April 12, 2013

Why the IPL can't be much more than a launch pad

Young Indian cricketers can't afford to look at the league as the pinnacle of their cricket

In recent days I have had the opportunity to watch Ashish Reddy, Hanuma Vihari, Manan Vohra, Rahul Shukla and some others whose existence television only sporadically acknowledges. If you've looked at scorecards of domestic cricket, you know the names, but you probably only know them merely by the numbers they generate. The IPL allows you to see them, it gives them a platform, and that is one of the reasons I look forward to it every year.

A couple of years ago Saurabh Tiwary told me that he scored a lot of runs for Jharkhand but nobody knew him. He made a couple of thirties for Mumbai Indians and suddenly he was being talked about. It put him in the Indian squad and in the IPL auction. He may have had a financial windfall but it didn't do too much for his future in Indian cricket; he remains, at best, a fringe player. At least at this stage. It tells you a bit about the IPL.

What the tournament does give you, and give you better than anything else in international cricket at the moment, is a stage and an opportunity. It doesn't give you too much more, but if you are a young man, you should be willing to give anything for that much. Some take the opportunity, others don't. Some believe the opportunity is the pinnacle of all they ever wanted to do, others think it is the beginning of life in another world. But it doesn't guarantee you anything, often not even a spot in the Ranji Trophy, as Paul Valthaty and Manvinder Bisla discovered. And as Tiwary now knows, the reputation you acquire in the IPL doesn't count for too much in the Ranji Trophy either.

And an IPL match is like an episode in a long-running soap. You don't want to miss the action as it unfolds, but people remember only bits and pieces thereafter. You can therefore trend on Twitter for a day, maybe be talked about for another week, but that is it. Arun Karthik knows it well. A six off the last ball for the Royal Challengers in the Champions League made him an overnight hero but that was it. It isn't like being in a feature film, where a blockbuster performance is remembered for years - that is the equivalent of a Test hundred.

The reason I am saying this is that people either give the IPL way too much importance or seek to get noticed by trying to knock it off its pedestal. Neither is right. The IPL is not a certificate of performance in other forms of cricket. We saw that with Swapnil Asnodkar, with Valthaty, with Manpreet Singh Gony, with Siddharth Trivedi. It is merely an opportunity that you have to take again and again. It doesn't make you a good first-class cricketer - that is a different game. It makes people look out for you, but that is about the only advantage, even if a significant one.

It helped cricketers liked R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, because they used the stage to draw attention towards themselves. They didn't make it in first-class cricket, and thereafter in Test cricket, because they were good in the IPL. They did it because they bowled hundreds of overs when very few people were watching, and perfected their craft. They became ready elsewhere and used the IPL as an opportunity to announce themselves to the world.

That is how I believe the IPL must be seen. As an event that celebrates a specific ability and at a specific moment in time. People who cannot, or are unwilling to, put in the hard yards in four-day or five-day cricket remain IPL specialists. This isn't only true of those like Mayank Agarwal or Bisla but of others like Tirumalasetti Suman, and for that matter, Munaf Patel.

As the IPL gets a greater share of national sporting attention, and as sponsors eye the various price points available to them to claim association, I hope young players don't look at it as the only cricket in their lives. They could do that if, like European football leagues, the IPL ran for six months. But it doesn't and so I hope they use it to draw attention to their skills. If they play four-day cricket, I believe they will extend their T20 career. If the shortest form is all they play, it could lead to a short career.

Harsha Bhogle is a television presenter and writer, and a commentator on IPL 2013. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Allan on April 13, 2013, 21:33 GMT

    I agree with the comments about hearing the players and what they want. If they want their career to be Ranji and IPL, great - go for it. Plus, a young player can learn a lot from all the experienced international and Indian players in the IPL, take that learning back to their Ranji teams. Good for the domestic competition. At first I didn't like 20/20 or IPL, but this year I am watching IPL on TV and I have to say I am enjoying it. It is a different brand of cricket, it looks like a carnival and the crowds are loving it. With a strong IPL you get people from different races, countries and cultures playing together on the same team. The world needs more of that.

  • Indian on April 13, 2013, 20:41 GMT

    The truth sadly is that a cricket team only has 11 players.. ok 16 or so for a squad.. so as you can imagine only the best out of the best out of best (carry on n times).. will ever make it... that too if lucky. I'm happy that IPL will at least get food on the plates of many young Indian players who pre-IPL would be struggling to have a roof over their heads and cater for their families. If someone makes it international good on him.

