x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

IPL succour for youth and saviour for old

The cash-rich tournament provides young tyros with fast money and extends retirement plans for veterans.

Sourav Ganguly was one of the slowest in the field as India captain.
Sourav Ganguly was one of the slowest in the field as India captain.

Only in the strange world of the Indian Premier League would a man who has just completed a century of international centuries not be the highest paid player in his team, let alone the tournament.

Sachin Tendulkar earns US$1.8 million (Dh6.6m) with the Mumbai Indians, $200,000 less than Rohit Sharma gets for turning out for the franchise.

Test cricket's record run-scorer also earns less than players such as Pune Warriors' Robin Uthappa ($2.1 million) and Kolkata Knight Riders' Yusuf Pathan ($2.1m).

It is the same story in the Chennai Super Kings where MS Dhoni, the darling of Indian cricket, gets paid $200,000 less than Ravindra Jadeja who earns $2m.

It makes you wonder if the great British historian George Trevelyan had the IPL in mind when he said: "If the French noblesse had been capable of playing cricket with their peasants, their chateaux would never have been burnt".

The IPL has noblesse as well, stars who have said farewell to the international stage, but return every spring to battle with their peers and the tyros.

Three of the nine captains in the IPL this year are former international cricketers Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Adam Gilchrist, and Twenty20 was supposed to be a game for the young of lungs and limb.

These three greats, like Shane Warne and Matthew Hayden before them, have busted a few myths about this newest form of the game.

And it is the IPL which has given them this opportunity, just like it has given Mahela Jayawardene the chance to prove there is a place for the stylist, to show this game is not the sole domain of the brawny bushwhackers.

"Because of many leagues now, the players have a lot more options now," said Dravid as he talked about IPL's free market mechanism. "In the past you had to play for your country or for your state, and you didn't have other options to play across the world, or play in front of big crowds in big stadiums.

"I think with the IPL and the other Twenty20 leagues, it is giving players more options. There is no doubt about that."

Dravid announced his retirement from international only recently, while Gilchrist and Ganguly have not played at that stage for a few years now, but the 'Prince of Kolkata' feels the same thrill as he gets ready to lead the Pune Warriors out as captain-cum-mentor.

"Rahul is captain of Rajasthan Royals and I am captain of Pune Warriors," Ganguly said, agreeing with Dravid about the existence of greater opportunities for retired cricketers through events like the IPL. "So we are actively involved in the game and we have to keep slogging."

Tournaments like the IPL have also come as a blessing for cricketers who have spent more time on a surgeon's table than on the ground.

Had the IPL and Twenty20 cricket come a bit earlier, the world would have seen a lot more of the genius of Martin Crowe or the heroism of Andrew Flintoff.

The English all-rounder, who attracted a record $1.55m bid from the Chennai Super Kings in 2009, could not last a full IPL season because of injuries, but both Dravid and Ganguly would love to see him play for their teams.

"It's very difficult to pick one very good player from the past," said Ganguly when asked for his top pick from cricket history.

"From the 1970s or 80s, maybe a Kapil Dev or an Imran Khan. I would pick guys who could bowl and bat. It could have been a fit Andrew Flintoff."

"All-rounders are obviously at a premium in any format of the game," Dravid said. "So any of those great all-rounders, someone like Gary Sobers right down to Andrew Flintoff would be incredibly valued."

The IPL could have stretched the careers of a few fast bowlers as well. A contract might have saved Mohammed Amir from the temptation that ruined a blossoming career.

A Shane Bond could have played for a bit longer, just like Shaun Tait and Lasith Malinga are doing now, after retiring from the longer formats of the game.

"My decision was a physical thing," said Tait, who has bowled the second fastest ball in cricket. "The injuries were taking a toll. I was struggling to keep going with the longer formats of the game. So Twenty20 and the franchise system has given me the opportunity to keep playing. Just playing Twenty20, the IPL is the biggest competition for me. So I just want to get my body right and make sure I was fit for this IPL."

Twenty20, like for most cricketers, is not the first-choice for Tait; the Australian still considers Test cricket as the "pinnacle", but is glad he is still playing cricket.

"If I kept playing [Test cricket], I think I would be retired by now," said Tait, 29, who played the last of his Tests more than four years ago. "I just want to keep playing cricket as long as I could.

"It is a tough decision to stop playing for your country. But obviously I enjoy playing cricket, so if I can play for longer through Twenty20s, I am happy."

 

arizvi@thenational.ae

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