Rajasthan Royals’ Ajinkya Rahane toured Australia for the Tests but did nothing more than warm the bench. After he returned, he played in a handful of low-key domestic games. But he tops the list of leading run-scorers in IPL-5 with 304 runs off six games at a healthy average of 60.80.
Mumbai Indians’ (MI) Munaf Patel has not played for the country since the one-dayers in England.
Again, some scattered appearances are all he has to show for in domestic cricket. But with 10 wickets in four games at an average of 8.90, he is the leading wicket-taker here.Full of energy
In fact, not many of the top leading batsmen and bowlers in the cash-rich league have been affected by international scheduling.
Owais Shah (Royals), Faf du Plessis (Super Kings), Steve Smith (Pune Warriors) and Dwayne Bravo (Super Kings) are among the leading run-getters, while among the bowlers, Lasith Malinga (MI), Kevon Cooper (Royals), Kieron Pollard (MI) and Muttiah Muralitharan (Royal Challengers) are among the top wicket-takers.
Owais has been out of favour with England for some years now while Du Plessis is yet to cement his place in the South Africa side. The Australia think-tank feels the talented all-rounder Smith is not good enough to make it to the national side and Bravo just played one ODI against the Australians.
When Sri Lanka locked horns with England in a Test series at home, Malinga was resting. Cooper is yet to cause ripples in West Indies cricketing circles and Pollard, like Bravo, has not played much apart from the one-day series against Australia. Muralitharan retired from all forms of the game after the World Cup final against India in Mumbai.
It is often said that statistics do not lie. After studying these figures, a question stares back — whether players, who have not been a part of the rigours of top-level of cricket, will be the ones who will stand out in this IPL? Is cricket scheduling at fault somewhere? With Malinga and Muralitharan making the list, having recently retired (from at least one format), it may also be a reason that has helped them to concentrate on this format.
One for the future
Former MI coach, Lalchand Rajput, is impressed by young Rahane’s style of batting. But what he feels cannot be ignored is the schedule, or rather the blessing of not being a part of it.
“As these players are not a part of the hectic international schedule, they have played better. And it will definitely be a factor, almost always,” he said.There are other factors that come into play when a player starts off with a fresh mind.
“The players want to do well and have fire in the belly. They have not played for a long time, and would want to prove a point, show how good they are. Being fresh would only help them do well,” felt Rajput.
The way matches are lined up through the year is something that can also be looked at.
“The IPL will always be there. So, may be, the ICC can look into the fixtures. At least, a 10-15 day gap should be there before the IPL. It will help the players give their best performance,” he explained.