The ICC World T20 2012 was lit-up by the exploits of two stars – Shane Watson and Chris Gayle. While Watson dominated with both bat and ball to clinch four consecutive “Man of the Match” Awards, Gayle thunderously led the West Indian charge through to the finals. They are perhaps the two most feared players in T20 cricket as they can single-handedly power their side to victory. The one common factor that helped them revive their careers is the much-maligned Indian Premier League (IPL).
The IPL is often criticised for a number of factors that ails Indian cricket – even world cricket, for that matter. The glitz and glamour surrounding the league is considered distracting and counterproductive. However, one cannot deny the fact that the IPL has provided a number of players a shot at redemption. It has given young and upcoming talent a platform to showcase their skills.
Prior to his renaissance at the IPL, Watson was known to be a talented cricketer – albeit someone who broke down frequently with injuries. He was in and out of the Australian side and when one felt he was cementing his spot some niggle would come in his way. Carrying that reputation, he arrived at the inaugural edition of the IPL in 2008. It was almost a perfect setting – playing for an unfancied Rajasthan Royals led by the inspirational Shane Warne. It was a magical campaign as the supposedly weakest side on paper trumped the odds to emerge victorious. Watson was one of the stars of their campaign and was named the “Player of the Tournament” for his all-round performance.
With the weight of that performance, Watson returned to the Australian one-day team which was touring the West Indies. The injury to Matthew Hayden facilitated his return and he hasn’t looked back since. In that series against the West Indies, Watson was the leading run-scorer and also picked six wickets. That won him another “Man-of-the-series Award” – one that firmly established him in the one-day set-up. It took him sometime to find his feet in the Test arena, but he eventually did it in style - as an opener.
IPL helped Gayle prove a point
The IPL was the starting point of Gayle’s long journey to make his way back into the West Indies team. In the aftermath of the 2011 World Cup, the hard-hitting left-hander was involved in a bitter dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and that saw him out of the team. Instead, Gayle was picked by the Royal Challengers Bangalore midway through the 2011 season. Despite playing lesser games when compared to others, Gayle outstripped the lot on the run-charts to storm his way to the “Orange Cap”.
Such was the power of that performance that T20 teams from all over the globe sought his services. Gayle graced numerous T20 leagues around the world – making a thunderous impact in most of them. The conditions, the pitch etc. did not matter as he attacked the bowling with disdain. He then returned to the IPL in 2012 and bettered his performance of the previous season – although one could see that there was more thought and sense to his batting.
One didn’t have to be a Sherlock Holmes to say that West Indies cricket were missing something. One of the world’s most destructive batsmen was out of the side because of ego issues. However, tempers cooled down and Gayle returned to the West Indian fold in June. It is evident that they have instantly reaped rich rewards from the recall as he has been sensational since his comeback. In hindsight, one can say that his battle with the West Indies Cricket Board sparked a fire in Gayle to prove his detractors wrong.
While some of the far-reaching implications of the IPL cannot be ignored, it is difficult to deny the role it plays in the growth of a number of players – across nationalities.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst 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 can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_