By Vinay Anand
If one believes that IPL is all about glitz and glamour and profits ruling over serious cricket, then think again. For the players involved in it, this tournament can actually be used as a platform towards achieving their life-long ambition to play international cricket for their respective countries. And over the three years, there have been stories of players who toiled hard in domestic cricket, but ignored by the national selectors until the IPL came into existence.
Take Yusuf Pathan’s case. He was only known as Irfan Pathan’s burly brother, more than his cricket. He made his international debut in late 2007, but could not establish himself in the Indian team. However, in 2008 he was selected to play for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. And didn’t he prove his worth! Shane Warne’s faith in him paid off, as Yusuf was the team’s strongest link in winning the IPL gold with impressive performances with bat and ball. With experience, he went on to sharpen his skills to now become more of a regular feature in the Indian side and known as one of the hardest-hitting batsmen in world cricket. Today, he can proudly call himself the second most expensive player in IPL history after being picked for Kolkata Knight Riders this season. And as ironic as this may sound, but now it is Irfan who is called Yusuf’s brother with an increase in his stature!
In that same Rajasthan side, there was Shane Watson, who made his debut for Australia in 2003 but could not hold on to a place in the team due to injuries. He used the IPL to showcase his talent not just for Australia, but for the whole of the cricketing world by winning the man-of-the-tournament in the 2008 IPL season.
Watson did justice to his all-round skills, which helped him regain a place in the ODI and subsequently the Test team of Australia regularly. The IPL helped him learn and improve as a flexible all-rounder, and today he is an asset for Australia with his credentials recognised by the Allan Border medals he has won since the last two years on the trot. He is today one of the most prized scalps for any bowler and a feared bowler for many batsmen.
The 2008 season also saw Suresh Raina bloom for the Chennai Super Kings. He seemed to have lost his way, after a glorious 2005-06 season for India. Raina turned up with some good knocks for Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy, but was not catching the selectors’ eyes. He realized that the IPL was the best chance to do so. Raina took the world by storm with his adaptive style of batting and breath-taking fielding, which took Chennai to the final of that season. Since then, Raina beat the likes of Robin Uthappa and Rohit Sharma to cement a place in the Indian team and has also made his Test debut since then.
Then there was also Shaun Marsh, who won the Orange Cap in 2008 playing for the Preity Zinta-owned Kings XI Punjab. He was little-known across the world, despite being the son of former Australian opener Geoff Marsh. But he had a point to prove that he was not going to stay under the shadow of his father and make a name on his own ability. He scored over 600 runs in the tournament, showing elegance despite the slam-bang nature of T20 cricket. The Aussie selectors finally saw all this and picked him in the ODI squad for the West Indies tour, which took place after the IPL. Although the opening slot for Australia is a hard place to fight for, Marsh has a future in Australian cricket still and the IPL helped him realize that.
There are several examples which could be discussed. But what the IPL has done is that it has bought cricketers from across the globe at one stage, playing with each other. This improves a players’ skills automatically as playing domestic cricket is a different ball-game altogether and might not prove sufficient enough to claim a place in the national side. It is tournaments such as the IPL which help in doing so. Cricket has benefited the most from the IPL and it must have a place in the ICC’s Future Tours Programmes at some point of time.
(Vinay Anand, 17, has an uncanny eye for detail. He revers cricket - looking beyond the glamour into the heart of the game where true passion, perseverance and grit meet. To him, there is no greater joy than coming closer to the sport while exploring its intricacies through his writing and treading ahead to establish himself as a writer and presenter)