The tenth edition of India’s biggest annual cricket carnival is about to begin. My colleague and friend Amrit Mathur has captured the journey of IPL and how it has created its own niche in the world of sports beautifully, briefly touching upon how it changed the landscape for cricketers, which allows me to elaborate on the subject further.
9 Seasons Down: A Report Card of the IPL (Part 1)
9 Seasons Down: A Report Card of the IPL (Part 2)
9 Seasons Down - A Report Card of The IPL (Part 3)
Indian cricket and cricketers can now be easily divided into two eras – before IPL and after IPL. While everyone knows about the commercial success and the business of IPL, it is an undeniable fact that cricketers of the IPL era are far more confident, expressive and self-reliant. The league has opened avenues for present, past and future cricketers to get their dues from the game. As far as cricket is concerned, its introduction into the regular calendar has to be the biggest turning point in the prospects of the professional sportsperson since the Kerry Packer-backed World Series in Australia.
IPL has bridged the gap between seniors and juniors, stars and their admirers, experienced and rookie, legend and upcoming talent. It has allowed the players to overcome cultural differences and prejudices and understand each other better.
For example, the first season of IPL in 2008 helped India and Australia forget their differences, created by the ‘Monkeygate’ episode in the same season. At the IPL, players were sharing the dressing room and chasing the same dream. The IPL helped players think beyond their cultural likes and dislikes. One could not have imagined a scenario in which Ricky Ponting led and later coached Harbhajan Singh and the same feisty Sardar was sharing the dressing room with none other than Andrew Symonds – and yet it happened.
For Indian cricket, it is one of the biggest platforms for a young cricketer to announce his credentials. Just imagine a young spinner from India now had the chance to see the living legend Shane Warne and pick his brain. Youngsters from Mumbai Indians could witness the ‘God’ of cricket from such close quarters. Ask any cricketer from the pre-IPL era and they will tell you how much time it took for them to say ‘hi’ to Sachin Tendulkar.
But here they were, meeting him everyday and having the out-of-body experience of seeing the work ethics of one of the greatest cricketers that ever lived. One hears many such stories of Jacques Kallis sharing his knowledge and wisdom with the Kolkata Knight Riders squad. For the Delhi Daredevils, Zaheer Khan is a captain, mentor and bowling coach all rolled into one. VVS Laxman tells us how much the presence of veterans like Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra helped build the fabric of their side. Young pacers like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Barinder Saran always had Nehraji standing next to them while they were bowling. Where else and how else would it have been possible?
Performances in the IPL have helped players come out of their shell, shed their inhibitions and announce their talent. As a youngster, If you can hit the mighty Glenn McGrath for four consecutive boundaries in a crunch situation, it will take your confidence level to soaring heights.
If a young fast bowler like Jaspreet Bumrah could keep some of the best batsmen in the world gasping for room to play their shots, you know he is a special talent and one day will earn his rightful place in world cricket. And eventually, he reached where he belonged.
Due to the IPL and the exposure around it, India is getting ‘finished product’ as cricketers who are prepared to face any situation and challenge that international cricket throws at them.
IPL has changed the way players approached their cricket and everything around it. They have some of the finest examples to follow and have a 360-degree perspective on what all they need to do be better all-round cricketers.
So if you are a smart cricketer, you treat this time as a 50-day crash course in how to be a successful cricketer where you have live examples of success and failure, triumph and agony. You become far more aware about your fitness routine, food habits and overall conduct as a sportsperson.
On the job, you learn how these greats ‘tolerate their success and manage their failures.’ Not just the youngsters, IPL has also become a major platform for international players who are in the twilight of their careers. They preserve their bodies and cricket to extract every possible performance out of themselves before they hang up their boots. And then they come back to share their understanding of the game as coaches, mentors and consultants.
All in all, the IPL has bought in much-needed professionalism in the way a sportsperson approaches their game. It has changed the texture of cricket-coaching in the country. With all due respect to Ranji Trophy and other premier domestic tournaments, IPL is ‘the domestic tournament of India’. It has the grandeur of international tournament, competition of high intensity and a platform to launch your ambitions. The tagline of IPL sums it up nicely. It’s a place where ‘talent meets opportunity’.