearth a few T20 specialists.

Players benefit

It is a given that not everyone who plays cricket will play for India. And that's where the IPL has raised the hopes of a lot of aspiring cricketers. Unlike the 15 places for India, there are over 100 places up for grabs in the IPL. These leagues are giving a lot of lesser known, yet talented players, an opportunity to showcase their skill and of course make some money. I know a lot of good players, who've unfortunately not had a chance to play first class cricket, but get paid Rs. 500 per match to play in the local circuit. Since they are not employed, these matches are their only source of income along with their share of the prize money i.e. if their team wins the tournament. They resort to coaching in different academies for a paltry amount when local cricket is not happening. These players would definitely stand to gain a lot from these leagues.

But there's always a flip side to such stories. While on the one hand, these leagues are giving youngsters a platform to perform and impress, on the other hand there's always a risk of 14-15 year olds getting too carried away with T20 cricket. I admit that T20 is here to stay and eventually every player will have to play in this format, but I'd rather have youngsters learn the basics before embarking on this journey. In my opinion T20 cricket should be out of bounds for Under-16 kids. Till the age of 16, let them play longer formats which would help them develop proper technique and temperament.

I know it's like saying McDonalds, because junk food is bad for health, should be banned for kids. But there's a fundamental difference between McDonalds and cricket. McDonalds is selling its product, and if they succeed in it, good for them.

But cricket is not a commodity. The aim should be to develop the game and build quality players. My concern isn't only limited to domestic premier leagues. Most age groups and school tournaments are also turning into T20 games in the capital and these are worrying signs. The kid who plays two consecutive dot balls gets sworn at by his peers and coaches alike. This training at the grass-root level is all set to ruin the basic foundation of these cricketers.

One might argue that having an age-limit would not allow the next Sachin Tendulkar to come to the fore. My answer to that would be that not playing in one format wouldn't hurt his growth as a player and also someone as talented as him would not take time to adapt. We might lose a year in the bargain but if that saves thousands of cricketers, it's worth the loss.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by kumar on (May 28, 2010, 4:54 GMT)

Nice article Aakash... Guess who is in the fore front of promoting T20 -- BCCI-IPL. And if the same BCCI doesn't act "fast" on saving the longer formats of the game, it will be downhill for India from here. Its scary to read what you have written about school tournaments in capital.

Cheers, kumar

Posted by Boris on (May 27, 2010, 13:00 GMT)

I think you propose a good idea Aakash. Ensure younger players play the longer formats of the game to develop a technique better suited to those formats and then show them how to apply their technique to the different formats of the game a la the likes Sachin Tendulkar and Jayawardene, who have seen success lately in T20 cricket in addition to their successes in test and ODI cricket. The disappointing aspect though is that through the IPL and these domestic leagues, only those T20 specialists will really come to be recognised and possibly wrongly given opportunities in ODI and test cricket where players more adept at these formats are lost trying to scrape a living as Aakash highlighted. However, this aside, I think these domestic leagues will ensure that only T20 capable players are given berths in IPL teams as there have been a fair few local players unable to adjust whether it be their aggression with the bat or their regulation and intelligence with the ball.

Posted by Patrick A on (May 27, 2010, 11:25 GMT)

State T20 leagues are an excellent idea - it's like the minor leagues in US baseball, which provide an excellent recruitment pool for major leagues baseball clubs in addition to being excellent competition (& extra cash) for players who are merely good and not great.

"Till the age of 16, let them play longer formats which would help them develop proper technique and temperament."

Dream on. Face it, a tendency for faster sports is part of the general social evolution of humanity as technology progresses. If cricket was invented today, it would be a game playable in an afternoon, not five days.

Teens aren't going to get into the state T20 leagues unless they are good - there will be plenty of experienced grownup cricketers who'll be competing for those same places.

Teens who are good enough to play state T20 cricket will still learn important things - competition, never giving up, teamwork, 'practice makes perfect'. Good habits are not the sole province of multiday cricket.

Posted by Sriram on (May 27, 2010, 9:56 GMT)

Aakash, id say 'who cares for ODI'..id like to see T20 played more and ODI eventually gone. In a fast paced world we dont have time for ODI and its more boring give that the game has tilted so much towards batsman, so who wants to become a bowler or a fodder machine. Id rather go to a stadium to see T20 than a ODI and Tests are strictly for TV coz its not easy to go to a stadium for 2 consecutive days let even 5 days. All this Im saying as I do play club cricket

Posted by Lukesh on (May 26, 2010, 16:18 GMT)

I completely agree, countries across the world must start placing more imortance on their domestic leagues, because it not only allows a greater number of plays to participate at a professional level but would also increase crowd numbers at international matches, where many tours are (sorry to say it:) meaningless. There is an intense inter-city rivalry created in domestic leagues in many other sports and I think cricket should start doing the same. If you can get a stadium filled 70% for a domestic cricket match, then you can fill up the whole stadium for an international match easyily.

Posted by Pranav Karkhanis on (May 24, 2010, 9:25 GMT)

Akash, Please correct the fact "Maharashtra was the 1st state in India to organize a state level T20, followed by Karnataka". MPL T20 (first Official state Premier Cricket League') as it known was started by Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) in association with Sakal Media Group in May 2009, this year it is running 2nd year of MPL T20 tournament. MCA has created a pool of 122 players from Ranji trophy and under-22 cricket teams who can participate in it. Following its success in 1st year, Karnataka (KSCA) orginzed it own T20 inter-district tournament (KPL T20) in September 2009.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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