Didn't Cricket's T20 format advertise itself as one modelled to ensure a nail-biting finish with the climax stretching to the last ball/last over? Perhaps why, it has stuck to the script for the last three IPL editions and doled out quite a few exciting contests and helped in promoting both the league and the format. What worked in its interest was that the quality of players didn't seem to affect the outcome or more importantly the excitement of the game.
Unfortunately though, that didn't seem to have been the case in the recently concluded fourth edition, which hasn't only quashed any such definite notions about the format, but has also thwarted most of the appeal that the previous seasons had gathered. It's alarming to note that for every one close encounter this season, there have been thrice as many one-sided affairs. This is simply anti-T20 policy. So, what has led to such a drastic change in IPL's basic character? The obvious reason seems to be the thinning of domestic/international talent and hence the decline in quality. The player pool hasn't swelled but the numbers of participating teams have. Let's take a closer look.
The induction of foreign recruits in each team was not only to give the league an international touch but also to get top quality cricketers on board. It was only fair to assume that these foreign recruits would, every now and then, win the game on their own. Since only 4 overseas players were allowed in the playing XI, it was imperative to get quality cricketers on board.
But with the International commitments clashing with the IPL and the political stand-off (in case of Pakistani cricketers), top cricketers from at least three strong cricketing nations – Australia, England and Pakistan have stayed away this season. While there were still quite a few brilliant cricketers around, there were a lot of second string international recruits too.
Most teams played at least one overseas player to make up the numbers despite knowing that the player isn't a match winner. Otherwise why would you see the likes of Mitchell Marsh, Nathan Rimmington, Mathew Wade, Davy Jacobs, Stephen O'Keefe etc playing in the IPL? I don't mean to offend anyone but aren't these guys just good domestic cricketers in their respective countries? Would you play them if you had International cricketers to choose from? More importantly replacing an Indian domestic player with an International 'domestic' player is never going to raise the standard.
There's been a lot of talk about the paucity of good Indian talent and the thinning of the existing talent (because of the increase in teams) leading to the decline in the quality. But are we really seeing things as they are or there's more to it than what meets the eye?
Here're a few Indian cricketers who impressed in the domestic circuit—Varun Aaron, the guy from Jharkhand, who bowled the fastest ball by an Indian. Pawan Suyal, a young left-arm seam bowler from Delhi who caught everyone's eye in the domestic circuit. Sumit Narwal, arguably the best all-rounder in the domestic circuit this season. Pankaj Singh, the highest wicket-taker in the first-class season. Deepak Chahar, another young prodigy who took the world by storm on his debut. Abhinav Mukund, the left-hander from Tamil Nadu scored heavily for his team and South Zone.
These cricketers and many others like them were picked up by the IPL franchisees on the back of their domestic performances. But unfortunately these guys didn't enough chances to showcase their skill in the IPL.
No, I'm not blaming the franchisees for not giving them an opportunity, since the IPL may not be about providing a platform, but winning the contests. I am only underlining the fact that certain players were stuck in a team that didn't have a place for them in the XI. While there was a plethora of fast bowlers in Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI struggled to find decent Indian fast bowlers. Pune Warriors and CSK could easily spare a few unused batsmen which teams like DD and Kochi could have happily utilized.
When there's an obvious scarcity, it's unfair to hoard talent. How about having a window of trading during the IPL season to replenish the resources, for doing it after the season is a tad too late? Also, it's imperative to ensure the availability of International players from stronger nations else we would have to entertain the thought of playing 5 overseas players instead of the existing four.