Aakash Chopra
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Former India opener; author of Beyond the Blues, an account of the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy season

How to turn from a nobody into an IPL star

Apart from plenty of luck, you need to pick your team wisely, bat at the top and have your captain's support

Aakash Chopra

May 23, 2013

Comments: 22 | Text size: A | A

Sanju Samson plays a shot through the offside, Rajasthan Royals v Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2013, Jaipur, April 29, 2013
By playing for Rajasthan Royals, Sanju Samson has ensured he gets to bat more often in the top order than he would have in a bigger IPL team © BCCI

The IPL is a platform that many believe has the ability to catapult a young player's career to great heights. Smashing 30 balls or bowling 24 good balls can turn a nobody's fortunes around overnight.

I've consoled, though with little success, many fine cricketers who, despite good first-class performances, missed the IPL bus. I sympathise with those who miss out on the IPL, but I also feel for many domestic cricketers who, in spite of impressing the IPL scouts and getting contracts, don't end up gaining much. An IPL contract doesn't always translate into a ticket to stardom. For a young Indian player, especially if he happens to be a batsman, success in the league comes only if he ticks a few boxes.

Bat in the top four
Unless the pitch has a lot in it for the bowlers, your top six batsmen won't each get an equal share of the 120 balls in an innings. It's the top four who get the lion's share, including the lucrative Powerplay overs. Only when they fail do the rest get a look in.

Now, if the young Indian batsman in question isn't a top-order batsman, the chances are that on an average he'll face no more than 15 balls. While some will argue that 15 balls are enough to show glimpses of your ability, you have to bear in mind that the only way to succeed in the death overs is to play fearless cricket, which stems from feeling secure about your spot in the side. If a player's IPL career depends on a couple of innings, which is mostly the case with young Indian recruits, he will struggle to strike the fine balance between playing for the team and for himself. Most of these players end up doing the former, thus ending up sacrificing their own interests.

Play for a relatively weaker team
Since the most successful batsmen in T20 are the ones who bat at the top, all big teams fill those spots with either quality overseas players or proven Indian Test or ODI recruits. It's unlikely that Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Daredevils or Royal Challengers Bangalore will give a young Indian batsman a decent run at the top. Generally in these teams a young Indian batsman is only a couple of failures away from being axed. But that isn't the case with the less-fancied teams, for they don't have big overseas or Indian names to occupy key positions. Sanju Samson, Mandeep Singh, Hanuma Vihari, Manan Vohra and the like do not only get ample opportunities but are also getting to bat at the right spots in the order. So playing for a weaker unit is a blessing in disguise for a young Indian batsman.

Having the captain's backing
While there aren't many uncapped Indian batsmen who have made a lasting impression, Indian bowlers like Siddharth Trivedi, Rajat Bhatia and Shahbaz Nadeem have done well to merit a place in the starting XI regularly. Since five bowlers bowl the 20 overs, the captain has the luxury of using the domestic players in slightly low-pressure situations. The overs between seven and 14 are ideal for an inexperienced bowler to slip in his quota, and that's when most captains use these bowlers. But the nature of T20 is such that every bowler goes for plenty now and then. That's when you need your captain's full support or you'll never be brave enough to express yourself freely.

MS Dhoni has handled Mohit Sharma brilliantly in this IPL. If Jaspreet Bumrah, Abu Nachim, Rishi Dhawan, Pankaj Singh, and Ankit Rajput are shown the door after only one or two failures, they will never blossom into good T20 bowlers.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by   on (May 24, 2013, 17:02 GMT)

Vijay Zol and Abhinav Mukund will not get chances for RCB,Surya Kumar Yadav and Jalaj Saxena will not get any chances in the MI eleven Akshar patel is another youngster to watch out for MI but most disappointing case is of Baba Aparajith for chennai

Posted by Pinch Hit on (May 24, 2013, 11:44 GMT)

Team Affinity wise i found SRH are the best. Most of the matches that they won are because they fight and enjoy as a team

Posted by promal on (May 23, 2013, 20:43 GMT)

C'mon, Akash, Delhi gave Unmukt Chand tons of opportunities this year to open the batting or at 3. So putting Delhi in the same bracket as Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore is unfair.

Posted by   on (May 23, 2013, 20:34 GMT)

Akash is the NEW emerging Harsha .... it feels so good after reading your articles .... i wish I could hear you more often in the commentary box.

Posted by Vanarp21 on (May 23, 2013, 19:26 GMT)

@navneethp: Anirudh Srikkanth is not worth anything. He has repeatedly proven at domestic level that he cannot perform.