  • Amyth on April 13, 2013, 7:14 GMT

    I do believe that IPL has bought name and fame to a few indian players but i just feel that the league is very much dependent upon the overseas players and at times i feel a few of the indian players are included in the team just to feel the squad.its very sad to see a player like Abhisek Nayar who had a prolific domestic season with both bat and bowl doesnt get to bowl and bats at no. 7 or 8 for his IPL team.isnt this a waste of time and it surely must not be boosting his self confidence a great deal.But then this is a franchise league so money is in fact everything and had it been allowed every team wud have pickd 11 overseas players for every game..

  • Anirudh on April 13, 2013, 6:56 GMT

    Spot on Harsha! Another example you could add is that of Rohit Sharma. The so-called 'Talented Youngster' is still on the fringes of Indian Cricket Team even after 5-6 years of IPL. He's been brilliant in IPL but somehow doesnt really translate these to the national team. He should learn from Virat Kohli, who has not only cemented his spot but also has become the Vice- Captain.

  • abhinav on April 13, 2013, 5:59 GMT

    there would always be reactionaries opposing T 20 . Forget 20 over matches, most of us played 10 over matches during our childhood as in evening that was there was not much time left. That is real cricket in terms of what percentage of people play four day matches vs everyday cricket being played in small towns, streets and villages. If you count how many have ever played a four day match ( i.e. Tests, Ranji and some school matches) their lives , the number wont cross 10000. But these old people would keep calling that real cricket.ignore them.

  • Avinash on April 13, 2013, 3:51 GMT

    I generally agree with Harsha's sentiments that the IPL is more a launching pad than a career, but it goes too far to say that players like Saurabh Tiwary were unsuccessful--he played just 3 ODIs, and his domestic averages, especially in one day games, are hardly to be scoffed at. Rather it is part of a strange trend in Indian to carry passengers, not give them a game, and then dump them. And Munaf Patel played on the national team for quite some time (before the IPL) and with some particular success in the world cup campaign of 2011. So he's hardly a poster child for the inadequacy of judging by the IPL. And he's done considerably better than Ishant Sharma, judging by averages in the long formats in the international game.

  • murali on April 13, 2013, 3:02 GMT

    reason is about broadcasting domestic matches.I am sure most indians r interested to atleast highlights to see talent in domestic. Its better to make domestic 4 or 5 days as franchise cricket that will rule out politics and every franchise strive for success like in ipl and every player feels more responsible. there r too many teams in domestic for my liking example is why 2 sides from andra pradesh ( hyderabad,andra) when they lack quality both can be club to get 2 sides which would surely increase quality of domestic cricket.

  • Dummy4 on April 13, 2013, 1:09 GMT

    Having said the IPL as a Launchpad, but only for helping Indian domestic players but how will it be for foreign players? Will it give same affect on the non Indian players? Because considering the life cycle path of Freddie and Brett Lee don't want to mention all of them who lost their streak or path to only lead to give boost to Indian cricket to get spike to hide the 2007 show off. But on the other hand did it helped anyway to the world cricket future, No I would atleast say that if it is going to continue in this way probably the gap between the ODI and Test cricket will be filled but what will happen to the career path of the emerging non Indian cricket players or product better not to play IPL leave the senior players of other countries to participate in IPL probably after when they decided to leave international cricket. Thus we can help the World cricket too. Currently this heavy business cycles is huge setback like showing the civilized cities by cutting the trees by its roots.

  • Shruti on April 13, 2013, 1:06 GMT

    If anything,IPL blunts the ability to sweat it out in the middle the hard way as Gavaskar,Vengsarkar,Amarnath and Vishwanath used to do in olden days.Result is getting exposed on seaming and bouncing pitches by trying to hit your way out as Sehwag -Gambhir duo did in 2011-12 season in Aus and Eng.The 4-0 rout of Aus on home soil would be of little relevance if Indians get polished 3-0 in SA against Steyn and Co.Moreover,IPL stretches far too long with glut of games.

  • Slizzle on April 12, 2013, 20:09 GMT

    Many Indian players came to prominence because of the IPL....personally I don't follow the domestic league in India, but from what I can see in the IPL, there are some quality quicks and quality attacking batsmen. I do believe the experience of practicing with the international players will improve all the fringe Indian players over time and there seems to be some good coaching mechanisms in place which also improve things such as batting technique and how to be more attacking as a bowler.....give it time India will reap the rewards