May 13, 2011

The class of '11

This year's IPL hasn't thrown up as many new names as in the past, but there have been a fair few who have caught attention

Apart from expensive overseas players, team owners, television ratings and a veneer of glamour, the IPL is also an opportunity for players to be seen. To be honest, I would like a little more of that and a little less of the fluff (though the balance is significantly better now than in past seasons), because eventually this is a cricket tournament; it is still bat and ball locked in combat.

And so, a few young Indian players have managed to drag attention towards themselves. But if you were a stock picker, if you were looking for flowers blushing unseen in the desert air, you will have been disappointed. One of the conclusions of this year's IPL is that there aren't enough quality Indian players to fill 10 teams. But there were some, even beyond the two who immediately caught the eye.

Paul Valthaty's biggest achievement was that he showed he wasn't a one-innings player. At this level you can get sorted out quickly - even though the best opposition bowler may get no more than two overs at a time - but Valthaty showed consistency. With his style he is always going to have less productive periods, where suddenly top edges might start going to fielders and inside edges onto stumps, but he tries and he has some grit about him. He is one of the nice things to have happened to the IPL; if they wanted to make a corporate film, they could feature him.

Rahul Sharma has passed a stern test. He bowled against pedigree and against sloggers and held his own. In spite of the Anil Kumble phenomenon, we are still accustomed to looking for flight and turn in spinners, not nip and bounce. Hence the better first impression that Amit Mishra makes. But this young man gets the ball to hurry and hits the top of the stump, not the base. I would love to see him bowl 10 overs against a quality batting side to see how they handle him. I don't think that is too far away.

Elsewhere, left-arm seamers were impressive. Venkatesh Prasad spoke highly of Sreenath Aravind and you could see why, and I must say I quite enjoyed watching Shrikant Wagh swing it back in to the right-handers. While I had seen Jaidev Unadkat on and off before, this season was the first time I saw a mean and well-directed bouncer from him. He is going to a great finishing school, travelling with Wasim Akram, which leads to me to wonder why we can't have such things as a matter of course. A prize for Rahul Sharma would be to spend five days with Anil Kumble, learning not just how to bowl but what goes into bowling. There was much to be said in favour of the old guru-shishya style of education.

Abu Nachim and Dhawal Kulkarni had their moments, and we must watch Varun Aaron closely. Like Ishant Sharma he is a fast bowler, but he must not imagine he is anything else - the trap Ishant fell into briefly. Few people have it in them to bowl quick, and as Aaron improves as an athlete, he will bowl quicker.

There were two other players I was hoping to see more of but couldn't: Ashok Dinda and Umesh Yadav. But I did see enough of Irfan Pathan and was delighted at his return. Predictably he looked rusty - you cannot dust away 10 months of inaction - but as the IPL went along, the swing returned. The more he bowls, the better he will get, and India must find some way of getting him to play as much cricket as he can.

Iqbal Abdulla will play bigger and better cricket. His height allows him to toss the ball up, and he is a fair turner of the ball. There is word that he can bat, but we haven't seen enough of that ability at this level. He only has to look towards the excellent Pragyan Ojha to realise why batting tends to get valued even if you are a bowler. In an era where fewer and fewer left-armers turn the ball, Abdulla was good to see. It is the same with Shadab Jakati.

Kolkata looks like it can throw up another batsman. Manoj Tiwary is driving in a very crowded lane at the moment, with Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, S Badrinath, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina already battling for spots. But if you wanted to take a closer look at two quality domestic performers, you wouldn't look further than Tiwary and the very stylish Ajinkya Rahane. Sadly we didn't get to see enough of Abhinav Mukund; maybe that should wait another day.

Twenty-over cricket is a very short time in which to catch someone's eye, and to be honest, results can be misleading. That is why these names need to play 50-overs cricket, play in an atmosphere that demands more than Twenty20 does. That exists and is called the A tour, and we need to see much more of it.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Daison on May 23, 2011, 7:32 GMT

    One cant expect National Call up based on IPL performances. If Paul Valthathy was not picked all these years playing domestic cricket a fire in the pan mean nothing. IPL has the buzz but it is defenitely very much one step below the real thing. IPL is where you "see off" the ONE good bowler in the opponent and go after the lesser ones. Or the top three in the batting line up is gone and you are in to a lesser middle order. But when you play quality sides (even T20 international sides) you dont have that laxuary. You play 4 good bowlers and may be one part timer. And you have 6 or 7 good bat and then you see lesser bat. Yes some guys have came to the fore and may have to be looked at more and lets not get excited. India can do with faster bowlers and if anyone new has showed up in this IPL lets take a closer look at them.

  • Amardeep on May 22, 2011, 15:51 GMT

    @ashwintej- I'm assuming that was directed at my post and I have looked at Rayudus stats and I knew his backstory. You say his average of mid 40's (low 40's) is a positive but think about the greats of Indian batting. Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman all average 60 and above in first class cricket if you discount their test career. All of them average atleast 5 less in test cricket, with the difference in Laxman's domestic record(first class not including test) and test record being almost 15. India's pitches are flat and domestic bowling attacks are not world class hence if someone averages just over 40 in these conditions, it is hardly worth the praise he is being given. You bracketed Rayudu (42.17) with Rahane (67.72), Badrinath (62.31), Tiwary (55.59) and Pujara (55.81). A simple look at the numbers says "overrated", he is good but the other players are a class above clearly.

