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While several IPL teams focus on roping in big names from across the country to fill their Indian players' quota, the Hyderabad franchise, for one, has shown this season that a strategy built around promising locals can work
April 21, 2013
There are many ways to describe Friday night's game between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab. A battle of sub-standard batting, a duel between low-profile teams, a test of nerves... While all these tags can be debated, what cannot be argued is it was a tussle between two IPL teams who have continued to back local talent.
One of the main objectives at the time of floating the IPL was to promote local talent. As a result, rules like presence of a minimum of four players from the catchment area and as many under-22 players in the squad were introduced. But as the tournament started evolving and the stakes were raised higher and higher with every passing edition, success on the field overrode these idealistic undertakings for virtually all the teams.
As a result, the number of players from the BCCI's affiliated state units that the IPL franchises are based at was steadily on the decline, especially following the big auction in 2011. While most of the teams have preferred to sign-up Indian players of repute from various parts of the country instead of looking at their own backyard, three teams seem to have got the balance right.
Chennai Super Kings, Kings XI Punjab and the Hyderabad franchise have always leaned towards home-grown domestic players. More importantly, while other teams have preferred to make several of their local players warm the benches, these three teams have made effective use of the local talent at their disposal.
With R Ashwin, M Vijay and S Badrinath having earned India caps, Super Kings hardly have a slot for another local who can be drafted in to the squad. However, despite the absence of big names - not only on the international stage but even on the domestic circuit - the Hyderabad and Mohali-based franchises have consistently allowed local talent exposure on the IPL's big stage. While Delhi Daredevils have just four players, including Virender Sehwag, from Delhi in their squad of 27 this year, Kings XI's squad of 25 includes nine players from Punjab and Haryana.
Thus players like Manan Vohra and Gurkeerat Singh, and Hyderabad's Hanuma Vihari, Akshath Reddy and Ashish Reddy - who are far from having established themselves as a force on the domestic circuit - have risen in confidence over the past two years. So what is it that has kept these two teams backing their local talent?
"We cannot forget that it's a Kings XI Punjab team, so talent from the catchment area is of paramount importance for us," Arvinder Singh, Kings XI's chief operating officer, says. "And it's not just for the heck of promoting the regional cricketers that these players are on board. These guys have shown they have the potential. And home conditions is something that all of them are used to."
|"I feel it's time to encourage local talent. And eventually we should reach a stage wherein, while the international players remain important, the seven local players end up being the decisive factor in the IPL." Sunrisers Hyderabad mentor VVS Laxman|
Sunrisers mentor VVS Laxman feels it's time the teams recognised that the key to success is the seven Indian players in the side. "The seven Indian cricketers that are in the team need to perform for the team's success. While you have four overseas players, it's so important for your domestic players to perform," Laxman says. "We're really lucky that we've got some young players from Hyderabad who can be match-winners for the franchise - not only now but in future too. These are players who have everything in them in order to serve the franchise with great distinction.
"I feel it's time to encourage local talent. And eventually we should reach a stage wherein, while the international players remain important, the seven local players end up being the decisive factor in the IPL."
With very little time to prepare with the whole squad together ahead of the IPL season, the presence of local players helps in building a conducive team environment as well. "It always helps when an IPL squad includes a decent number of local cricketers. Not only do they know the conditions very well, they help a great deal when it comes to team bonding," former Mumbai Indians coach Lalchand Rajput says. "Look at Chennai Super Kings. Since many of their players play together round the year, it doesn't matter whether they've have spent enough time together in the Chennai Super Kings camp."
Mumbai Indians and Pune Warriors have emerged as teams who have bothered little about local cricketers, especially this year. While Pune Warriors haven't signed a player who represents Maharashtra, Mumbai Indians have so far opted to bench four of the Ranji Trophy-winning cricketers who are a part of their squad this season.
Despite having star-studded line-ups, both the Mumbai and Pune teams are yet to find consistency with their performances. The Hyderabad outfit, on the other hand, despite having the weakest batting line-up on paper, finds itself sitting atop the points tally. When they face Warriors on Sunday, will Kings XI also prove that under-rated locals are indeed more valuable than reputed imports?
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