When Indian Premier League (IPL) was launched in 2008, one of its main aim was to provide a launchpad to young players from this country. However, halfway through the sixth edition of the world’s richest cricket tournament, homebred players are yet to match their foreign counterparts, barring the odd flashes of brilliance by few old hands. Be it most runs, most wickets, highest individual score or best figures, it is the overseas recruits who are ruling the roost. While the top 10 run-scorers’ list has only four Indian players, the most wickets column reads just a tad better at five. Four or five out of 10 may not look that bad considering every team’s heavy dependence on overseas cricketers but a deeper look into the file presents a not-so-rosy picture. One expects IPL to unearth young talents who can be molded into mature cricketers capable of making it big in the international arena but the four Indian players featuring in the batting list – Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik and Gautam Gambhir – are all seasoned campaigners. The likes of Manoj Tiwary, Mandeep Singh and Unmukht Chand, all considered capable of taking charge of the Indian batting order after Sachin Tendulkar finally calls it a day, have been woefully out of form so far. Experienced players like Yuvraj Singh and Robin Uthappa too have failed to live up to the expectations.
Amidst such gloomy scenario, the only players to offer some glimmer of hope are Manvinder Bisla of Kolkata Knight Riders and Sanju Samson of Rajasthan Royals. Bisla has indeed come a long way from being a non-descriptive Himachal stumper to a crucial member of the star-studded defending champions. At 18, Kerala batsman Samson displayed great courage and temperament in the way he handled Royal Challengers Bangalore bowlers the other day. Hope he doesn’t turn into a one-match wonder like Paul Valthaty, who hogged headlines with a blistering 120 not out for Kings XI Punjab before fading into oblivion. Among the bowlers, Vinay Kumar (15 wickets) at third place and Umesh Yadav (11 wickets) at eighth are the only encouraging signs. While Umesh is regularly hitting the deck at over 140kph with great rhythm, Vinay has been accurate, moving the ball both ways. The two can become vital cogs in India’s pace attack. Among the remaining three, RP Singh and Harbhajan Singh’s career doesn’t look to be going beyond IPL while Amit Mishra needs some more luck to get back in reckoning. It’s time the IPL governing body rethinks its policy to allow retired cricketers compete in the cash rich league. Michael Hussey, Adam Gilchrist, Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting are no doubt assets for their respective franchises. But their performances are not going to help the game in any manner any more. Their presence in the squads as mentors or coaches will surely help homegrown cricketers learn the tricks of the trade.