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February 2, 2013
"I am confident because of my past performance and my current fitness. It is also about state of mind: 85% of cricket is played in your head." So says Ricardo Powell, the former West Indies batsman, who could possibly be the biggest left-field pick at the 2013 IPL auction.
"I know in terms of competing at the highest level it is just a matter of getting back in the arena. I have played 109 ODIs. I have seen a lot of cricket and I have played against some of the best players in the world and performed against them," Powell said, announcing himself and his credentials, on the eve of the auction. "I am still very fit and right now I am on top of my game in terms of intellect. I see no worries nor am concerned."
Powell played his last international match in 2006. A powerful hitter, Powell is now 34. He has never played any Twenty20 internationals. His reserve price at the auction is a handsome $50,000. All that makes Powell's name, listed in the second set of batsmen on the IPL auction list, a curious one; a stand-out in the crowd of 108 names.
Powell, who resides in Florida, is an itinerant cricketer who splits his time between his native Trinidad and the USA. So what drives him to pit himself against active, fitter and younger players? "I am still young enough to play cricket," Powell said. "What I want to do is play Twenty20 cricket and the IPL is one of the tournaments I would like to play."
This is his second time Powell has entered the auction. In 2011, he had put his name down on the auction list but pulled out after his son Ross, who was then two-years-old, was diagnosed with autism.
Powell keeps himself fit by playing competitive cricket for Queens Park Cricket Club in Trinidad, local clubs in the USA and he recently even played for the International World XI against the Pakistan All Star XI in Karachi.
"Here in the USA, we have a lot of former international players and Asian players who have played at the highest level, and it is mostly T20 tournaments. So there is a lot of competitive cricket played here," he said. "And that is one of the main reasons for me to travel back and forth to the Caribbean, to hone my skills."
Powell, who is also a cricket commentator-cum-analyst for ESPN in the Americas region, decided he could utilise his experience to succeed in Twenty20 cricket. Being wiser, Powell believes, is the one factor that keeps him above his competition. "I am more experienced. I can play a game in the middle with my head. I feel that is what is needed in Twenty20 cricket.
"A lot of people feel T20 cricket is a fast-paced game and you have to do things differently. But to me T20 is a shorter version of 50-overs cricket. A lot of people get carried away and panic in T20, which is not the right thing to do. You have to play each ball and not necessarily the overs. You have 20 overs, 120 balls. And if you look at that way, you have 120 balls and you can easily score 160-170 runs. That is the way I look at it: yes, I have the power and the ability to score quickly but it is also about playing smart. About 10 years ago everything was about hitting the ball out of the park, but now it is different. Twenty20 cricket is about playing smart more than anything else."
As a 20-year-old, Powell emerged as a raging talent after his quickfire 124 against India in the final of the Singapore Challenge in 1999. He had walked in when West Indies, chasing 254, were 67 for 4. But Powell bludgeoned the Indian bowling, with 84 runs coming in boundaries including nine massive sixes.
However, Powell remained inconsistent and over the years his talent waned. In 2006, he played the inaugural Stanford Twenty20 but remained in the shadow of youngsters like Kieron Pollard. The difference between his game then and now, he said, is the enjoyment factor: "I am enjoying playing cricket. That is the important thing. When I walked away from cricket in 2006, I was not enjoying it. Now I am very relaxed and focused in terms of what I want to do. And I have options."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Nagraj Gollapudi
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Plays of the day from the IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians in Abu Dhabi