May 5, 2008

Mixed just right

Interactions between international stars and domestic players have been the most encouraging aspect of the IPL

'Keeping to Lee has been fantastic because he is accurate at great speed, and you can stand well behind' © Getty Images

The IPL has been a completely new experience, full of new challenges, for most players involved, both for the seasoned internationals and the Indian domestic players. The most encouraging aspect of this tournament has been the interaction between the two categories of players.

We have now seen a lot of good cricketers who wouldn't have otherwise been seen. We have India Under-19 players, or Ranji players, who are coming out and winning matches for their sides.

The best part is that everyone is learning from each other. The international stars are learning from domestic players about local playing conditions, the local bowlers, and how the grounds behave. And for the young Indian players it is a perfect opportunity to gel with seasoned international players and have a taste of the pressures that come at this level. They can talk to the international players and find out what strengths they possess, and how they can develop their game further.

These interactions stand everyone in good stead. The young guys have opinions that are valuable to the sides. More so, as outsiders, their perspective of international cricket as a game is refreshing. Sometimes they come up with ideas that are from the left field, but are relevant to what's happening out in the middle. They come up with important suggestions for field settings to different batsmen, bowling tactics and so on.

When it comes to Kings XI Punjab, the team we have is full of youngsters who are extremely nice, and eager to have a chat about cricket and life in general. The likes of Karan Goel, Tanmay Srivastava and Piyush Chawla are promising young players. I haven't seen enough of some of the other boys, like Sunny Sohal, but there is more to these players than just ability: they have maturity that you usually don't see in such young players from other countries. Many are just out of their U-19 sides, but they possess a maturity that will allow India to put them into the national side very early, and when that happens they will be able to take tough situations in their stride. You saw that in the CB Series in Australia, where the young Indian players showed a lot of maturity when it came to playing at international level.

The IPL has also brought along personal challenges for every player. For me, for example, keeping wicket to bowlers I haven't kept to before has been good. Keeping to spinners like Chawla has been especially challenging. He is a good bowler and has a lot of guile and skill. It is hard enough to read his variations, plus you need to learn how to react to the different pitches we play on, and to make it even harder, the batsmen are always on the attack, always moving around in the crease and trying to get runs, which can get very distracting for a wicketkeeper. In such circumstances the basics become all the more important: watching the bowler's hand, watching the ball off the pitch into your gloves, and forgetting what the batsman is doing.

With fast bowlers it's slightly easier because you are standing back, and you get time to react and move around. It is still important to know which way the ball is swinging and what the bowlers are trying to do, of course. It becomes difficult when they start bowling slower balls.

One of the best experiences for me as a keeper has been to watch Brett Lee run in and bowl. Just the fact that I can stand well back makes it easier for me, gives me a lot of time to watch the ball and move and get into a position to collect it. He bowls at 150-plus and still has the accuracy and the skill to bowl as many balls as he wants to in the areas he wants to - which is something you usually associate with the slower bowlers.

'The likes of Karan Goel are promising talents, and have a refreshing perspective on the game' © Cricinfo Ltd

When it comes to batting, it has been much the same, only with minor adjustments. Even in this format, pacing an innings is important. It's not about going hell for leather through all the 20 overs. It's a case of accepting what you can do as a batsman, and trying to work the bowling and the bowler accordingly to get maximum benefits.

The pleasing aspect has been that most of the big scoring in this tournament has been done with conventional shots rather than innovations. Once in a while an innovation stands out, other than that it has been conventional cricket shots - keeping your shape, and making sure the whole body and weight is behind the ball.

I haven't approached the games too differently in terms of preparation. I have made slight changes, such as using a few more innovations and extensions, fine-tuning the lofted drives, and in terms of identifying my hitting areas. In any case, the shots you play in the middle are mostly instinctive: you try and plan exactly what areas are your strength, and you wait for suitable deliveries to come along. All the other deliveries you try to work for a single.

When the ball falls in your area, the shot is usually instinctive. Cricket, especially batting, is a reactive skill. All the thinking, being proactive, the fine-tuning is done in training. Out in the middle, if you purely react to what is bowled at you, you ensure there is no slowing down of your motor skills due to too much thinking. The more instinctive you are, the better it is for you, most times.

