An open letter to IPL by a young test cricket lover: Part II

IPL is surely a source of easy money for cricketers, both budding and experienced. However, it is only test cricket that could make a cricketer earn respect of a true cricket fan

Photo by Gurpreet Singh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Gurpreet Singh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Vikrant Jha

Dear Indian Premiere League (IPL),

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I belong to the same section I’m talking about, I’ve revered test cricket since the day I started understanding cricket. A Virender Sehwag batting overnight, close to yet another triple-century, always made me want to miss the school the next day. The day Sachin Tendulkar would bat, along with Rahul Dravid, my parents would literally pack me with my school bag to send me off to school. I miss those days, and the glitters that you provided me with, I understand, are not gold.

When I see, a youngster faring well in the IPL, I get scared for I’ve seen many youngsters rise in a day and they fall into a pit the very next season. Paul Valthaty, who rose to fame with an IPL century, is nowhere to be seen now. Manvinder Bisla, who won the IPL final for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) almost single-handedly in 2012, has a similar story. There are other few like Axar Patel, Mohit Sharma, Jaydev Unadkat, Piyush Chawla, who are all significant contributors to their respective franchises. However, I can see them play only during the IPL as they couldn’t grab the opportunity when provided.

In such scenarios, do we just blame these players? I won’t. I won’t because I understand that you don’t provide them with the time to resettle. The time-frame for the tournament is such that players get limited time to correct their minor technical faults. Additionally, all the franchises are corporate-owned and they have revenue to spend. They spend it beautifully too and that creates more unforeseen job opportunities, kudos to you for that too.

However, out of many staff the team management have, there are few to solely analyse the match clips and find out those minor faults in techniques of the batsmen. While an international player is aware of all this and is usually quick in making amendments, a youngster needs comparatively more time. But, you move at such a high speed that the youngster never gets a chance to reassess his game and rework on it because there is another youngster in line to replace him. Latter’s clips are probably unavailable for the opposition and he comes in the limelight and this circle continues.

Hence, I completely agree that you provide us with young talents. But, then, I’ve a question for you. Do you give them an opportunity to reassess their game and work on it? Probably not, as you throw in another youngster for the world to witness, notice and, more often than not, forget.

There is another thing which I need to congratulate you for. I congratulate you for being the trend-setter. Australia has come up with its own version of you, the Big Bash League. Pakistan, similarly, has Pakistan Super league. South Africa, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, the Caribbean and now England, all of them are now running their own version of the domestic T-20 competition. You, however, remain to be the most famous and cash-rich league in the world.

Now, with the emergence of such leagues throughout the world, are we not moving towards the death of test cricket? Recently, I read about the pay dispute going on between Cricket Australia (CA) and Australian Cricketers’ Association. David Warner was asked about the issue and his reply filled me with torturous tears as I happen to be a lover of test cricket. He spoke about the unity with which he and his teammates were standing firm against the body that runs cricket in their country.

Yes, I agree cricketers should be paid well and these disputes should be resolved. I, however, don’t agree with Warner’s comments where he says, “We will not play the Ashes if the issue is not resolved.” He further went on to say that “the financial losses would be made up by playing different T-20 leagues throughout the world,” and that’s exactly when I started to question the trend that you have set even more vehemently. I questioned it because I believe that not featuring in Ashes didn’t only account for financial losses. It counts for something more, something bigger. It robs a player of an opportunity to represent his country at arguably the biggest cricket platform ever, the iconic Ashes.

The problem with the model of cricket you have grown is the financial benefits that everyone extracts and expect to keep extracting. Harsha Bhogle recently wrote as your well-wisher for Cricbuzz, where he said, “If players come to play (IPL) for the money alone, it (IPL) will never acquire the respect it deserves.” However, Harsha’s concern, suddenly, seems more apt when it is put together with what Warner had to say. Test cricket is not going to, anytime soon, give a prize for a “Vitara Brezza Glam Shot” or a “Vivo Perfect Catch of the match.”

Cheerleaders dancing on a Rahul Dravid solid defense would still look alien.

To conclude, that you have diminished the game of test cricket, I would like to share another story with you.

Lasith Malinga, the legendary Sri Lanka pacer, retired from test cricket in 2011. He blamed his knee-injury for cutting his test career short. A closer look, however, makes you think of a different story. Malinga was spearheading the Mumbai bowling unit when the Sri Lanka Cricket asked him to report for the national duties. Malinga didn’t oblige and in just a few days, announced his retirement from test cricket. Many experts had then claimed that Malinga’s decision was made keeping financial benefits in mind. Test cricket wouldn’t have provided him with the same financial profits and why would someone choose to play for five days when he can earn more in less than five hours?

Rahul Dravid raised his concerns way back in 2008, your inception year. Dravid, according to a report by The Quint, felt it could devalue normal cricket in the eyes of the young player. If it is possible to make serious money and become a star on the strength of limited skills required in the 20-over-format, he argued, why would anyone work hard to play Ranji Trophy, or even Test cricket?

My concerns are on the similar lines. What if the “international exposure” you are providing youngsters with backfires? What if they learn, from a Malinga or a Warner, ways to earn more, rather than ways to play and learn more?

I hope you take into considerations, my concerns. I don’t hate you, neither am I cynical of you. I absolutely love the sight of ecstatic Rohit Sharma running all around the park after clinching the title. I love how youngsters express themselves, through you. I love how you always keep everyone on their toes as one mistake can literally cost them the match. I love you in all your ways, except for how you are being responsible for the death of test cricket.

With love,

A Test Cricket enthusiast.

This is the concluding part of a two-part open letter. The first part was published on Sunday.

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Published: 29 May 2017, 6:41 PM