Posted by   on (May 23, 2013, 18:22 GMT)

Well said Akash. Forget about the nobodies- Take cases of guys like Saurabh Tiwari, manoj tiwari, Badrinath. They don't get chances to bat higher up and when they do it is for firefighting.

I think Badrinath's case is extreme. He seriously ought to consider moving out of CSK

Posted by navneethp on (May 23, 2013, 18:14 GMT)

Akash misses out on mentioning Baba Aparajith and Harmeet Singh..Two consistent performers in U-19 world cup..Atleast Harmeet got a chance but poor Baba Aparajith did not get one game..Mr Hype Unmukt Chand..who is all over the TV ad world got many chances and failed..a man who just performed in the finals of U19 gets many chances and consistent champs like Sandeep Sharma, Harmeet and Baba Aparajith get limited chances. Also in CSK UP youngsters are given chances like Ankit Rajput,Mohit....but TN players Baba Aparajith, Vijay Shankar, Anirudh miss out MSD is very reluctant to try new players

Posted by   on (May 23, 2013, 13:11 GMT)

As a SRH & former DC fan, I cannot agree with everything as there are rules & exceptions to everything but playing for a weaker team is a bit true in SRH/DC case. The best indian batsmen theyve had is rohit sharma & shikar dhawan. With 2nd best being guys like t. suman, sunny sohal, bharat chipli, venugopal rao & no one else of note that I can think of currently. Even this season Hanuma Vihari got 17 games & he only scored 241 runs off 278 balls @ 86.69SR batting at 1 down for most of the tournament. I have criticized him for his low SR & the team for batting him that high in many of the SRH vs X team preview articles. Biplap Samantray batted better than him in his limited chances. So if anyone with talent wants to get a chance to play 5-10 games minimum then play for SRH. I have nothing against vihari but if he is on the team next year I hope to god he improves a lot and can strike better than 100. He is talented to play odi/test more than t20. Cant wait for next year, get batsmen SRH

Posted by concerned_cricketer on (May 23, 2013, 12:27 GMT)

As usual another enjoyable article from Mr Chopra. There were many of these thoughts that occurred in my mind too at various points in time. The way they have all been articluated so well makes it a pleasure to read. And I agree with the content as well. May the good talents found in this edition of IPL get more chnaces and the best of them make it into the India team. We need to get that no 1 ranking back.

Posted by Naresh28 on (May 23, 2013, 10:38 GMT)

He is the sort of player India needs to draft into A/B teams on overseas trips.He still has a long way to go - most commentators at IPL were certainly impressed with him. One such was Ramiz Raja. BCCI should plan an itennary for their reserve teams/players. This is the best way to weed out the good from the bad and not as though we can't field these teams. There is enough talent in India, its just that the BCCI does not "walk the talk"

Posted by roversgate on (May 23, 2013, 10:23 GMT)

@Ajayvs: I disagree, I think both Karthik and Sharma were good choices for the champions trophy. Karthik has been a proven performer in foreign limited over matches and moreover he gives flexibility of having had success at all the batting positions. Also, while Ishwar Pandey was the standout bowler in Ranji trophies, if you check the strike rate and wicket stats of the recent Ranji, you will find that Mohit Sharma also features pretty prominently. Sharma therefore has form as shown by his IPL performance and proven experience/success in Ranji and is the likely choice. My only concern is his speed.

Posted by Baundele on (May 23, 2013, 9:45 GMT)

As usual, a spot on article. Nothing is left untold.

Posted by A.Ak on (May 23, 2013, 9:30 GMT)

Come on, CSK have given a young batsman a long run, anyone know MVjay five seasons ago?, as as Ashwin. They have cement their position with performance. This time MSharma, Jadeja, earlier Jakathi.

Posted by Ajayvs on (May 23, 2013, 8:34 GMT)

What Aakash says is sad and true. A few good performances in IPL will leapfrog you above the players who toiled for an entire Ranji season. I feel for guys like CM Gautam, Ishwar Pandey, Gurukreet Singh. This guy Gautam had a great season with bat and behind the wickets this Ranji season but who gets picked for Champions trophy, its Dinesh Karthik because he performed well in first few matches of IPL season. Who is the next shining light in Indian fast bowling armory, its Mohit Sharma not Ishwar Pandey. It is just plain bad luck for these guys that they got selected in wrong IPL teams. When will the selectors stop playing to the gallery and start respecting the domestic league. Have the selectors not learnt from any of the past IPL based selection disasters??

