Reverse Scoop: The challenge of the ten-team IPL

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Tue, 15/02/2022
Image Source: IANS
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Just over a year ago, a depleted, virtually third-string Indian side created history by winning a Test series on Australian soil. A few months down the line, they planned a Test tour of England and a simultaneous limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka.

Both instances demonstrate the tremendous depth of the Indian cricket pool. The Indian team may lose the odd match, even the odd series, but there is little doubt over the efficiency, the robustness of the BCCI system that keeps the machinery rolling.

This time, however, they face a sterner test.

Consider the pool of cricketers in the Indian Premier League.

Each of the ten squads can accommodate up to 25 cricketers. Assuming no one get injured, that is a total of 250 cricketers in the tournament.

There is a cap of eight overseas cricketers, of whom there is no dearth, particularly once the IPL scouts have started to venture beyond their comfort zones of the more mainstream teams. Every franchise will be able to field four top-quality overseas stars every time.

But… what about the Indian contingent?

These days, both India and India A squads typically consist of 18 cricketers. Let us assume that there are as many cricketers who are almost as good, but do not make the cut for India A.

That brings the overall Indian pool, for selecting main squads, to around fifty cricketers.

Now, split between eight squads, that comes to around six Indian cricketers a side. Since an IPL side requires seven Indians, every now and then do we see a seldom-heard Indian cricketer feature in the XI.

For ten squads, that comes to five Indian cricketers a side. An injury to an Indian cricketer will take the count up to three.

This is unknown, unchartered territory for many domestic cricketers. To perform against another domestic side, away from limelight, in an empty ground, with little television following, is one thing. To be at the centre of all cricketing action is another.

It is a stern test for them, as it is for the league.

The had tried the ten-team idea well over a decade ago. It had not worked. The tournament was too long, was the general opinion. Then, first Kochi Tuskers Kerala, then Pune Warriors India opted out for non-cricketing reasons, and the tournament returned to its pomp.

The IPL now faces two challenges. First, they need to make a failed idea work. And secondly, they need it to work despite having more unknown Indian faces in the XI every time.

As we have seen before, if the quality of cricket is good, all is forgotten, and the event is successful more often than not.

The BCCI have a system in place, one that was tested twice in 2021, at international level, against other countries. The efficiency of the system is now about to be tested against its own audience.