exclusive-English

The tenth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is all set to start Wednesday, April 5. The tournament will feature 8 franchises competing once again for the coveted title, Gujarat Lions (GL) and Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) will perhaps compete for the final time with Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals’ (RR) two-year ban ending next year. As the build-up for IPL 2017 intensifies, there are several pertinent questions hovering over several players and their respective franchises. A string of Indian cricketers — Virat Kohli to begin with — are injured. One of the most successful captains in the shortest format — MS Dhoni — will not be seen in his usual role and Steven Smith will be leading the RPS.

In an exclusive interview with CricketCountry’s Anoop Dev Singh, former cricketer and commentator Maninder Singh spoke on various topics, from the role Dhoni will have as a player following his axing to how this edition of IPL can bolster India’s preparations for the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy 2017 to be played in England. Here are the excerpts:

CricketCountry (CC): Several important players such as Ravichandran Ashwin, KL Rahul, and Murali Vijay are out of IPL 2017. Kohli is set to miss the initial stages. What impact will their absence have on the respective teams?

Maninder Singh (MS): Of course there will be some difference in their performance, especially in the initial stages. Kohli is a superhero. His absence on the field will have a great deal of impact on Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). As far as Vijay and Ashwin are concerned, I do not think their absence should have a huge impact as this is a long tournament.

CC: Most of the Indian players such as Rahul, Ashwin, and Vijay played in the final Test against Australia and they did not look injured. But they are now unavailable for the IPL. What do you think is the reason?

MS: I think Rahul, Ashwin and Vijay carried injuries in the final Test against Australia. It is obvious when you are playing for your country, you are in a different zone altogether and at times you tend to ignore a few injuries which you pick up on the way. The injury does not scare you as much as it did after the series got over and the players would have realised how serious their injuries were. Leaving aside Rahul, the impact of the injuries could be seen in the performances of Vijay and Ashwin. Vijay could not score many runs and Ashwin’s impact was not as great as well.

CC: Dhoni has been removed as the captain of RPS following their poor show in the last edition. Will their performance improve under the new captain Smith?

MS: The team’s ideology will certainly change with Smith becoming the captain. Dhoni had been the captain of CSK for so many years and he was functioning on a successful formula. However, he would not function with the same intensity with the new team. Perhaps this is why the RPS owners would have thought a new captain can bring in fresh ideas. Smith has been Australia’s captain for a while and we all know how good a cricketer he is, so he can be expected to do things differently with the RPS. He might bring in those ideas at Pune which he implies with his Australian team.

The crowd will also be watching Smith closely after the India-Australia series that featured several unsavoury incidences. People will want to know how Smith gets along with the Indian cricketers now.

CC: What role can Dhoni’s play in Smith’s team? Can Smith seek help from Dhoni? Will there be any impact on Dhoni’s batting? How much will RPS depend on him?

MS: Dhoni’s performance is obviously important for RPS. He is a match-winner and his experience will be of great help. However, it will be interesting to see at what position Smith thinks Dhoni will bat. If he keeps Dhoni at No. 4, the team can do well because he needs time to settle down at the crease. Once he does that he can go for the big hits. Only time will tell how Smith will seek Dhoni’s help, but going by his nature he would definitely be of great assistance to his leader. We have seen how Dhoni has helped Kohli after the latter became the Indian captain.

CC: Ahead of the Champions Trophy, how important will this season’s IPL be for Suresh Raina, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma? What about Kohli?

MS: Rohit has turned fit but IPL will be a good examination of his fitness level. It is never easy for any cricketer to make a comeback after an injury. Ahead of the Champions Trophy, this IPL is very important for Rohit. For Dhawan, making a lot of runs in IPL will force selectors to ponder over his case for the tournament in England. But if he fails the road will only get tougher. Raina has not played a lot of cricket since a long time and when he was away from the national side he played only three First-Class matches for Uttar Pradesh. He will have to prove his mettle with the bat in the IPL.

It is important for Kohli to perform as well. His confidence will be restored. We have also seen teams doing well if their captains excel in their respective departments.

CC: What is your take on the spinners and their role in this IPL?

MS: Spinners always have a big role to play in T20 cricket. All eyes will be on Krishnappa Gowtham from Karnataka, who had been purchased by the Mumbai Indians (MI) for Rs 2 crores. Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has been performing well over the past last 3-4 seasons. We will get to see some special performances from spinners in this season as well.

CC: What is your opinion on Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and Parthiv Patel? Can they get into the Indian team on back of IPL runs?

MS: I think the selectors would be keeping a special eye on Parthiv. He has made runs everywhere, from Ranji Trophy to Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. A player who is performing should get a chance. Pant can be the future of Indian cricket but he looks a little lost at this point. He made runs in Ranji but not many after that. IPL will be a big tournament for Rishabh, and if he does well then he can find himself in the Indian team. Shreyas has not made a lot of runs this season but selectors have sill given him a place in the national team. He has also got runs for India A. If he gets runs consistently in IPL, selectors will be forced to pick him.

CC: Which team are you backing to win IPL?

MS: T20 cricket can prove you wrong. A game can be turned upside down in one over by just one player. Having said that, I am a Kohli fan, and so I want RCB to become champion this season.