Wednesday, 14 March 2012

What’s T20 got to do with it?

Season five of the Indian Premier League is not far away. With promos of the mega Twenty20 cricket league already making it to prime time television slots and the cricketainment fever is building its tempo, young cricketers in the fray are working on adapting new techniques that would fire the ball into the boundaries.
The advent of the shorter format is noticing a trend that budding cricketers are increasingly sacrificing substance for style. At a time when the national squad is going through a transition phase, struggling to find suitable replacements for big guns Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and perhaps even Sehwag, if more youngsters are keen on quick runs—thanks to IPL grooming, it would be hard to build a strong Test team with Gen Next cricketers. 
“There is about a month to go for IPL and I am definitely eager to go back home (Chennai) and work on a couple of shots that I want to play in the IPL,” stated 22-year-old Test debutant Abhinav Mukand, post a one-day game played here in Bangalore.
As the IPL commencement gets closer, youngsters want to shift gears from holding on to their wicket- kind of play in the domestic circuit to picking up the Dil-scoop and Helicopter shots.
While Twenty20 cricket’s all pervading influence is becoming a blessing for some coaches, it is a headache for others. “Now, most kids want to play cricket in the T20 style. We have to ensure budding players focus on being technically sound instead of adopting a slam-bang approach. A youngster can easily be influenced when he watches his heroes playing big shots,” says coach Irfan Sait who has trained prodigies like Manish Pandey, Mayank Agarwal and Robin Uthappa.
However, the one thing that has had a positive effect is that youngsters are being more aggressive than ever before. They have a – go for the kill – attitude in them which perhaps never used to be the case in say the Rahul Dravid’s era. Back then, cricketers would always be cautious about losing their wicket.
Earlier, the players used to be very docile. Now, I am noticing a streak of aggressiveness and an eagerness to learn. I have to channelize their energies in the right direction. But the good part is that they are eager to learn. Boys want to be successful like the players they see on television. They want to learn the shots their seniors play,” added Sait.
Coaches across the country are insisting that they (young cricketers) don’t just go out and try and hit every ball out of the park. The boys are influenced watching these sixes being hit in international T20, no doubt.
In the longer version like the four-day games in the Domestic circuit, the games that a crucial in deciding a cricketers future as national selectors still look for a substantial domestic record of a player, players can’t go for unorthodox shots. They have to stick to basics in order to last long.
“Boys are reluctant to stay longer at the wicket and work for their runs. Earlier, players were prepared to stay at the wicket for long and would think of making big scores. Now, they think of scoring in quick time, which is not good when they are learning the ropes. Sometimes they might get lucky and make a big score. But if they have a poor technique they will struggle later on in their career,” opines Shanker Velu, secratery of Young Lions Club in Bangalore which grooms young cricketers.
India’s Under-19 players, Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair who will turn out for Royal Challengers Bangalore have a different say. Though they know that their skill at longer version of the game is what matters, they think that playing the T20 brings about an overall development. “I think a good player would be able to play any formats well. It could be T20 or it could be Test cricket. Look at how Jacques Kallis has adapted to the game,” states Agarwal.
Karun Nair, on the other hand admits that youngsters can get carried away with the influx of so much of T20 cricket. “We do play a lot of T20 in college tournaments and it’s a lot of fun. The format is certainly very entertaining. But at the end of the day, playing well in the longer versions of the game is what matters.”
All said and done, we, cricket lovers, in the years to come might not get to get classic square cuts, reverse sweep and a temperamental game being played. The face of Test cricket might soon change with the future trying to master at different strokes than conventional ones.

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