Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan | Photo: ANI
The fireworks have started, the cricketing-wise that is! The IPL, perhaps even internationally popular now, has got underway and with it the slam-bang version of the game. Undoubtedly it is the nature of the game now that has caught the imagination of the people, young and old. Unfortunate that the pandemic has forced the live attendance away, leaving the stadium stands throw a blank stare at the performers, both the batsmen and bowlers. But that has not in anyway pegged down the performance or the enthusiasm of the newcomers and the established. One of the biggest advantage of an event of this nature is that it brings together some of the world's best talents (read exciting talents) to mingle with the Indians, some of them aspiring to make their presence felt. What it does or has done is the story of current success for Indian cricket in that the country now has a pool of talent blooming with elan and composure. Cricket now, particularly in this shorter version, is no longer a waiting game but one where action begins swiftly with the balls flying to all parts of the gallery being the main highlight. How time flies!
There was an era, not long back, when cricket was a leisurely paced affair. Fans too enjoyed it that way. It did not matter that the scoreboard at times stood still. Even the dour batting or better still the defence-play interested deep-rooted fans. The techniques and temperament of the player were the key points to watch out for more than perhaps flamboyance. Time passed, impatience grew not among the players but the spectators who began to yearn for action, more like the excitement that a football match would bring about. As it happened the thinkers and decision makers of the sport came up the limited over version and sport of cricket entered the throes of a revolution, so to say. Cricket's character changed. It was not only about how a batsman played a ball or how a bowler delivered but how much the players could bring about explosive action. As they say, the ball is there to be hit and cricket today is all about how to keep the ball stay hit!
Not long ago one would hear descriptions of a sizzling cover drive or a earth-hugging straight drive not to forget the hooks and cuts. Commentators and critics would rave about a batsman's technique in executing these glorious strokes. There would be never ending discussions on the beauty and silkiness of the batting actions. The excitement then lay in such moments. Those display of techniques and style classified players and their merit in addition to the bulky contributions that their bats bring to their respective teams. Bowlers too had their share under the sun and yes, it was a different ball game. Fast forward to current times and what have we! Reverse sweeps, helicopter shots that former India skipper M S Dhoni made famous, switch hits and dill scoops that Sri Lankan cricket Tilakaratne Dilsan specialised in his time. They have all become cricketing strokes in the arrival of the limited over version of cricket and lately they have crept into the traditional Test cricket too to add spice.
So much so we now have a brigade of youngsters who have begun to make a mark with a fearless approach unmindful of the opponent's reputation or record. Not only do they give the impression of enjoying what they do, be it the reverse flick or helicopter shot or the scoop, notwithstanding the high risk-element involved but bring about an infectious impact on the team-mates as well! One who comes to mind immediately is Rishab Pant, the much talked about wicket keeper-bat of the Indian team. As he showed in the recent England series, Pant was not averse to try all the risky strokes against some of the best English pacemen like James Anderson and Jofra Archer and what is more, leave them in disbelief. His flair for big hitting may look unorthodox but seemed on par with the demands of current cricket! Pant proved that with his winsome knocks and his good show has now found him in a new role as captain of the Delhi Capitals side in the IPL. What an opportunity for him to model himself as another Dhoni!
Not far behind is this 22-year old wicket-keeper batsman Ishan Kishan from Jharkand. He had for long been knocking on the doors of national selection and when opportunity came in the T-20 series against England, Ishan not only grabbed it with both hands but came out with flying colours on his debut, getting adjudged man of the match! His half century studded with sixes and fours helped India to chase the winning target with ease and instantly stamped his class. One could add to this list some one like Suryakumar Yadav, not exactly young at 30 but craving for a place under the sun for long, thanks to his huge batting talent. Yadav announced his arrival in international cricket with a stunning six off Archer in Ahmedabad. What could one say of such readymade cricket products! Interestingly one common link with all these huge talents is the IPL. It is there that they get matured and get cut out for the big moments. And this list will not end. Soon to be heard, among others, will be perhaps somebody like the Kerala-born Karnataka player Devdutt Padikkal, who made waves in the recent Vijay Hazare tournament with four consecutive centuries and was the tournament's hero along with Prithvi Shaw, another batting-machine of rare splendour. It is cricket's luck that such high quality talents keep sprouting so regularly.