Posted by ramli on (May 23, 2013, 8:19 GMT)

T20 skills have to be honed in domestic circuits ... not in IPL ... IPL is just entertainment ... at times you will be lucky to provide entertainment on the field ... IPL at the most is an employment exchange ... players get paid even if they do not do anything worthwhile for the entire duration ... what more does a young talent want? He must impress selectors by performing for the state in other domestic tournaments

Posted by vinnyr on (May 23, 2013, 8:15 GMT)

@TheOnlyEmperor #2 I think the point was that even if they perform poorly, the Tendulkars and Pontings will still get a long run before they are dropped, whereas a young player will probably only get a couple of games.

Mind you, looking at someone like Murali Vijay for Chennai, he has almost reinvented himself after a poor season. Last couople of games he seems to be playing the role of a pinch hitter so that at least if he gets out early he gets 20 at a high scoring rate first.

#1 Regarding the quote issue, it seems to me that Dhoni is one person who does not look at quota's only what is right for the team. He will stick to a team that is winning regardless of whether individuals are not performing at their best as he understands that the chemistry of a team is not just about individual performance.

Posted by TheOnlyEmperor on (May 23, 2013, 6:39 GMT)

#2: Nobody's place in IPL is secure if they don't perform. Not Ponting, not Sachin. Everybody has a role in every match and this role requires wide adjustments in temperament and skill sets to perform. When they don't deliver, replacements will constantly be looked at. IPL requires match winning batsmen. Those who can score at 150+ strike rate- that produces 180 runs in 20 overs - a par score when 2 tough teams play. T-20 has raised the bar for one-day par scores too. Gone are the days when Shastri can come and say this is a 240-250 pitch. If you don't score 350 against a tough team in 50 overs, forget about winning. If you can chase down 350, even better! Likwise in Tests, a team needs to look at scoring at least 450 runs per innings at close to 4 runs per over... to win a Test. The importance of strike rates and speedy scoring is becoming more important.

The faster a team adapts and understands this, the better. Cricket is a team game and not about creating icons!

Posted by TheOnlyEmperor on (May 23, 2013, 6:27 GMT)

#1: India lives in a quota - reservation based mindset where merit and excellence are increasingly given the back seat. If a person is talented, he will shine. He will be spotted in domestic cricket and given opportunities in IPL. One has to make use of the opportunities one gets. Getting opportunities is not anybody's birthright and the faster people understand this, the better.

Leave aside the unknown talented youth for a moment... Raina has astounding talent, but he is being type cast as a short format player by lesser minded people who wish to keep him out of Tests. Likewise, Pujara is being kept out of the shorter formats and branded as a Test player.

Posted by Ranta on (May 23, 2013, 6:17 GMT)

Aakash Like most of your articles this one also comes across as talking more about insecurities. Success has never graced insecure people its for bold and courageous, so is this game. If first thought in your head is weather or not you will play next match, you are better off sitting at the bench. Its about going out there & expressing your self, being confident of yourself and your abilities. By doing so you give yourself best chance of performing. Thinking of insecurities will eventually lead you no where. And far as I have seen sports there is no sure short success formula, every one writes his own script & this is why we love sports & specially cricket.

Just take the case of Shikhar Dhawan, When he was given chance in ODI's he admittedly was thinking about weather or not he will get next chance & in the process he forgot being himself & expressing himself but this time in test he went out & was himself. Express yourself & be confident. Insecurity is for middle class Indian.

Posted by Romenevans on (May 23, 2013, 5:31 GMT)

YOu don't need a weaker team to perform, if you have talent you will get picked and with that you need good support staff and management to pick you up. Sanju was KKR and didn't get a game there but here at RR they played him instead of Manaria who is a regular player in RR team. On the other side look at Mohit Sharma in CSK, nobody knew him, he made his place in the stars studded team with his good performance. You need to have "Temperament" just talent won't do.

Posted by SRISESH on (May 23, 2013, 5:11 GMT)

True. See the fate of Ganapathy Vignesh, who had a great Run in the ICL for Chennai, and couldnt find a single match in the IPL for the last 3 seasons and now he is totally out. I am sure he is better bat than anirudhha and Saga. His team mates in ICL , Binny and Raj Sathish got a decent run in the IPL.

Posted by roversgate on (May 23, 2013, 3:56 GMT)

What I dont get is why so many young batsmen are keen to join Mumbai to play alongside Sachin Tendulkar. Yes it must be a great honour to play with a legend but you got to think of your career as well and Mumbai is by far the worst team to join if you want to be an IPL success. CSK gives plenty of opportunities to quality domestic bowlers, RCB needs quality domestic bowlers and tries the entire bench strength while Delhi daredevils go big or go home batting of the top 4 means that lower order gets more chances that normal. However, yet year after year, you see several domestic players opting for Mumbai where the bowling and batting competition is more or less set until Mumbai is guaranteed a playoff spot.

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Aakash Chopra Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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