We have been traveling around India all these days but we haven't been able to see much of the cities. As a team, though, we have been bonding. We have had sessions over a meal or a drink after games. It has been fun, especially with Lee on the guitar. These things are crucial. They help you get closer to each other, and also enjoy the competition a lot more. We've been able to be ourselves and focus on the cricket and express ourselves on the field.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • amathur347 on May 8, 2008, 0:27 GMT

    To me the success of the IPL was best displayed by the emotion shared between Ponting and Ishant Sharma when Ishant got his first wicket of the tournament. Specially that this moment came a few weeks after the mini battle between these two during the Test series in India! Ponting must have been thanking his stars that he was not opposite this young lad!

  • Ishan on May 6, 2008, 13:22 GMT

    So far the IPL has been awesome. It is irritating to read comments from pessimists who for some reason have already made up their minds about how bad the IPL is. Open your mind for goodness sake. Sangakkara is experienced and an intelligent cricketer, who knows an awful lot about the intricacies of the game. If his words aren't credible enough, I don't know whose are.

  • Srinivas on May 5, 2008, 16:12 GMT

    Who are you kidding? Ofcourse these guys have to say the nicest things about IPL, because they are getting paid huge amounts to do so. Come on people. Gimme a break. This IPL though started great, is now nothing but a drag. Come on. Get done with it already.

  • Chaturanga on May 5, 2008, 15:01 GMT

    I think that the IPL is good in a sense of the interractions between players and the relationships and friendships that develop between them.

  • kazi on May 5, 2008, 14:25 GMT

    IPL brings alot into the cricketing world. It is just starting to show how valuable a bowler is to his captain. I only have two complains. 1) The grounds are too small basically reducing the chance of getting a caught out wicket by 50%. which is think is unfair to the bowler (then u might say it's a batsman's game blah blah blah) 2) IPL needs to spread it's wing and try to get other city teams from different countries. I am sure srilanka(colombo), pakistan(karachi) and bangladesh(dhaka) is dying to get their team in a tournament like this.

    If cricket wants to grow we need more tournaments like these, only 15 players playing cricket out of millions is just not right.

    newayz take care all - go dare-devils

  • Marty on May 5, 2008, 12:12 GMT

    The interactions between international stars and domestic players have indeed been fantastic, and it is also nice to watch players who for years have tormented the opposition, face their own countrymen. Perhaps Sreesanth and Harbhajan might beg to differ!

  • Haroon on May 5, 2008, 10:52 GMT

    i guess i shouldnt be too harsh in judging the IPL. i mean this is coming from a class player who obviously undestands the nature of it. for me, i thought it was a step to north americanize the game, but i guess its deeper than that. wicketkeepers have a good sense of whats going on in all three departments of the game

  • Kiv on May 5, 2008, 10:45 GMT

    It's always pore-raising to hear of the power of cricket off the field... and more so from one of the more intellectual players of the game!

  • Walter on May 5, 2008, 10:40 GMT

    I think the IPL is fantastic, it doesnt only bring a lot of entertainment to the table but i can finally see the best of the best playing together and against one another.

    The pessimists who think this format will kill cricket better have another look, eternal enemies are now working together and are understanding one another. the edge is taken off and i see what once were avid critics of each other are now having a laugh together.

    i wish i had the talent to be able to take part in the IPL just to be able to soak up the vibrance and the team spirit..

  • Michael on May 5, 2008, 10:02 GMT

    It is very obvious watching on TV, that the teams are mixing well. It is great to see young players reacting with established Test stars. This aspect will be one of the great unseen benefits to Indian cricket. The young ones who move up to the Internatinal teams will adjust much more quickly, and, have the confidence to play well. It is also great to see International rivals playing together in one team and enjoying each other's success. There is no doubt that all aspects of cricketing skills will be enhanced through 20/20. Especially fielding, running between the wickets, and more attacking batting.This tournament has also confirmed that the basic skills for batting, bowling and fielding, remain pre-requisites for success. Straight bats, eyes on the ball, length and direction, quickness to the ball, are eternally successful principles. At this stage, the IPL has every sign of being a long term success.The naysayers must be supping on sour grapes and humble pie!

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