Indian Premier League (IPL) is the most sought out cricket league in the world, not only for the players but also for the cricketing fans. The month long extravaganza emphasizes on each and every cricketing aspect and is a real boon for the young and talented. It has also had its dark shade with match fixing, corruption, besides coming out of various scheduling and monitoring allegations. However, incepted 11 years ago, every edition of IPL since has bought in a different perspective and has added an entertainment angle. With the ICC 2019 ODI World Cup in sights this year, the twelfth edition promises to be a thriller, but perhaps with a few precautions.
India has been a prominent side in world cricket off late. Thanks first to Dhoni and then Kohli, India have also shown ruthlessness and aggression on field. Regarded as the contenders to win the coveted crown along with the hosts England, India would look to field a balanced and an in-form 11 throughout the World Cup. Having experimented various combinations, both with the bat and ball over the past year and half, IPL will provide a perfect launchpad to finalize world cup strategies. India’s woes at No.6 could never meet a solution post Suresh Raina but with Kedar Jadhav, they seem to have been laid down to rest. His part timers with the balls have also yielded important wickets. India’s struggle to choose a stable No. 4 however, has been unending. After having tried as many as 8 batsmen last season, IPL will play the most vital part in the final call. Players like Ambati Rayudu and KL Rahul will look to cement their place in the side. Whereas IPL will stage a golden chance for the experienced Rahane, Yuvraj, Raina and the youth in Manish Pandey, Mayank Agarwal and Shreyas Iyer to leave a mark.
It is pretty certain that Hardik Pandya will return to the mix this IPL and will hold a key to India’s world cup chances. Reserved all-rounders in Vijay Shankar and Ravindra Jadeja will also be keen on making sound impact for their franchise, thereby ensuring their flight to England. Another important position that remains unaddressed is India’s fourth seamer. Indian pacers in 2018 have made India the most fierce, dangerous and haunting bowling attack of all times. Finding a strong option for Bumrah, Shami and Bhuvneshwar in the IPL will therefore be one of the strongest agendas. While Siddharth Kaul has seemed to be the preferred choice, Umesh Yadav and Khaleel Ahmed cannot be neglected. Though the approach and execution in T20s is distinct from that in ODIs, IPL remains their last throw of dice.
Another key aspect of IPL is the players’ fitness and workload. The world cup guarantees a minimum of 9 matches per team in its newer format. Playing in foreign conditions for this long can often hamper one’s physique and thereby team’s balance. Losing someone to injuries is perhaps the last thing any team would want entering the final phase of preparations. Kohli and Indian team management have been vocal about workload management and have left it to the players to decide for oneself. A broader scope would rather eliminate any shuffles in the first half of the tournament while they can be expected in plenty in the later. Kedar Jadhav, Rohit Sharma and Mohammad Shami who’ve been much prone to injuries throughout their careers will hopefully look to make amends in their IPL commitments.
Virat Kohli: “All the workload will be monitored and given a window, the guys can afford to rest. Not to say we won’t be committed to the IPL but we’ve got to be smart. We have to work in balance and take smart decisions. The responsibility and the onus is on the player. No one will be forced to do something.”
Allowing the players to choose their own positions and responsibilities for the franchise might well initiate a tactical shift this IPL. The same will also translate to other international teams. While the struggling teams like Australia would seek this as an opportunity for their players like Steve Smith and Warner to get quality game-time, the well settled sides like England and New Zealand would take it up as a challenge to test individual physiques. Having said that, one can expect restrictions being put up and perhaps a few controversies being laid towards the end of the tournament.
Cricket in any form brings joy and with a few unavoidable constraints, IPL is set to bring in much more interest and excitement. Be it the reigning champions Chennai, favorites Mumbai or the chokers from Bangalore and Delhi, the new edition promises to be a crisp affair. There’s loads to look forward to this IPL but only time would tell who prevails.