The IPL was perhaps the best warm-up for the T20 World Cup starting in a few days’ time. Not just the defending champions India, other challengers too would have benefitted.
Being part of a franchise, where tactics and strategy are discussed, the mind of a player can be read by an intelligent observer and that can be a huge plus when deciding the approach to a possible crunch time move. Temperament, as always, will be the crucial element that will separate the men from the boys. The IPL has quickly matured some fresh-faced kids into match-winning players and India is blessed to have found a few in the last two years.
The other teams too have been lucky, as they have found talent like Shaun Marsh and Dirk Nannes. Delhi Daredevils’ Nannes was the find of IPL II and the South African pitches suited him perfectly, though, Adam Gilchrist put him in his place in the semifinals with a flurry of boundaries in his first over.
Nannes is not exactly a spring chicken, so he may not be on the Australian selectors’ radar now or in the near future and that may be the reason why he has opted to turn out for the Netherlands in the T20 World Cup. This loophole needs to be plugged, as there are many players who find that there is no place for them in their country’s squad despite good performances. Nannes opted to play for the Netherlands by virtue of one of his grandparents being from there.
The biggest beneficiaries are those from the United Kingdom. A player can play for Scotland or Ireland in a World Cup and if his performance is impressive, he can be picked for England.
Gavin Hamilton played for Scotland in the 1999 World Cup in England and, at the end of that season, he was picked in the England squad for the South Africa tour. There is no cooling off period despite the fact that, at the administrative level, Scotland and Ireland have separate votes. Yet they complain of a sub-continent bloc when it comes to taking calls at the ICC.
These things will never change and, the International Tennis Federation’s decision to fine Australia a measly $10,000 for forfeiting a Davis Cup match, shows when it comes to ganging up there is none to beat the old powers.
The Australians may not have had the best of results as far as the T20 internationals are concerned but anybody who writes them off needs to have his head examined. They are a fiercely motivated team and this is one trophy that they would like to add to their kitty.
There is some concern that the IPL would have left Indian players jaded but India has a fairly easy time after the World Cup, so the boys will be keen to give it their best.
The players also are a lot fitter and stronger nowadays, so fatigue shouldn’t be a worry. There are just two cities in England where the T20 World Cup is being played, so there won’t be any tiring travel either. The weather in England too will be better than it is in India.
India are the defending champions and if they play to potential they should do well again. What the players must watch out for is the tendency to take this format lightly. This happens with a new format and it does take time to mentally adjust to it. It happened when limited-over cricket was introduced in the 70s. Many Indian players like me took time to realise that the format had come to stay. India hardly played a couple of ODIs each year, so not many took it seriously. It was only after India went to Australia in 1980-81, where they played a triangular series with New Zealand as the third team, that tactics and strategy began to be discussed. Suddenly India was playing eight ODIs from the odd one that they played in their home season.
This is where the IPL has helped, for it has made players understand that this format is the future and so needs to be taken seriously.