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How playing IPL is like getting admission into IIMs for India’s U-19 cricketers

It might disappoint hardcore cricket lovers but young India is playing not for Ranji Trophy or Tests but the Indian Premier League. Just as the goal of most bright kids coming out of colleges is to get into IIMs, talented players are working hard to get admission into the IPL

cricket Updated: Feb 08, 2018 09:18 IST
Indian U-19 national cricket team,Indian Premier league,IPL
Indian U-19 cricket team members click selfie after winning the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup final against Australia.(PTI)

Of all the happy voices from the U-19 World Cup, the two most interesting statements came from members of the winning team. Shubman Gill, player of the tournament, said, “I hope to play well in the IPL. Manjot Kalra, man of the match in the final, said, “I hope to be fit like Virat and Shikhar.”

Both are telling comments on the direction Indian cricket is heading. They bring into focus changes sweeping Indian cricket. The IPL has transformed cricketers’ mindset, and fitness is key.

READ | U-19 World Cup stars Shubman Gill, Abhishek Sharma in Punjab’s Vijay Hazare squad

Young Indian cricketers are ambitious and want fame and financial rewards. For them, IPL is the pot of gold which promises all this. Politically correct sound bytes (about playing for national honour) are ok to a point but they are long-term goals, uncertain and distant.

The commercial opportunity of IPL is immediate, within grasp, just a few good hits away. That’s why every Shubman and Manjot hits the gym and practices long hours. It might disappoint hardcore cricket lovers but young India is playing not for Ranji or Tests but the IPL. Just as the goal of most bright kids coming out of colleges is to get into IIMs, talented players are working hard to get admission into the IPL.

Some U-19 players have already leaped into IPL’s dazzling duniya of TV cameras and social media likes. Kamlesh Nagarkoti is yet to play Ranji but his Rs 3.2 crore price is higher than Mohd Shami, a current Test player, or that of Mitchell Johnson.

READ | Rahul Dravid is a crorepati! This is what cricket legend gets as fees from BCCI

Manjot’s comment about wanting to be fit like Virat points to the other significant change in Indian cricket. It shows an understanding that fitness is absolutely essential for success and cricket demands speed and athleticism. Today, anyone not fit, anyone not a good fielder won’t get selected. Fitness is non-negotiable and players who don’t pass yo-yo are a no-no.

This basic change is due to Virat’s ‘fitness first’ mantra. He is harsh on those not meeting tough standards set by him. Apparently Virat’s hunger is only for scoring centuries, not for butter chicken or any non- healthy food. Because of that, Manjot’s generation says no to sugar/carbs/red meat.

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Shubman, Manjot and Prithvi Shaw represent the future of Indian cricket and appear worthy inheritors of a proud legacy created first by SRT/ Dravid/ Laxman, later by Virat/Pujara/Rahane. Hopefully, in days ahead, they will realise their full potential. Will they make a mark in Ranji, Duleep, Test cricket? Should, but you never know. Dravid was realistic when he said the World Cup win should not define these players. The real challenge starts now.

(The author is a sports administrator and former BCCI media manager. Views are his personal)

First Published: Feb 08, 2018 09:13 IST