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Comment

India have the IPL to thank for their formidable international depth

The country has for long had the potential; with the IPL, it has been translated into performance

Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
07-May-2022
Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami prepare to bowl in the nets, World Cup 2019, Southampton, June 20, 2019

Pace power: India are now the envy of the world when it comes to quick bowlers  •  Getty Images

Apart from the massive financial boost and enormous increase in fan interest, India's biggest gain from a highly productive IPL competition has been the huge improvement in playing depth.
About 20 years ago, India's overseas reputation was an improving one, especially under the captaincy reign of a competitive Sourav Ganguly but the pace of that ascent gradually increased when the IPL began 15 seasons back, in 2008. The quietly thoughtful MS Dhoni - who is still exerting an influence - built on Ganguly's reputation, which was then improved upon by the highly competitive leadership of Virat Kohli.
The firmly established IPL is now seen as the most important part of India's enviable depth in international cricket.
To thoughtful players, as far back as the 1970s, Indian cricket had the potential to be a major power. It was felt even then that if India ever capitalised on its enormous population advantage and decided to select its best teams, eventually size would prevail. That notion crystallised when the IPL gathered worldwide popularity. India's overseas results initially were creditable, and then - especially in Australia - by the 2020s, they were the most feared team in the Test competition. Not only did India under Kohli, ably assisted by Ajinkya Rahane, win internationally, but in 2021 they also achieved an incredible series victory over Australia that confirmed their player depth. This was an Indian team not only ably led but also displaying ample resolve and being competitively better than the previously almost impregnable Australia in home conditions.
India have always had individual stars. In the past there were outstanding batters like Vijay Hazare, Sunil Gavaskar and Mohammad Azharuddin. The allrounders were headed by the extremely athletic and successful Kapil Dev, and earlier, Vinoo Mankad, who too held a special place among his peers.
Spinners there were plenty but the big three - Erapalli Prasanna, Bishan Bedi and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar - headed the list of past greats.
However, India, who had produced the odd faster bowler, lacked a pace conglomerate. Then the IPL began to bare its teeth, and now we have the current generation of fast bowlers to round out a versatile attack, which accompanies a strong batting line-up and a decent catching combination.
Nowadays India's enormous depth in pace bowling is the envy of most countries. The development of star quick bowlers like Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj has been instrumental in India's improved overseas reputation. There is also a depth below that group, in the successful Ishant Sharma, the underrated Umesh Yadav, and handy back-up in Shardul Thakur.
India have evolved from a team that had a reputation where some players treasured the blazer, sweater and cap more than actual selection in the Test side, to one that was extremely difficult to beat under any conditions.
In addition to the enormous increase in pace-bowling power, the improved fielding culture - boosted by the international flavour of the IPL - has helped advance India's reputation. Years ago in a documentary on Indian Test cricket, former captain "Tiger" Pataudi spoke of how "the batsmen used to go into the slips and drop all the catches". This comment elicited a guffaw from the audience but it was a valid point the influential Pataudi, who was a brilliant cover fielder himself, was making.
India's pace-bowling revolution shows no sign of abating, and the name on IPL watchers' lips is currently that of the pacy Umran Malik. In the past India has displayed patience in developing its fast-bowling group but the genuine pace of Malik will be hard to ignore.
In a world where fast bowling is a valuable commodity, India are now a shining light. However, as England have displayed recently, thoughtful captaincy isn't easy to uncover, but India seem to be doing a good job in this regard too, thanks again to the extremely competitive IPL.
India are currently a dominant international side and if they continue to show the required resolve, will continue to be a leading team. That is an envious position and India can thank the highly successful IPL for much of their lofty reputation.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a columnist