Players need role clarity and a chance to fail, and IPL performances must be seen in the right context
T20 cricket can look simple if players are given clear roles and are allowed to perform those roles – repeatedly – without the fear of failure. Kieron Pollard did not become one of the world’s best finishers overnight. He got there by performing the same task repeatedly across conditions and situations.
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The IPL is a great place for young cricketers to show what they are capable of, especially under pressure. But, if somebody does well as an opener in the IPL, it does not necessarily follow that he will do well in the middle order in international cricket. Numbers in the IPL should not be the sole criteria for selection to the national team. The roles they play, the conditions, and the quality of opposition vary. If a player performs the same role for both his IPL team and the national team, his chances of success are much higher. It is also a good idea to give talented young cricketers a second year in the IPL to see how they cope against better plans by the opposition, which they will no doubt face in international cricket.
Unlike Test series or ODI World Cups, the T20 World Cup does not offer one too many opportunities to come back after a loss. And the packed international calendar does not have room for too many days to get ready specifically for a World Cup either. While a lot of non-Indian players get to play in T20 leagues across the world, Indian players play only in the IPL (apart from domestic tournaments, like the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy). As a result, the conditions can surprise them during a World Cup.
Outgoing coach Ravi Shastri has said that bubble fatigue was one of the main reasons India didn’t turn up for the two big matches at the World Cup.
A five-year gap between the last two World Cups – plus Covid-19-related issues – made it difficult for teams to plan for this one in advance, but they can start preparing for the next one immediately. In India’s case, this starts from November 17 against New Zealand in Jaipur.
Gaurav Sundararaman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo