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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

Harsha Bhogle

April 12, 2013

Comments: 38 | Text size: A | A

Saurabh Tiwary hit three boundaries in his unbeaten 16, Royal Challengers Bangalore v Mumbai Indians, IPL 2011, Bangalore, April 12, 2011
Saurabh Tiwary illustrates that an IPL reputation does not a cricketer make © AFP

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

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Posted by AussiePhoenix 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.

Posted by Engfasttrackwimp 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.

Posted by Amytttthhhh 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..

Posted by anirudhr007 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.

Posted by abhinaut 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.

Posted by akarmu 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.

Posted by pull_shot 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by henchart 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.

Posted by 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

Posted by gokak on (April 12, 2013, 17:40 GMT)

Well said Harsha. But it is surprising that even after so much 20-20 cricket and its popularity in India, IPL has not produced one extraordinary 20-20 cricketer from India. look at pollard, Cooper and many others who are big failures in other forms of cricket but they excelled in 20-20. they travel all around the world to play 20-20. But there is no such cricketer from india. Even if IPL produces one such cricketer it will be of great help to Indian cricket, because 20-20 cricket is going to stay how-so ever classical cricket fans dislikes it.

Posted by ThyrSaadam on (April 12, 2013, 14:17 GMT)

I agree with was Harsha has to say vastly, but i think we should be careful to not talk on behalf of players. The IPL is fantastic for players who dont have test match or even odi aspirations. Someone like a Shaun Tait is a perfect example, or even Lasith Malinga. Now India does not necessarily have two such cricketeres who have opted for IPL over international cricket, however if and when that situation arises then Harsha's point is valid. Players need to be smart enough and make the decisions. Now consider Unmukt Chand, or Harmeet Singh, who havent represented India yet in tests or odi's. Now if they were to prefer the IPL over representing India, then we have a situation. Until then we cant comment for a player what we think he must or not. At the end of the day it is down to the player and his aspirations.

Posted by Naresh28 on (April 12, 2013, 13:57 GMT)

Just the other day I saw a RAHUL SHUKLA bowl quite fast. It made me look and think here is another such Umesh Yadav type bowler. The IPL is good in a way that it allows Indians to mix and gain ideas from foreign coaches/Players. We always have batsman breaking through, but now even bowlers are being unearthed.

Posted by ABRULES on (April 12, 2013, 11:30 GMT)

nice article. Its true that the event has shown many players who are fighting to show their talent. the likes of Agarwal,vihari,valthaty&etc etc ...but they are no where in the domestic first class level,which is very sad.either they are trying too much or the franchise scout are not that good to find players who can deliver, these scouts are just looking for big hitters,they should keep in mind that they have enough of the hitters. I like ipl very much but don't like the way money is spent on useless players...

Posted by   on (April 12, 2013, 11:13 GMT)

I don´t really agree with the premise of this article, there is not just a good amount of easy money but a whole truck load of it to be made playing T20 cricket. If you can string together contracts in several different leagues like Aaron Finch, Dave Warner, Kieron Pollard or Sunil Narine for example, than T20 cricket is definitely there as a career option and a far more lucrative and easier one than the FC/Test cricket path. The fact is there´s a lot more T20 contracts getting around than there is Test caps.

@Landl47, I agree to an extent but guys like Dirk Nannes and Sunil Narine probably wouldn´t and they are by no means the only exceptions!

Posted by   on (April 12, 2013, 11:11 GMT)

I agree with Harsha when he says IPL is not a lauching pad for International career for a player. There are exceptions like Ashwin & Jadega, they have honed their skills and came upto the top grade and ultimately play for India. No doubt in IPL you can entertain the fans, but as a player it is not enough to be remembered just for 2 months. You can sustain the game only when you play top grade cricket, the ultimate Test matches, where you are really tested for endurance and sound techniques. In another article for Cricinfo, Harsha has mentioned about not producing quality cricketers including Mumbai as the Coaches/Parents want quick results/returns. Nobody wants like Ramnath Achrekar who found Sachin and gave it to India a gem of a cricketer. So, it's high time the players themselves to find ways to sustain and play big cricket and bring laurels and acolades to the country and thereby establish their identity.

Posted by anton_ego on (April 12, 2013, 10:36 GMT)

Another well analysed article from my favorite sports journalist. Earlier I made a comment in Amrit Mathur's article supporting IPL. Though the way IPL differs from other events in cricket is that people remember 'players' as opposed to 'moments'. I can say I like Gayle, Ashwin, Narine, Yusuf, etc. But I cannot pinpoint one particular knock or spell as a reason why I like them, except a select few like Yusuf's 37-ball-100 or Gilly's semifinal assault in 2009. But I still remember the Laxman's 167 in sydney ball-by-ball eventhough its almost 15 years ago. And many will argue its not even the top 5 of his knocks. I remember every Sehwag Test 100 till now. IPL is like an action movie where you may like the overall package but it can never give you a Liam Neeson's climax performance in Schindler's list.

Posted by CricketMaan on (April 12, 2013, 10:28 GMT)

Harsha, you are right, but then if IPL can make Bisla, Tiwary, Valthaty a millionare which Ranji cannot they why would they complain. Look at it from some of these fringe players who will never make it to an India XI unless destiny has other plans, IPL is the thing for them. It gives them money, fame and rub shoulders with stars. That is something Ranji does not given that even and out of form Gauti or Viru play it these days. It may give a career for a Pujara, Rahane or Mukund and a few more but there are 100+ Indian domestic players that may never experience the adrenaline of Test cricket and will thank the oppurtunity to play and enjoy an IPL career without any grudges.

Posted by ReverseSwingAtPace on (April 12, 2013, 9:49 GMT)

Bingo Harsha!!

Another thing that happens is giving youngsters a false sense of confidence. Take Ajinkya Rahane's test debut for instance. He walked in to a test where bowler's clearly had the upper hand and what was required was patience and solid defence. But Rahane stepped out only on his 4th or 5th delivery and tried to hit the bowler over the field. Could it be that shining on the IPL stage gave him a false sense of security on his ability??

Posted by   on (April 12, 2013, 9:27 GMT)

By saying that IPL is just a launch pad, you are making an assumption that the ultimate goal of each cricketer is to play ODIs or test cricket. I am not a fan of IPL myself and I believe that test cricket is the supreme form. But, I know that its just about personal taste and opinion. In future, if majority of viewers start liking T20 over ODIs/Tests, Playing IPL/T20 might become a cricketer's ultimate goal (who knows?)

Do NBA, NFL, EPL ring a bell? I believe IPL wil slowly make its way into that group and when that happens we would have to find another 'lesser' form of cricket to call it a launch pad for playing T20 leagues.

Posted by GlobalCricketLover on (April 12, 2013, 9:08 GMT)

Harsha, good one. You could add the even more curious case of Yousuf Pathan who set the park on fire in IPL but couldn't hold on to a spot for India even in 50 over format. He was never even considered for test cricket. After his failures at international level he has become a far less effective player even in IPL than he was before.

Posted by ygkd on (April 12, 2013, 8:47 GMT)

The trouble with this is that the IPL money may tend to sway young heads. Look at Glenn Maxwell and the fee his services went for. Then look at his performances in India under more challenging conditions. Gee, if he can get a squillion from the IPL, then why bother with long-form cricket? Ravichandran Ashwin was a different kettle of fish because clearly the IPL was not the centre of his universe.

Posted by shobhit_nigam on (April 12, 2013, 8:38 GMT)

Very neatly put Harsha. IPL is more of an "entertainment" than a "sport". And nothing wrong in it, as long as cricketers remember the fact that in the end they will make it to the a national/doemstic team based on their ability in the longer run. People like ashwin & vijay tirelessly put efforts to become better cricketers, and have only used IPL as an opportunity to be recognized by the crowd. Rahul Shukla has been praised for his good spell on that seaming wicket, but post april-may he will have to go back & again persevere playing for a less known team, bowling at lesser known batsmen. A brilliant example Harsha puts of Valthathi & co, there are no free lunches. However in the end a person looks at a career not just for a passion to be lived but also for his ends-to-meet; and in some way IPL does give that secure insurance cover. So IPL can only put the icing if the cake is ready. And making a cake needs a good chef !!!!!

Posted by gopinair on (April 12, 2013, 8:04 GMT)

Absolutely spot on, Harsha. There is no substitute to good old first classs and tets cricket to hone one's cricketing skills- those forms are akin to sumptuous 5 course dinners whereas T20 is more like delicious dessert!! Having said this, I must admit that the shorter forms of the game have been responsible for improving all round skills in fielding and catching and a whole new world of tactics and strategies in the longer format of the game. Teams today don't mind chasing 150 runs in the last session of a test match; more batsmen now score 100 runs in a session than ever before. All good for the game to move forward, I guess.