  • Rajesh on May 22, 2011, 12:42 GMT

    One more important thing frnds.. what is common between Yuvraj, Kaif, Reetinder Singh Sodi,Suresh Raina , Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan virat Kohl. Well all the above players earned the call for Indian team basing on there performances in Under 19. but Rayudu was not given chance... so please before uttering a word about Rayudu jst know abt him fully. Let us encourage the exceptioanlly talented Rayudu rather than Slog hitters... according to me Rayudu, Rahane, Badrinath, Manoj Tiwary and Cheteshwara pujara are the future Indian batting main stays..and not Saurabh tiwary as some one was saying....

  • Rajesh on May 22, 2011, 12:32 GMT

    Unfortunatley Hyderabad didnot played well in 2009-10 and degraded into Plate division and all of us know Rayudu played some vital knocks in 2010 IPL and later on for 2010-11 season he moved on to baroda. And some one is saying Rayudu failed while chasing ...please look at Statsitcs once and even in Ranji's he averages in the mid 40's playing nearly 70 matches, donot forget he didnot played for 2 seasons... well some one is comparing Rayudu withSaurabh Tiwary? it is really Hilarious, Rayudu is a class act. compare the performances of Tiwary with Rayudu...just check d profile and statstics of Rayude once. You will get to know dat 'Rayudu was a Part of India A team way back in 2002 when it toured England.. Rayudu along with gambhir was a sensation at that time.

  • Rajesh on May 22, 2011, 12:13 GMT

    Well friends...This is all for those who feel Rayudu is a overrated player. Rayudu is playing first class cricket since 2002 and in the last season he was the top run getter for Baroda and all of us know dt Baroda reached finals. Rayudu played in challengers trophy way back in 2003 for India A team.. offcourse he failed to score.. After a sensational start in first class cricket, he was stuck in poliitics played by Hyderabad cricket Association. All the cricket experts lauded his talent and ability nearly a decade ago...And Rayudu was the captain for India -19 in 2004 where India reached semi- finals. During that tourny Raina, shikar dhawan, Irfan Pathan, Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik and Piyush chawla were the other prominent players. Later on his career got disturbed and he opted to play for ICL in 2007 and 2008 where he made a huge impact. Thanks to the BCCI which lifted the ban. and in 2009 Ranji season he was the top scorer for Hyderabad scoring nearly 500 runs

  • naresh on May 22, 2011, 8:06 GMT

    His focus only on bowling department, very gritty

  • Dummy4 on May 21, 2011, 20:28 GMT

    IPL XI 1 Gayle 2 Gilchrist (wk) (vc) 3 Sehwag 4 Gambhir 5 Rayudu 6 Yusuf Pathan 7 Irfan Pathan 8 Iqbal Abdulla 9 Shane Warne (capt) 10 Malinga 11 Munaf

    Substitutes Mccllum Valthaty Rahul Sharma Kohli Raina Hussey Rohit Sharma Manoj Tiwary Ishant Sharma

    Promising Players whom we will probably see in the playing XI in the future XI 1 Paul Valthaty 2 AUK Pathan 3 Rayudu 4 Manoj Tiwary 5 Saurabh Tiwary 6 Rohit Sharma 7 Irfan Pathan (capt) 8 Iqbal Abdulla 9 Rahul Sharma 10 Ishant Sharma 11 Varun Aaron

  • Amardeep on May 21, 2011, 10:33 GMT

    Why is Rayudu so overrated by many in these comments? His IPL has been average (strike rate of 111) and his domestic record is average. He is a good cricketer but there are many better than him. @xenon555, Paul Valthathy is the best of these whilst Rahane is ok? Lol. Rahane at age 22, he has an average of 67.72 and over 5000 runs at first class cricket and Valthaty has zero. Rahane is in the Mumbai state team, Valthaty can't make it. The India of the future is the likes Rahane, Pujara, Mukund, Kohli, R Sharma and Tiwary not the likes of Uthappa, Irfan, Rayudu and Valthaty.

  • Arjun on May 21, 2011, 5:22 GMT

    IPL performances does not mean anything. We have a strong domestic infrastructure for cricket in our country. They need to prove themselves in the domestic arena before even dreaming of getting a place in the Indian team. So thus said, may be Manoj Tiwary is the only person who qualifies to get an attention. Rest of the names are victim to the usual media hype, but all these names will disappear eventually.

  • J Ranjith on May 21, 2011, 1:49 GMT

    We cannot say that there are not enough quality players to fill in to the teams. That's not a wise quote. The team owners and staff do not know proficiency of state-level players to use them properly. Guy like Mukund is not playing while slogger like S Sohal is playing most of the games. That's the reason it looks like there are not enough quality players but in reality there are still many players who deserve to play in each squad but do not get chance to play even a game. Mukund is fine - in CSK there are not enough space as of now. May be some other team can sense and buy such player into their team - IPL administrators should make way for that so that quality of IPL cricket is good and we shall then see less of sloggers who make the game look like a comedy.

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