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For IPL’s young aspirants, a cancelled season is a great loss

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 2 days ago N Ananthanarayanan

India's biggest summer spectacle—the Indian Premier League (IPL)—is on the verge of becoming a no show in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is on the verge of becoming a no show in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. (Ron Gaunt / IPL / SPORTZPICS) © Provided by Hindustan Times The Indian Premier League (IPL) is on the verge of becoming a no show in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. (Ron Gaunt / IPL / SPORTZPICS)

The world's richest cricket league, whose brand value last year was $6.7 billion, according to the US consultancy firm Duff and Phelps, is a parade of top international stars, but it also scores for the talent that it unearths.

David Warner and Jasprit Bumrah are among those who rose from IPL's hustle and bustle, plucked out of obscurity as raw, young talent, and launched into stardom.

Many young players, or those just looking to be noticed, dream of taking the IPL route to national selection. This year, they fear missing out, with no guarantee what the next season will bring up.

The IPL impact was evident when India skipper Virat Kohli, after a dip in the performances of pacers on the New Zealand tour, named Karnataka's M. Prasidh Krishna as "possibly be the X-factor" at the October T20 World Cup in Australia.

From bowling in the nets in 2018 to impress IPL scouts, the lanky 24-year-old fast bowler was signed up by Kolkata Knight Riders and has spent two seasons with the team, developing rapidly into a versatile and dangerous pacer. This would have been a third season for him, and going by Kohli's assessment, possibly a defining one. He is unlikely to get that chance.

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Or consider Rajasthan leg-spinner Rahul Chahar, 20, who has been signed up by champions Mumbai Indians this season. As he worked on his fitness and game at the Reliance ground in Mumbai recently, IPL cancellation was a worry.

"It is disappointing, it's such a great opportunity," he said. "I'm practising right now. Everything else is closed in Mumbai. If you don't practice, you'll not be in touch. I set a bar for myself last year and was looking to raise it," he shrugged.

Maharashtra opener Ruturaj Gaikwad, 23, was the second-highest scorer in the T20 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy this season with 419 runs. Though Chennai Super Kings, which bought him for R20 lakh in the 2019 auction, is yet to give him a game, being part of an IPL team has other rewards.

"The experience of being in CSK last season was overwhelming. I'm a changed player," Gaikwad said. "I got to learn from many players last season—Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Faf du Plessis, Shane Watson...

"I used to ask Dhoni a lot of questions, and he would calmly listen and give suggestions. He helped a lot on staying calm on the field, ways to do it, and what one needs to think...Mentally, I have improved a lot."

And when Dhoni smashes you in the nets, you can run to Harbhajan Singh for advice before the next delivery, like Tamil Nadu left-arm spinner R Sai Kishore did after being roped in by CSK in 2019.



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Gaikwad said: "If it doesn't happen, it will be a setback. I was looking forward to the season and hoping to get a chance, play with big names… CSK is all about getting players mentally ready and giving them space. They don't stress too much about technique; after a time you have to be mentally strong to perform consistently at the top level."

For young pacer Shivam Mavi, it adds to the frustration; A Member of the victorious 2018 U-19 World Cup team, the genuine quick joined KKR last season, but missed out due to injury.

"It's an opportunity because last year I missed out due to injury," Mavi said. "I thought when I return this year, I'll perform and be considered for the top level."

Mumbai bowler Tushar Deshpande, 24, bought by Delhi Capitals for R20 lakh in this year's auction too bemoaned the missed opportunity. Mumbai's second highest wicket-taker in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he said: "It (would) help improve my execution as there is a huge difference between first-class and IPL. I have never played before packed stadiums, so was looking forward to it. I was looking forward to interacting with (SA fast bowler) Kagiso Rabada and Ishant Sharma, and (coach) Ricky Ponting."

For 21-year-old Vidarbha all-rounder with Kings XI, Darshan Nalkande, the IPL was his chance to train with the world's best.

"Even if you don't get to play, you learn a lot interacting. The training facilities are top notch. Last year, Ryan Harris (Aussie pacer-turned-coach) was our bowling coach and his tips helped me improve a lot. He helped me with game awareness.

"One thing I learnt during my first season was one needs to improve skills constantly to be successful over a long period. If IPL doesn't happen, it will be a great loss as I will miss out on quality training over the next two months."

(Inputs from Khurram Habib, Rajesh Pansare)

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