By Karthik Parimal
It’s a widespread belief that Twenty20 (T20) cricket is a format that is tailor-made for the youth; it’s- not an ageing cricketer’s game. The alacrity needed on the field is such only young blood copes up with the exacting demands of the shortest format of the game – at least that’s the perception. But defying the odds and smashing myths, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly have given a fantastic account of themselves in the latest edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The Sourav Ganguly-led Pune Warriors India (PWI) weren’t considered favourites before the commencement of this year’s IPL, but the significance of an aggressive, thinking leader was highlighted by the former captain of India. PWI are currently ranked third, with four wins under its belt.
How Ganguly transformed an above-average team into a solid unit capable of overcoming hurdles is remarkable. Delhi Daredevils (DD), one of the strong contenders to win the IPL this year, were completely outplayed by a relatively weaker Pune side. Ganguly’s leadership has made a world of difference to the fortunes of PWI.
Individually too, Ganguly has performed fairly well. His all-round performance against DD that earned him the Man of the Match award proves that the fire within him still burns. Also, the way Ganguly has marshalled his resources in this tournament thus far is commendable. Like Ashok Dinda, who was in awe of his PWI skipper, said: “The best part is that he observes everything. He makes an effort to show us tricks of the trade at the nets and is teaching us how to deal with different situations.”
Fortunate are the players who share the dressing room with this superstar of Indian cricket.
Likewise, Rahul Dravid has been the protagonist behind Rajasthan Royal’s (RR) surge in this IPL. He has converted a group of lesser-known players into a unit that has become a force to be reckoned with. A player like Ajinkya Rahane has been chiselled into a match-winner under the tutelage of skipper Dravid. Rahane is currently the leading run-scorer in IPL 5, and his orthodox method of scoring has pleased one and all. Dravid, too, is not far behind, and is currently fifth in the list of leading run-getters. His strike rate is an uncharacteristic 114.56.
Dravid, like Ganguly, hasn’t had the best of the resources at his disposal. Nevertheless, he has made best use of what was given to him. RR is one team that has plenty of inexperienced Indian bowlers in its lineup. The fact that it has performed exceptionally well in the bowling department despite the dearth of tearaway bowlers is praiseworthy. This shows Dravid’s dexterity in making right use of his resources.
A lot is expected of professional cricketers. They too are prone to self-doubt and look for guidance from the senior players. The other teammates are valuable in such situations, but not always available. Therefore, a mentor to coax such players is always a good thing. Dravid appears to be the right man to mentor a young and inexperienced team, and this point was also mentioned by Dishant Yagnik, who said in an interview to CricketCountry that Dravid’s work ethics and discipline have become the benchmark for RR. The results are showing.
Sachin Tendulkar is another player who continues to silence the cynics. He is physically fit to play every format, and at the highest stage, sans any restrictions. Without a shadow of doubt, he is much more agile and efficient than some of the other players in the Mumbai Indians (MI) camp. Despite having relinquished his captaincy to Harbhajan Singh, Tendulkar continues to be the backbone of MI. His presence certainly makes a lot of difference.
In last year’s IPL, Tendulkar was the third highest run-scorer - next only to Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli. He scored 553 in 16 innings at an average of 42.53. Although he missed a few matches in this edition of the IPL, his return has bolstered the Mumbai side now, and their progress in this tournament depends heavily on him. It could augur well for them if Tendulkar replicates last year’s performance, and looking at how this 39-year-old genius usually approaches any tournament, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he manages to repeat it.
Not every player past the age of 38 has made it big in the IPL. Sanath Jayasuriya is an example of that. But there are players like Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid who continue to provide joy and cheer on the field irrespective of their age. Adam Gilchrist and Brad Hogg, too, continue to be efficient. It is heartwarming to see these players not confine themselves to the walls of the commentary box post retirement from international cricket. These players have justified that age is just a number.
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. His zeal for writing and love for the sport of cricket is what has brought him here. Karthik can also be followed on Twitter)