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What if IPL were a five-day format?

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA – APRIL 20: Andrew Flintoff of Chennai (2nd left) is congratulated after taking the wicket of Ross Taylor of Bangalore during IPL T20 match between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore at St Georges Cricket Ground on April 20, 2009 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Indian Premier League (IPL) is the biggest Twenty20 league  to be played anywhere around the world. The young Indian players see no other platform as big as the IPL to become household names and make an impression on the selectors. This format gives the bowlers the liberty to experiment a lot and batsmen to literally throw their bats at every delivery. Does that mean, however, that if a young Indian bowler gets the wicket of Jacques Kallis or Kevin Pietersen he is ready for International cricket? Or if a young Indian batsman hits Dale Steyn or Morne Morkel for a six, he has accomplished his goal? The truth, sadly, is bitter. While these glimpses of brilliance are certainly bound to get good hits on YouTube, instant glory is just a feel-good factor.

What if IPL were a five-day format? This thought might sound ridiculous. The cheerleaders, if there are any, for this revamped hypothetical model, might get good sleep, thanks to the slow pace of the game.

The budding Indian players would learn a lot:

Imagine a Manvinder Bisla of Kolkata Knight Riders, batting with Jacques Kallis in a five-day format. The art of leaving the ball, negotiating the new ball, turning over the strike and many other finer points of the game could be learnt by him. The same could be said about Ambati Rayudu of Mumbai Indians, batting with Sachin Tendulkar.  Batting alongside these legends is a matter of great pride, and is like a paid scholarship.
Time and again, Indian bowling is shown to be lackluster in foreign conditions. The fast bowlers are chopped and changed, literally after every series. It would be great to share the dressing room with the likes of Lasith Malinga, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel or even Zaheer Khan for that matter. Bowling is sometimes like a game of chess. There are times in the longer versions of the game where a batsman just does not go for his shots; how would a bowler react to this situation? What variations could he use? Will the change of angle work to his favor? There are numerous such possibilities and things that a young bowler might be thinking. It would be a great idea for them to share these things with the established bowlers, in the longer versions of the game. They surely are going to learn a thing or too.

Another very important aspect in the longer format of the game is fielding. India has had some of the best fielders in the slip cordon over the last decade or so. Dravid has set high standards, fielding in the first slip. VVS Laxman was a reliable slip fielder as well.  Are there enough young fielders fielding in the slips these days? Some of the young fielders are not well-balanced to hold on to the catches. If they closely monitor Dravid or Kallis’ technique when they take catches in the slips, they might be better slip-fielders.

The astronomical sums:

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA – APRIL 20: Kevin Pietersen of Bangalore (L) looks at the big screen with his team during IPL T20 match between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore at St Georges Cricket Ground on April 20, 2009 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

There has been a lot of hoopla in the media about the astronomical sums being poured on some of the players. There is an additional baggage of expectation to live up to the billing. But if IPL were a five-day format the last thing in anybody players’ mind would be money. How would the franchise auction the players then? The return of investment? Well, the business model is ought to change.

“Operation IPL” showed the ugly side of some of the domestic players. They were portrayed as money-mongers. I think this revised format’s focus might shift from money-making to honing one’s skills. A money-minded cricketer might just miss important intricate details from the vast ocean of knowledge that might be on offer.

Domino effect: Revival of the Indian first-class cricket

The first-class competition in India needs a complete revival. The nature of wickets and the defensive approach of the teams have made the first-class cricket a boring affair. There is hardly anyone in the stadium watching matches. Empty stands symbolize the popularity of the games.

Would the teams go for sporting declarations, and press for the result? Will the fast bowlers see the opportunity for themselves, when they see a placid surface? Can the batsman say “I will weather the initial storm and score runs” on green tops and spinning conditions? Will the fielders set some standards for themselves and punish themselves for dropping a catch? The punishment might be ten rounds of the ground for every drop. Whatever it might be, we need a complete revival package for the domestic cricket. The most important thing is the thinking of the players should change as well.

Will this revised format of the IPL help the players to find an opportunity in every adversity? If that happens, there is no reason why the cricket stands won’t be full. This might just be the needed impetus and momentum we might need to bring life into the lifeless domestic competitions.

This new IPL format can surely be interesting. We could give it a try.

Is the BCCI listening?

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