IPL Shows its Flawed Teeth

Rahul Dravid is a world class player, there is no doubt about that. Along with Brian Lara, he is the most tenacious player of his age. His 10,000 test runs encompassing some delightful stroke play coupled with a bunch of magnificent match-winning knocks, along with half a dozen of double hundreds and innumerable (gritty) knocks of 50s and 100s speak volumes and make him, arguably the greatest test player India has produced. The consistency of his performances in pressure situations in both forms (Test and 50-over) of the game is unparalleled in the history of Indian Cricket. His longevity in the game is next only to the great Sachin Tendulkar. His technique is any coach’s delight and Geoffrey Boycott’s fantasy. To sum it up, Rahul Dravid is exemplary, a class apart and most importantly a proven performer.
Yet, to see this great man under excruciating pressure and being virtually brought down to his knees after just two weeks of T20 cricket is perhaps the ultimate indicator of the impact of IPL on the game of cricket, its running and its future. Not to mention its flaws. Players like Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, Ricky Ponting, Stephen Fleming, Brad Hodge, and V.V.S. Laxman are all showing dismal averages after eight consecutive outings, indicating clearly that IPL in its present form is just not cricket. The 30 yard boundaries! (Excuse the exaggeration). The lightning quick outfields, the flat tracks, the slam bang baseball style (not cricket style mind you!) hitting and the outrageous bats have made quality bowlers and quality batsmen mere outcasts. A game which forces highly skilled players to change their batting style to mediocre pinch-hitting, (Everyone is tired of seeing those monotonous sixes in the “V”) is inherently flawed.
What IPL needs is debugging, a driver rollback of sorts. The boundary ropes have to go back, the tracks need to have rolled grass (not live grass mind you), aluminum and composite bats must be banned ( A welcome decision by MCC taken yesterday). And then we will see Rahul Dravid bat in T20.
Another peculiar situation that IPL has brought with it is players having to not only take care of their own performances but their owners’ public images as well (Rahul and Mr. “King of good times” come to mind) leading to more pressure. This is outright absurd. There are egos involved and performance is treated analogous to money – contradictory to the basic nature of sports itself. Especially in T20, which as many experts believe, is a lottery. It is definitely not like football, where the big names and their creativity are actually tested and hence, there is the cutthroat work ethics. Hypothetically, a similar Test cricket IPL (hypothetical indeed) would have seen only Jacques and Rahul perform for their team. I guarantee you that. Basically, to blame a good player to be bad in a bad format is preposterous. Rahul Dravid, as we all know, had already opted out of the T20 format. Even if not explicitly stated, his entry to the IPL owes itself to the upper echelons of the BCCI and his love for his home city. He, in his own words, wanted to be a sport and did not want to dismiss the IPL without trying it. Now that he has done it, it would be wise of him to reconsider his decision in the next season. A lot of his fans (including the writer of this piece) believe that it is actually these bits and pieces – T20 format (at least in its current form) – that is not good enough for such a complete player like him and not the opposite.

Prateek Kapil

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