The upcoming season of the Indian Premier League will see participation from the top Indian as well as international cricket players. The sport’s most lucrative franchise league format is coveted by players worldwide and they eagerly await the auctions hoping to be picked up by one of the franchises.
However, while inviting international cricketers to participate in its league, the BCCI has been reluctant to allow Indian players to play in foreign T20 leagues – with the recent instance of Yusuf Pathan not being allowed to play in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz.
While the BCCI may want to balance the players’ workload as well as involvement in domestic cricket and hence limit their participation in foreign leagues, the international exposure can be beneficial for some players – which could also go on to be an advantage for the national team.
Talented and promising players, who are on the fringes of the national team, could benefit from playing in these international leagues. Playing in foreign conditions and interacting with top players and coaches in the world will help the players and also potentially the Indian national team.
The BCCI could look at the example of Harmanpreet Kaur whose stint in the Women’s Big Bash League (where she was the first Indian player to participate) helped her gain exposure to Australian conditions, thereby allowing her to develop as a player.
We look at five players who could benefit by being allowed to participate in foreign T20 leagues:
#1 Sanju Samson
Mentored by Rahul Dravid, the wicket-keeper from Kerala was tipped by many to be Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s successor in the national team when he shone in the IPL as a teenager.
However, with some indifferent performances in domestic cricket along with disciplinary issues with the Kerala Cricket Association, coupled with the improved performances of his competitors, the 22-year-old finds himself behind Wriddhiman Saha, Parthiv Patel and even young Rishabh Pant in the pecking order.
While Samson hasn’t taken his performances in the IPL to a higher level, his reputation as an impactful wicket-keeper batsman is still intact to an extent. There is bound to be some interest in a few franchises in the foreign T20 leagues if the player is given permission to play in them.
The international exposure will only help him develop as a player and an individual and good performances in foreign conditions will bring Samson back in the reckoning for national team selection.
#2 Manish Pandey
The first Indian to score a century in the IPL (which he scored as a teenager), Manish Pandey has been knocking on the doors of the national selectors for a while. But the talented batsman has been unable to cement a spot for himself in the Indian squad due to a combination of the wealth of batting resources in the Indian team and also some not-so-impressive performances of his own.
An integral member of the dominant Kolkata Knight Riders team (he scored a match-winning 94 in the 2014 final), Pandey is likely to find many suitors if he is permitted to participate in foreign T20 leagues. Batting in foreign conditions against world-class bowlers will help the 27-year-old take his game to a higher level and he could make a stronger case for his inclusion in the national team.
#3 Robin Uthappa
Having made his debut for India as a 20-year-old in 2006, Uthappa has been on the periphery of national team selection for a long time but has never managed an extended run in the Indian team. A key member of the 2007 T20 World Cup winning team, Uthappa continues to shine in the IPL with Kolkata Knight Riders and in domestic cricket with Karnataka.
The player has a proven record in the shortest format of the game, and he will almost certainly be on the short lists of many franchises if he is permitted to play in foreign T20 leagues.
An explosive batsman, who has been keeping regularly for KKR in recent seasons, Uthappa is four years younger to Mahendra Singh Dhoni and could be a reliable option to succeed the former India captain in the limited overs format for India in the near future.
#4 Barinder Sran
Left-arm fast bowlers are an asset for any side with the variety that they can offer. Mitchell Starc, Trent Boult and Wahab Riaz are key players for their respective national teams. While the current Indian setup has seen the emergence of many good right-arm pacers, their left-arm counterparts are far fewer.
The only left-arm pacer who is currently in the scheme of things is the soon-to-be 38-year-old Ashish Nehra, whose participation is mostly restricted to the shortest version of the game.
One left-armer who is on the radar of the Indian selectors, though, is 24-year-old Barinder Sran. The bowler was a part of the IPL-winning Sunrisers Hyderabad team last year and has represented India in a handful of matches so far.
Currently finding himself placed lower on the national selectors’ preference lists for pace options, there could be merit in allowing Sran to get some experience in foreign leagues. The opportunity to play on foreign wickets (which are conducive to swing and seam bowling) and learn from international stars (in addition to the IPL stint) may help Sran develop into a more potent bowler and could offer a new dimension to Virat Kohli’s bowling attack.
#5 Irfan Pathan
Pace-bowling all-rounders are a rare-breed. While the current Indian limited-overs team is very strong, it lacks a genuine pace-bowling all-rounder and the team management is aware of the fact. There have been efforts to get Hardik Pandya to slot into the role recently and Stuart Binny was given a run in the team as well in the past.
One player who was the answer to the question not too long ago, and could possibly still do the job is Irfan Pathan. Still only 32-years-old, the player boasts an impressive international record with a Test hat-trick and a Test century along with many match-winning performances for the national team.
Injuries and a decline in form have led to Pathan’s exclusion from the national side, and his aspirations to make a comeback received a setback when he went unsold in the recent IPL auction. But the player’s talents and international records will attract suitors among foreign T20 sides and a good show in a high profile T20 league could help in giving a much-needed boost in his attempts to win a place back in the national team.