By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Is T20 cricket a young man’s game? Think again! The exploits of Adam Gilchrist, Brad Hogg and Sachin Tendulkar to name a few have often challenged this popular perception and established that age is nothing but a number. The countdown to the Indian Premier League (IPL) season five has intensified and we may witness more stellar performances from the “oldies”- if one may say so.
Logically speaking, the shortest format is the least physically demanding and should suit the players who are in the twilight of their careers. Batsmen have to bat for a maximum of 20 overs and bowlers have a small quota of four. However, fitness is a key component as it is essential to fielding and running between the wickets. As long as these players are able to maintain the desired levels of fitness, performance shouldn’t be a problem. The moment it drops, that is when things enter the worrying phase.
Hogg’s comeback to cricket was one of the most unbelievable events in recent times. The lure of the Big Bash League (BBL) persuaded him to renounce his retirement from the sport; a decision he took during India’s tour toAustralia in 2007-08. If one thought that he would merely play a season or two for his side the Perth Scorchers and fade away, the call-up to the Australian T20 squad against India was the ultimate shock.
The break away from the game doesn’t seem to have affected his wicket-taking prowess as there still is variety in his bowling. Since his comeback to the Australian set-up, Hogg has travelled to Bangladesh for the BangladeshPremier League (BPL) and turned up for the Cape Cobras in MiWAY T20 Challenge in South Africa. In fact, his bowling form in South Africa has been magnificent as he has picked up 13 wickets in seven games. The helpful tracks in India may help him touch a new high in front of an appreciative crowd. Rajasthan Royals have done well to include him, keeping Shane Warne’s departure in perspective.
In 2009, John Buchanan had opined that Tendulkar didn’t have it in him to succeed in T20 cricket despite his proven greatness in the longer versions. A few months down the line, Tendulkar took the Mumbai Indians to the final of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2010, emerging as the man of the tournament in the process. The Tendulkar of the old seemed to have returned as bowlers bore the brunt of his genius. He amassed a mammoth 618 runs in the tournament, of which only 18 came in sixes. It indicates the class with which he played as most of his runs were scored of shots essayed on the ground.
The IPL has allowed players like Gilchrist a longer career post international retirement. For players like him, it is all about enjoying the game as it is devoid of the kind of pressure while playing for their countries. His brilliant performances in the second season took the Deccan Chargers to a remarkable title triumph. Although he has failed replicate similar consistency, some of his knocks indicate that he still possesses the destructive abilities.
The performances of these men should motivate players like Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. Both Indian stalwarts have dazzled in patches in the IPL and would like to strike gold for their respective sides. The situations they find themselves in are contrasting, but the added responsibility of captaincy puts the onus on them to lift their games. However, like Gilchrist, they can shield themselves from pressure and enjoy the experience thoroughly. This mindset may get the best out of them and would do wonders for their teams.
Dravid’s recent retirement has endeared him to the masses even more as they have become nostalgic by recalling his memorable performances and showering praises. One shouldn’t be surprised if he is cheered at every ground he plays during the IPL. The horror experience as the captain of the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first season left quite a few people doubting his leadership for the shortest format. The faith shown by the Rajasthan think-tank gives him a lifeline to make amends and prove the critics wrong.
Despite showcasing his ability as a good one-day player and occasionally showing his big-hitting prowess, Dravid hasn’t been able to erase notions of him being the steady, defensive player. People have somehow stereotyped him as somebody who cannot give it a whack. However, on his day, he can take the bowlers for runs with the most graceful shots, at a brilliant strike-rate without anyone noticing the level of demolition.
Ganguly’s case is very different from that of Dravid. He was picked by Pune halfway through the last season after he was snubbed at the auction. Furthermore, the captaincy has come about only due to the absence of Yuvraj Singh. It has been more than three years since he last played for India and his fitness is still a subject of debate. Ganguly was never a swift mover during his international days and despite playing for Bengal during the first-class season, he isn’t going to get any better.
Some of the players of his vintage may have defied their age, but it is mainly due to their good fitness levels. It would be tough for Ganguly to emulate their success during the upcoming season as the desired fitness for T20 cricket is a question mark. But Ganguly is a fighter and it would be foolish to dismiss him.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)