At the cost of sounding cynical, I'd like to introduce you to a fine young man, 24-years-old, currently playing his second season of first-class cricket. In his debut season, he'd heaped runs in hundreds and made everyone sit up and take notice. As a worthy remuneration, he was awarded an IPL deal and there too went on to impress one and sundry.
Why then should one be so disapproving of him? Well, he's back to playing domestic cricket and the longer format - only this year it fails to charm him. So alluring the IPL has been that bland, long-winded first-class cricket fails to stimulate him anymore. Still stuck in the IPL mode, he scandalously plays a-shot-a-ball in Test cricket. It seems he's biding his time, treating first-class cricket as a net session for the coveted IPL. He's both young and talented and one wishes him well.
I'm afraid though, he may have missed the point by a mile. Much like another 29-year-old seasoned pro, a fast bowler who earned quite a name ever since he made his foray in the Ranji circuit. Lately though, one can see him go through the proceedings with an air of indifference. He wasn't like this - in fact he'd been a workhorse for nearly a decade and tasted success at various levels. Then a couple of years ago, he was picked up by an IPL franchise, which thankfully gave him his share of recognition and the moolah. Yet, the writing on the wall is clear - if he continues to play cricket with the attitude he displays in a Ranji trophy game, his end is a lot nearer than he assumes.
Road to nowhere
I am not calling the IPL 'Satan', only drawing attention towards a deeper problem. A lot of people in my fraternity are beginning to believe that as long as they do well in the IPL, nothing else matters. Certain selections for Team India also validate their claim about the futility of toiling hard for five months on the first-class circuit. They still continue to play domestic cricket but only to comply with the rule of a minimum 60% participation in first-class circuit to be eligible to play in the IPL. They also use these five months as a pre-season training programme for the all-important IPL and hence don't lose their sleep if they under-perform often.
That's where they're getting it wrong. Firstly, let's stop treating first-class cricket as a second grade citizen. The domestic structure has for years tested and primed players who've gone on to win the country many honours. It's a worthy check of a player's technique and temperament. Secondly, players who believe that it's rather simple to do well in the IPL season after season, without playing competitive cricket in between, are living in fools' paradise.
The country's premier domestic tournament deserves respect, both by the cricketers and officials. The IPL is a great concept and should be promoted, but not in opposition to first-class cricket.
The writer plays domestic cricket for Rajasthan.