Just 17, Rajasthan Royals' Kumar Boresa is the youngest cricketer in this edition of the Indian domestic Twenty20 league. Picked from obscurity and handed a chance to mingle with the best in the business, Boresa hasn't played a T20 match for his state.
His is a rags-to-riches story. Like Javed Khan of the Mumbai Indians and others in the past --- Kamran Khan, Swapnil Asnodkar, VRV Singh and Paul Valthaty, the list is expected to grow.
But for every Ravichandran Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja there are others who have failed to make a mark on the domestic scene. Ask Manvinder Bisla, who hops on to a different team every Ranji season, or maybe Yusuf Pathan and Saurabh Tiwary, who have loads of potential but don't have enough results to merit a stable India berth.
But such is the lure of the T20 league that it has become more coveted than a top name in the longer format. In fact, it is a perfect dream for the next generation of cricketers.
All about money
"Let's get this straight. It's is only about money," said Debu Mitra, coach of this year's Ranji finalists Saurashtra and under whom the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Jadeja blossomed.
"If an uncapped player gets R10 lakh for about 50 days of cricket, he doesn't need to play for the rest of the year. No wonder they are more concerned about getting a contract rather than thinking of making the Ranji team or zonal team. The workload too is much less compared to Ranji," said Mitra.
The arithmetic is simple. Had it not been for the rebel T20 league, which almost pulled off a coup with a player exodus in 2007, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) would not have been forced to revise the fee structure. Before the rebel league, a Ranji player used to get R16,000 per day. After the revision, it became almost R35,000, pretty much the same rate going these days. While that means it will take a top domestic player at least seven Ranji matches, roughly 200 hours, to earn around R10 lakh, Boresa may not even have to play a single match to earn its equivalent.
"I'm inundated with calls from parents who want to know whether their wards are good enough to get a T20 team contract," said former national selector, Sambaran Banerjee, who also heads one of the biggest cricket academies in Kolkata. "Now even the most inexperienced player can earn as much as an MBA. Parents are influenced by that kind of statistic," said Banerjee.
The slam-bang cricket has started to affect their technique too. Instead of focusing on playing every ball according to its merit and always with a straight bat, almost every youngster is tempted to go for a reverse sweep or scoop shot. "The basic thing is he will never learn to defend. Here a dot ball means you have lost out on a chance to score," said Mitra.
"T20 cricket is about highs and lows. Asnodkar and Valthaty are experiencing that low. Not Jacques Kallis or Rahul Dravid because they have got their basics right. Nowadays, kids are more interested in playing cute shots rather than focusing on stance and balance," said Banerjee.
Both Mitra and Banerjee feel quality players will emerge despite the clamour for T20 cricket. "It's a matter of choice and how serious a kid is about his cricket," said Banerjee.
"We got Sachin when everyone was looking for the next Sunil Gavaskar," said Mitra. "Even Sachin will retire soon. Players will come and go, but only the ones who deserve it will wear the India jersey."