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Opinion: IPL rewards performance, rejects emotion

Players, for instance, are ‘bought’ at an auction with price determined by market forces. Sometimes the puzzling play of demand and supply, desire and desperation, throws up insane numbers.

cricket Updated: Apr 24, 2019 11:12 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
IPL,MS Dhoni,Virat Kohli
Chennai Super Kings' Dwayne Bravo, center left, hugs Rasheed Khan of Sunrisers Hyderabad at the end of the VIVO IPL T20 cricket match between Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad in Chennai, India, Tuesday, April 23, 2019)(AP)

Rajasthan Royals’ surgical strike to remove Ajinkya Rahane as captain was unexpected but such drastic action is not unprecedented. The IPL has seen similar tough decisions in the past. The Delhi Daredevils stripped Gautam Gambhir of captaincy midway last season and MSD was sacked by Pune when CSK were serving a two-year ban.

Over the years, IPL has demonstrated that in terms of team and player dynamics it operates according to its unique rules. Players, for instance, are ‘bought’ at an auction with price determined by market forces. Sometimes the puzzling play of demand and supply, desire and desperation, throws up insane numbers.

Compared to the steep cost of Varun Chakravarty, Jaydev Unadkat and Prabhsimran Singh, it appears Ishant Sharma, Yuvraj Singh and Hanuma Vihari were available at reduced rates in a mega stock-clearing sale. It is still better than the fate of superstars Amla/Root/Pujara who were rejected in IPL’s player bazaar.

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While players auction is influenced by promise and gut feel, selection of the playing eleven is a precise professional call where only performance matters. The IPL is about thin margins so teams have to be on the button and decisions must be quick, in real time. There is no space for emotion and if - in team interest - Rahane has to be purged, so be it.

Team interest often forces top stars to sit on the bench sharing space with players of modest ability. Where else, except the IPL, will you see the likes of Faf du Plessis, Kane Williamson, Trent Boult and Sakib unable to get enough game time .For that matter, Steve Smith too was dropped by the Royals before he was appointed captain.

Even senior India players are uncertain about their place in the eleven. Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Umesh Yadav, Ishant are in and out, Murali Vijay is yet to play and Yuvraj Singh will find it difficult to reclaim his spot at Mumbai Indians.

With performance the only currency, only a few India players are in business this IPL. MSD is the brilliant finisher, coolly taking on bowlers in the death overs. Hardik Pandya has inherited Dhoni’s skills and is no less destructive while closing games. Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant have made decisive contributions.

Other established India stars are having a quiet IPL. Virat Kohli is not up to his high standards and Rohit Sharma is searching for the big innings. Suresh Raina, Robin Uthappa and Dinesh Karthik — IPL champions all — are struggling for form.

Among younger stars, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, Mayank Agrawal, Vijay Shankar and Sanju Samson seem to have lost their way. What is heartening though, is the steady progress of Shreyas Iyer, Shreyas Gopal, Nitish Rana, Navdeep Saini and Rahul Chahar. Shubhman Gill is annoyingly patchy and Kuldeep Yadav, sadly, has dropped off lately.

Till now, it is the foreign players who have been the game-changers. Warner is once again the highest run-scorer — surprisingly consistent for someone so aggressive. ABD, De Kock and Bairstow have had their moments though Ben Stokes is a colossal disappointment. Bravo, Watson and Malinga are not the players they were.

But the major story this IPL has been the savage hitting by Andre Russell. Built like Hercules and utterly fearless, he has smashed every third ball to the boundary. With him around, no target is beyond reach, no bowler safe. Previously, scoring 100 in the last 10 was considered tough; with Russell 100 from 5 too is gettable.

Even in the middle of crazy power-hitting, some bowlers are holding their own. Jofra Archer and Rabada are match-winners and Bumrah always a handful with his probing lines. Leg-spin is still the flavour of the season with Rashid Khan, Sandeep Lamichhane, Imran Tahir , Chahal, M Ashwin and Amit Mishra keeping the batsmen guessing.

First Published: Apr 24, 2019 11:04 IST