IPL 2012 April 9, 2012

Play five foreign players to help Indian cricket

By Karan Mamgain, Indonesia

By Karan Mamgain, Indonesia

It's 8pm in India. Time to grab a beer – or tea – and settle down to watch the tamasha unfold on TV on Set Max. You ask your buddy, ‘wasn't the game last night fun?’ He replies, ‘yes, they played so well, especially him’. If the IPL wants to continue selling itself, the ‘him’ in that sentence needs to be replaced with youngsters’ names. With nine teams playing 16 game apiece, it is a fair criticism that the IPL is too long, for the viewers and the players. A possible antidote would be if it threw up international quality youngsters on a regular basis. That would keep the players and audience better interested, but is that possible under the current format?

The solution, I think, is simple, and its effects will extend to the quality of cricket being played – another plus for the viewers. Allow each team to field five overseas players. It may sound counterintuitive: how does taking away an Indian's spot help India’s youngsters, those waiting to emerge from the anonymity of domestic cricket. Competition. That’s the answer.

Let's take Kolkata Knight Riders as an example. They have the luxury of some prime overseas signings. The line-up this season includes Jacques Kallis, Eoin Morgan, Brendon McCullum, Shakib Al Hasan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Sunil Narine, Brett Lee, Marchant de Lange, James Pattinson and, if he is available, Brad Haddin. Now imagine that they were allowed five foreign players. That would mean someone like Debabrata Das, Laxmi Ratan Shukla or Rajat Bhatia would be competing with Shakib Al Hasan and Ryan ten Doeschate for a place in the XI. Iqbal Abdulla could be bumped off by Sunil Narine. L Balaji will have to outdo Marchant de Lange or James Pattinson. That is competition, and only that can bring out the best in cricketers.

You know that there are certain players who pick themselves and so, to break in, you have to make the best out of every inch you get. You could call it cricketing Darwinism – that's what it is, a selection of the crème de la crème. A natural selection of those best adapted to survive the struggle for existence. This rule ensures only (or mostly only) those players who could compete against their international counterparts will play the IPL, and then, possibly, for India.

If Manoj Tiwary and Morgan are competing for a finisher's spot, and Tiwary consistently comes out the winner, you know that he is someone of international quality. Can RP Singh and Munaf Patel keep Mitchell Johnson out of Mumbai Indians' starting XI? If no, then how do you expect them to step up their game in internationals?

Such a rule might impact the IPL in another way too. Better cricket, with more international players participating could increase international viewership as well. And that’s a definite upside for the organisers.

Nikita Bastian is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo