What was initially considered to be a startling invention in Indian Cricket is slowly starting to stagnate. The Indian Premier League (IPL), after the conclusion of its eighth edition, is starting to show signs of weariness. Even though the BCCI has tried its level best to hide all such signs, it is now an open secret that the IPL has more or less failed to serve the purposes which it was intended to. In this context, let us take a look at how the IPL can be made more relevant to the Indian Cricket, and more credible to the cricket lovers of the world.
1. Sourcing local talent
This was initially touted as one of the foremost goals of the IPL. However, the mega tournament, soon after a successful inception in 2008, fell hostage to the attraction of foreign cricketers who, even though outnumbered by Indian players, came to acquire more important positions in the respective franchises. Of late, more importance has been placed on selecting the 4 foreign players than the local talents in the playing XI. Thus, one frequently observes that the local players are recruited in the team on an experimental basis. Their slots are never secured, and this insecurity further scuttles their chances of making an impact on the higher echelons of Indian Cricket. The likes of Laxmi Ratan Shukla , Hanuma Vihari, Manoj Tiwary, Saurabh Tiwary, Manvinder Bisla and Mandeep Singh have all been the victims of this fallacy in the IPL.
Besides, whatsoever little pool of domestic players that franchises might have is sourced from a number of different states. Shreyas Iyer and Manoj Tiwary are presently with the Delhi Daredevils, while Dinesh Kartik has never been a part of the Chennai team! Thus, there is a clear absence of local flavour in the IPL, which significantly reduces its ability to appeal to the loyalties of the fans of a particular city or state. Kolkata Knight Riders, for example, represent scarcely anything of ‘Kolkata – The City’ or ‘West Bengal – The State’. This has slowly found reflection in the half empty stands which most often greets the players at the Eden Gardens! Such a trend is discernible in most other franchises too.
2. Training youngsters
It’s a pity that none of the franchises, barring Rajasthan Royals, have a conscious policy or unit dedicated to the purpose of training youngsters from scratch and making them good enough for the big stages. This is one of the most vital differences between the IPL and the immensely successful English Premier League in football, for example. Talented youngsters, with the capability to make headlines in the future, are often spotted at a very early stage by the various franchises and their skills are subsequently honed for the future challenges. This, sadly, is yet to happen in the IPL. Most youngsters in action in this tournament are either prodigies sourced from India’s U-19 squads or have been successful enough at short notice in domestic cricket. Very few, like K.C.Cariappa, can be termed as ‘Found by the IPL’! Some that are found are lost too quickly because of the absence of proper youngster management programmes in the teams. There are fears that misfiring talents like Sanju Samson, Mandeep Singh and Karun Nair might be going down the same path.
3. Making the ‘IPL Auction’ more meaningful
One of the biggest reasons responsible for the loss of the IPL’s luster is the policy to stick with the ‘player retention policy’. The auction has become an exercise in futility of late, with all the big wigs being kept out of it. Imagine how boring it would have felt to watch Robin van Persie playing for Arsenal throughout his career, or Zlatan Ibrahimovic to stick with AC Milan for eternity! Something as boring as that is happening in the IPL. Crowd pullers like Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina have more or less been kept out of the auctions time and again. Thus, the core of a particular team remains the same every year, and only the fringe elements change hands during the auction. This, inevitably, lead to nothing! A proposal, recently doing the rounds in the BCCI, seeks to do away with the player retention policy within a couple of years. Hopefully, such a decision comes at the earliest.
The time is perhaps ripe for refurbishing the IPL using a new set of rules and procedures. T20 is a funny game. It can attract eyeballs very quickly, but it can make you feel saturated even quicker!