The veterans… (Clockwise from top left) Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid and Adam Gilchrist © AFP and PTI
Did someone say T20 cricket is a young man’s game? The likes of Adam Gilchrist, Muttiah Muralitharan, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting may like to think otherwise. Nishad Pai Vaidya visits the Veteran’s Club at the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2013.
When cricket’s youngest format made its appearance, the novel innovation was often branded as a young man’s game. The paucity of overs and sheer pace of the game led one to think that it would be far too demanding for battle-scarred veteran. However, events have proved such thinking horribly wrong. The pure class of these old warhorses have made an emphatic impact in each of the editions. And these tireless warriors are in readiness for yet another chapter of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
In fact, the biggest attractions in this year’s IPL are Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar bat in tandem for Mumbai Indians. Ponting seems to be enjoying his cricket and is playing more freely post international retirement. As has been discussed in previous articles, he was shortlisted for the Player of the Tournament at the Big Bash League (BBL) Down Under.
Even at the age of 38, Ponting is supremely fit and is one of the most athletic fielders going around. His tactical mind and brilliant fielding would be a huge asset to Mumbai Indians, whom he will be leading.
Tendulkar, who will be 40 in a few days time, looks hungry for runs. He overcame struggles with the bat to look in his elements in the series against Australia. Tendulkar has already declared his intentions of winning the title for the Mumbai fans and his desire to succeed remains unquestionable. Not only Mumbai fans, but Indian cricket aficionados in general would be hoping for his success considering the larger picture.
Rajasthan Royals is one side that is backing its experienced players to come good this season. Rahul Dravid, 40, leads the side with his impeccable calmness and temperament. He can guide the innings at the top and has shown in the past that he can use the long handle at times. His fantastic technique against the spinners in particular helps him attack them and loft them across the park.
Brad Hodge, perhaps one of the unluckiest cricketers in modern times, continues to be a force in T20 cricket at 38 years of age. Having played the game since its inception, Hodge has mastered the art of finishing games with clinical precision. He would undoubtedly carry the burden of shepherding the Rajasthan middle-order.
Then there is a 42-year-old Brad Hogg, whose comeback last year was nothing but a huge surprise. On his second coming, he has looked pretty much a part of the game and age hasn’t hampered his cricketing faculties.
We often talk about timeless cricketers and 41-year-old Adam Gilchrist is certainly one of them. There were initial murmurs which suggested that the 2012 season was his last, but he is back this year ready to lead an exciting brand of youth and experience — the Kings XI Punjab. Players like Shane Warne and Gilchrist have gone on to prolong their careers in T20 tournaments like the IPL and it gives fans the opportunity and that is one of the biggest features of the league.
Punjab also have the services of 38-year-old Azhar Mahmood, who adds tremendous balance to the side As WV Raman, the Punjab assistant coach told this writer in an interview, “Multi-dimensional cricketers are a captain’s dream, even in Test cricket. In a T20 league like the IPL, their presence is priceless. His experience and tremendous all-round abilities make him one of the most exciting players in the side.”
The other Australian retiree is Michael Hussey, who called it time early this year. It was a surprising decision as he was at the top of his game and could have stayed on if he wanted to. However, with the pressure off, he would come into the Chennai Super Kings side with intent to enjoy and might produce his best. Hussey has lost not lost either his enthusiasm or his skills nearing his 39th birthday next month.
While Warne has quit playing in the IPL, Muttiah Muralitharan — 41 next month —continues to grace it with his presence. In a Royal Challengers Bangalore line-up that is studded with international batting stars, Muralitharan’s opportunities may be few and far in between. But, he will pounce on any chance that comes his way and who knows he might even go o to cement his place in the side.
In many ways, the IPL has given the tried and tested players a life after retirement. Having played the game for years, these men might have a void in their lives — one that IPL helps fill. The notable absentee this year would the Prince of Kolkata, Sourav Ganguly, who continued to fight against all odds and held on like a warrior. The exuberant celebrations and the passionate leadership would certainly be missed.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)