Exciting cricket with entertainment is how one can describe the Indian Premier League. Well, that is from the eyes of a spectator, but the tournament and the cricket have far more depth than one visualises.
In the past, the only friendly occasion with the greats from other cricketplaying countries was when one played a benefit or a charity match in India or overseas.
A train journey with Imran Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Mushtaq and Sajid Mohammad and rubbing shoulders with Ian Chappell and famous stars from the West Indies and New Zealand was an unforgettable experience for a junior Indian cricketer. Their stories and assessment of bowlers and batsmen was a wonderful exposure to world cricket.
My most memorable encounter was Imran trying to get Sunil Gavaskar out on a short ball at short leg in a benefit game where I was the close- in fielder. The plan was finally abandoned when the heat got the better of Imran while Gavaskar played the backfoot defensive shot expertly. I remained a close spectator marvelling at two legends.
The IPL has made cricket truly international. Players, who were reluctant to tour India, are now arriving with a smile, to play in the hottest month under the severest conditions. For Indian cricketers, rubbing shoulders with the best in the business, having them as teammates, listening to their exploits and experiences, is an invaluable lesson.
The tournament brings together the world cricket fraternity. National boundaries are forgotten and the tournament results in friendship and understanding.
Money plays an important role in getting the best players, coaches, trainers, medical staff and marketers together. Indian cricket and cricketers benefit from the congregation of the best in every field.
The young Indian cricketer is now getting exposed to modern analysis, fitness and mental preparation. They are being moulded by top coaches in the world and put through regimes that have emerged from years of research and experiments.
The IPL may seem like a swish and a hit, but has an element of mindgames to it. A player needs to understand his capabilities, his strength and develop a calm thought process to be successful consistently.
The game is much faster and although one needs to show a positive and an aggressive approach, the mind has to continuously tick and evaluate the next move.
The game of cricket has also benefitted.