IPL the new mantra for domestic cricketers

February 23rd, 2008 - 6:01 pm ICT by admin  

By Avishek Roy
New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) Ricky Ponting is aghast and Andrew Symonds is stunned by their Indian Premier League price tags, but for India’s domestic cricketers the showbiz event is not just about money. It is a springboard to international stardom. For long they have played in front of empty stands, their heroics begging for appreciation, praised only by the peer groups, a few officials and die-hard fans.

Then one day one young man finds his name in the India squad. Money, fame and the pressure of expectations follow. Some wilt, some rough it out. Their careers either take off in a fairytale fashion or end abruptly before they even realise what went wrong.

Zee-Television sponsored Indian Cricket League first showed the domestic cricketers the way out - either earn money now or continue in the hope of playing for India.

IPL has taken this process a step ahead. Perform, earn money and, perhaps, even get a ticket to top-flight cricket. Domestic cricketers are now dreaming big. They are on the wanted list and excited to be playing a role in the game’s changing scenario. Rubbing shoulders with the who’s who of international cricket, playing in front of packed stadiums and getting huge financial returns - they could not have asked for more.

“It is a great opportunity for us. It is a mega event and youngsters will play alongside the stars. It is going to change the face of cricket,” said Delhi Ranji player Rajat
Bhatia, who will play for home franchise Delhi Daredevils.

The spotlight will be on the star players, but playing with the biggies of international cricket, the domestic players feel their good performances in IPL will not go unnoticed and will certainly give their careers a huge lift.

“It is a great exposure for us. And at the end of the day if you perform, alongside those star players the performance will be recognised,” said Shikhar Dhawan, another Delhi player.

Will there be any extra pressure on them?

“There will be pressure on us. But pressure is everywhere. It is the same with international cricketers and we will be have to learn how to handle it,” said Bhatia.

“IPL is a different game. We will be representing different clubs. Imagine me facing Ishant. We will be laughing at each other. But we will have to adapt to the changes and get used to them.”

The money on show during the IPL auction has not only raised eyebrows, but has also given a glimpse of where cricket’s future is. But more than the money, it is the participation that first class players are more interested in.

“Cricketers should not see the money. We don’t start playing cricket for money. It is good that so much money is flowing into the game. As long as a cricketer performs, money will come his way,” Bhatia said.

Fears that players will cut short their careers to play in the Twenty20 league are unfounded, feels Dhawan.

“It might hold true for international players who are nearing their retirement age but I don’t think it will affect the domestic cricketers in India. Domestic cricket also has good money and why should anybody leave the game,” he asked.

If one is aspiring to play in Tests and ODIs, is Twenty20 the right way to start one’s career? Former India player and current Delhi coach Madan Lal does not think so.

“It is in domestic cricket that you learn to take five wickets and score a century and be ready for Tests and ODIs. That is the learning ground. What will a cricketer learn from Twenty20?

“After so much of Twenty20, there will be no takers for domestic cricket. It is not watched by anyone and with this entertainment and money coming together, who will watch domestic matches. It will be finished.”

Madan Lal also said the hype surrounding the big names and will push youngsters to the backseat.

B. Vanchi, adviser to GMR Group, which owns Delhi Daredevils, has a different take.

“Every youngster can now dream of playing cricket and earning money as well. We have slots for under-22 and domestic players in the team and for youngsters it is a big opportunity to showcase their skills.

“There is a minimum price that we will have to give to domestic and u-22 cricketers but they will get more than the base price of $50,000 and $20,000 respectively,”

Vanchi also said that T20 is going to change the rules of the game forever.

“Life is hectic and nobody has the time to watch one-day cricket which takes the entire day. T20 is both cricket and entertainment. It is going to bring a great change.”

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