All is not bad with the IPL

cricket blogs for Yahoo Cricket Columns

Test Cricket's evil cousin T20 may have done enough harm to it by robbing it off its supporters, even its players who seemed to have given up on both the technique and temperament needed to play it. Yet, one might want to look beyond the usual charges against this snazzier format and acknowledge the good it's up to, however little. After all, not everything about anything can be absolutely and completely bad.


Fear no more


Playing the shortest format of the game has replaced the fear of getting out in a batsman with the confidence of succeeding even while playing marginally risky cricket. It has also encouraged many smart young cricketers to modify their game in a way that doesn't sacrifice their basic technique too much. Kohli, Rahane, Rohit are fine examples of embedding boundary fetching strokes in their repertoire without going too far away from the fundamentals.


It's no longer necessary to hit a cross batted slog every time you need to up the ante. Also, a cross-batted slog, if practiced enough times, ceases to be a risky stroke. Raina shows it every time he peppers the mid-wicket fence. Even when he's hitting across the line, he's found a way to show the full face of the bat by opening his front-leg. No wonder, he rarely ever misses or mistimes one of the most risky strokes.


Can't hit sixes? No problem!


A few years of T20 has proved that it's not even necessary to clear the fence to increase the scoring rate, provided you're able to clear the in-field consistently. Rahane isn't a typical six-hitter and hence has found ways to meet the demands despite playing proper cricket. Rahane's innings against England epitomises the value of meeting the ball slightly early on the downswing to get the elevation and also finding gaps. He regularly chipped the ball in the vacant areas behind the fielders in the circle and didn't allow the pressure of scoring quickly get to him.


One such shot was fascinating to watch-he went back to a slightly short-of-length delivery but instead of trying a pull or doing something fancy, he went straight over the bowler's head with a straight bat and reached the fence one bounce. I've seen Rahane practicing such shots while preparing for the IPL. Pujara is also doing something similar. T20 cricket has taught players to adapt.


No longer in awe


IPL has made our younger lot a lot uninhibited. The pressure of playing in the IPL, the numbers in the stadium or the presence in the media box is not too different from an international game and hence most youngsters get a hang of it even before donning the India cap. I still remember getting Goosebumps every time I walked out in the middle wearing India colours, for the sheer number of people in the stadium, that noise was unnerving.


The experience of sharing the same dressing room with international stalwarts and also performing against some successful international cricketers instils the belief that they belong to the arena. Hence time isn't wasted in being at ease with the atmosphere while representing India for the first time. If you've hit Dale Steyn for a couple of fours in the past, you wouldn't lose sleep over facing Kulasekara. This young generation is neither overawed by the occasion nor by the opposition. And that's very good.


The only flip side of this is that there's a risk of trivialising international cricket, for a failure at the top may not hurt that much either. Hence it's mandatory to find the right balance to ensure that the lines aren't blurred.