Monday, May 20, 2024

IPL over, Australia beckons: And the riddle of Rohit Sharma only gets trickier





There was hardly a surprise that the best team in the Indian Premier League 2020 waltzed away with the title in the desert sands of the United Arab Emirates. It was indeed a glorious performance by the Mumbai Indians franchise to claim its fifth crown, making them only the second team after Chennai to mount a successful title defence.

Organising the event without a glitch in these troubled times is indeed a feather in the cap for the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Myriads of doubts were raised when the BCCI took the call to hold the 13th IPL in the UAE, right from the prohibitive costs to poor ground conditions to feasibility of such an extended bio-bubble.

That the BCCI and the IPL governing council pulled it off is nothing short of commendable. Sky-high television viewing ratings are testimony to the fact how the sports-starved people lapped up the event.

IPL, though, has left a very different head-ache for BCCI and its selection committee, most importantly the leadership issue which simply refuses to die down.

Rohit Sharma successfully leading the Mumbai outfit in their final three games, notching a 50+ score to boot in the final, yet again raises questions about his non-inclusion in both the limited over squads. The Mumbai skipper has been added only to the Test squad, where his place in the playing eleven is far from certain, yet again defies common sense. Or is it that Rohit will be slotted in at number four in the final three Test matches after Virat Kohli returns to India for the birth of his first child? And don the captaincy mantle as well ahead of Ajinkya Rahane?

Most intriguing since Rohit is expected to be present in Australia right from the start of the tour so that he can complete the mandatory isolation requirements before joining the action.

Then there is the fact that the two highest Indian run-scorers – Ishan Kishan (516) and Surya Kumar Yadav (480) – of the winning franchise have failed to find a place on the chartered flight to Australia. Since there was a need to add a second wicket-keeper to the 50-over squad, may be young Kishan could have been preferred to Sanju Samson, who was there any way for the 20-over internationals.

At 27, Yadav continues to await his turn, though the batting star won many a heart during the final by his timely sacrifice in favour of his captain who was batting with a half-century to his name.

Add to that the question of a replacement for the injured Varun Chakravarthy. Hyderabad’s left-arm medium pacer T Natarajan was handed the ticket making him the fifth seam bowler in the squad with negligible chance of getting a look-in for either of the three T20s.

Ravichandran Ashwin, who is in the Test squad anyway, may have been the better option though young Punjab tweakers Ravi Bishnoi and Murugan Ashwin could not have been too far behind.

Kuldeep Yadav keeps his place in the 50-over squad despite being benched following a poor run in the five games for Kolkata. His lone wicket in the IPL 2020 would have hardly endeared him with the fans but the five wise men of BCCI thought quite differently.

That the selection committee is itself up for an overhaul is a different matter altogether. Terms of three of the Sunil Joshi-led panel has ended and BCCI has already called for fresh applications.

Nonetheless, BCCI has plenty to be pleased about, especially the unparalleled success of IPL 2020, which seems to have encouraged Cricket Australia to make the brave move of allowing a limited number of spectators for the India games.

Ravi Kant Singh is a sports writer, analyst and broadcaster since 1984, having covered a wide spectrum of sports—Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, FIFA World Cup, Cricket World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy, to name a few.

While working for ESPN Star Sports, he was a regular commentator for NBA, tennis, golf and many a major soccer leagues of Europe and South America. He has also pushed the cart of new home-grown leagues in India: Pro Kabaddi and Hockey India league, being involved with both since launch.


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