Posted by imsaiarasan23 on (April 12, 2013, 8:02 GMT)

Having said it is a launch pad and not a breeding ground for young cricketers.. i think it also helps the cricket and cricketers in the following ways: 1. gives financial security (quite early in their careers) and motivation for youngsters to pursue cricket. 2. the ability to handle/manage the pressure of big match crowds to younger cricketers 3. the inspiration for the older players to continue playing and refine their games 4. satisfies the unmet needs of so many domestic players who wish to perform with the legends of the game and before packed stadiums (who have/could not make the grade to indian test cap)

Posted by gestapo on (April 12, 2013, 7:44 GMT)

bang on target. More than the budding cricketers, it's the BCCI that should look at IPL that way. A bowler who bowls only four overs a match cannot be expected to withstand the rigors of int'l cricket ,be it Tests r ODI. Slam 30 runs in 10 balls, you may get the most lucrative deal during the next auction, but the same number of runs in the same balls will take u nowhere in ODI too. Now when Chris Gayle is spoken of as the most frightening batsman in IPL, that's also because of his exploits in int'l cricket. He deals with bowlers the same way at any level. Laxman was never an IPL cricketer, but fans all over the cricketing world know what a great player he was. Tests, ODI,int'l T20 and IPL is only a mint at the end of the meal. To me ,IPL has ruined Indian cricket for sure. A month long tourney would at least be okay.

Posted by Straight-Drive on (April 12, 2013, 7:37 GMT)

Great Article Harsha..

A lot many young cricketers, prefer to take the short cut and not ready to toil it out in Ranji.. They do end up as fringe cricketers. However, it is sad that IPL is not able to accomodate all of the performing cricketers in the domestic circuit. People like Pujara, are still warming the benches. There should be some rules on utlization of cricketers @ each time so that we dont see people warming the benches while others getting over worked. For an instance there could be a mandate of maximum 10 - 12 matches per player in a IPL edition. Similarly, if a particular player is not playing for 16 continuous matches, he should be re-auctioned in the next edition.

Posted by Mahesh4811 on (April 12, 2013, 7:31 GMT)

"Raghuvir Nayak Sujir: Harsha will not understand the intensity of IPL as he has never played cricket at an international level."

Really? Looks like you've played a lot of international cricket :p

Posted by doubtingthomas on (April 12, 2013, 7:12 GMT)

Wasn't Harsha advocating the power of the market's "invisible hand" in these columns few weeks ago? How can be expect youngsters to refrain from adopting a short cut? Young cricketers cannot be blamed from believing IPL as the pinnacle of their Cricket, if it provides well for them. Expecting them to exercise wisdom and discretion beyond their wisdom and necessity will be unfair. Powers that be should realise better what's good for Cricket and what's not.

Posted by   on (April 12, 2013, 6:34 GMT)

Very True Harsha !!As you said Ashwin ,Jaddu and few others has utilized the launch pad well.Hope other players also utilize this launch pad well.IPL fan :)

Posted by   on (April 12, 2013, 6:26 GMT)

The "Window " for T 20 cricket is limited now , because , this format is evolving ,unlike Test Cricket or say one day cricket , which are more than 40 yrs old.There always been a tendency in human society to resist , demean anything new. Many orthodox cricket commentators& thinker still cannot resist the temptation of promoting test cricket ,still cannot accept the truth that interest in this 5 day format is waning , still cannot accept the fact , that new generation wants instant results , they do not want to sit for 5 days to watch that happen.These Cricket commentators are no soothsayers , astrologers , & with the ever increasing viewers in this format , the future for T 20 cricket looks brighter than the other two formats. Right now IPL is a one month window ,it may be a 6 month tournament in the future , who knows ? Then the skill to survive , to excel in this format will get prime importance & these so called fringe players will be important.

Posted by   on (April 12, 2013, 6:11 GMT)

Harsha will not understand the intensity of IPL as he has never played cricket at an international level.

Posted by YogifromNY on (April 12, 2013, 5:05 GMT)

Superb article and very astute points, Harsha!

Posted by Kunal-Talgeri on (April 12, 2013, 4:39 GMT)


Well put, Harsha! May I add just one more point: IPL's intensity and grind over two months also makes young and skilled cricketers' susceptible to injuries. This isn't because of the IPL matches, literally. It is because those two months can be utilised to take time off from the game, re-condition, practice, reflect and learn. I hope I am wrong, but Pujara's knee injury occurred in the IPL season a couple of years back. I just hope it doesn't come back to haunt a thoughtful and willing young cricketer. The ones who benefit the most from IPL are TV channels, advertisers, and board-executives of the team-owners. They don't get injured, except in their P&L accounts. It's young cricketers who face the physical grind, and who can't get a break between matches and the Ranji seasons.

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Harsha Bhogle Harsha Bhogle is one of the world's leading cricket commentators. Starting off as a chemical engineer and going on to work in advertising before moving into television, he is also a writer, quiz host, television presenter and talk-show host, and a corporate motivational speaker. He was voted Cricinfo readers' "favourite cricket commentator" in a poll in 2008, and one of his proudest possessions is a photograph of a group of spectators in Pakistan holding a banner that said "Harsha Bhogle Fan Club". He has commentated on nearly 100 Tests and more than 400 ODIs.

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