Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav’s remarkable batting performances in the recently concluded T-20 series against England have been the talk of the cricketing world. Their stupendous performance in last year’s IPL earned them a ticket to Team India. Their inclusion has once accentuated the significance of playing well in the IPL. But unfortunately, the competition was so intense that neither of them could find a place in the playing X1 in the ODI team.
Krunal Pandya replaced Suryakumar Yadav for the ODIs; in fact, the latter made his ODI debut against England last Tuesday and scored a record 26-ball 50.
Similarly, despite some good performances, K.L. Rahul is facing stiff competition from Rishab Pant as a wicket-keeping batsman.
And with the next edition of IPL set to happen next month, more new faces are likely to emerge, putting existing performers in trouble.
IPL, the game-changer
Ishan and Suryakumar were among the 12 batsmen who scored 350-plus runs in last year’s IPL. Naturally, they were drafted into the National side for the recent T-20 series against England.
Cricket administrator and former Talent Resource Development Wing (TRDW) for Kolkata Knight Riders Makarand Waingankar agrees that IPL has helped many cricketers to play for Team India. He adds that the format has given the players a great opportunity to play against international cricketers much before they make their international debut.
“Youngsters have become fearless because of their IPL stints. The situation is so dynamic that it has become challenging for players to retain their spots in the team,” points out Makarand, and adds that sometimes even top performers have to be dropped because of the competition.
“Team India won matches in Australia even without Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, etc. But now if they come back, where do you slot them?” he asks.
Truncated field time
While former greats like Sachin Tendulkar, M.S. Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, etc., had the luxury of playing the game almost till their 40s, the situation for the current crop looks grim. At a time where even performers are being left out due to high competition, cricketers’ longevity on the field is in jeopardy.
Sports analyst and historian Sunil Yashkalra describes the current situation as a ‘problem of plenty’. Commenting that league tournaments are the germination points of talent, he feels having a long stint like Dhoni, Sachin and Yuvraj could be difficult these days. “Today, longevity depends on not just skill but on temperament and fitness,” shares Sunil.
He feels intense fitness will be the key differentiator for longevity in the game. “Vihari has done so well, but just one injury, and he is out of the team. And with the IPL taking place next month, the competition is even more intense, it makes things even tougher. Hence it is significant that a player stays injury-free,” he stresses.
Former Indian cricketer and former coach of the Mumbai Indians in the IPL, Lalchand Rajput, reminisces that during his tenure, fitness was never a parameter. During the ’80s there wasn’t much emphasis on fitness, but only skill, he explains, adding that today, a player first needs to be an athlete to make the cut.
Seniors under pressure too
Observers feel that while Team India may not soon see the likes of Sachin, Sehwag and Dhoni who played for several years, the BCCI should follow a strict rotation policy, where a mandatory rest is given to players after taking part in a certain number of matches.
Former cricketer and Chief selector M.S.K. Prasad says that before he took charge, there were only 20 players playing all three formats (Test, ODI and T-20). He had visualized developing sustainable bench strength over a period of time to nurture the team to where it is now.
“Bench strength (competition) will certainly challenge senior players’ longevity. With youngsters chipping in, it will also push seniors to perform better, so eventually, it will help Team India,” explains Prasad, who points out that Indian won the test series against Australia despite not having its seven main players.