Friday, 12 April 2013

Not Very Indian Premier League



This post first appeared on Cricket Tadka

The Indian Premier league presents a point of statistical interest and intrigue. The teams in the fray seem conspicuous by a general lack of Indian skippers. Out of the nine teams battling it out for glory in this season of the Indian Premier League, five are being led by foreign recruits.

The four teams that are currently being captained by Indians are the Kolkata Knight Riders (Gautam Gambhir), Chennai Super Kings (Mahendra Singh Dhoni), Rajasthan Royals (Rahul Dravid) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (Virat Kohli). And for the remaining five, three are being captained by Sri Lankans and two by Australians.

Sri Lankan presence as regards captaincy in the league is as prominent as India’s. Kumar Sangakkara has been at the helm of affairs for the Hyderabad franchise (formerly Deccan Chargers) for quite some time and Mahela Jayawardene has been appointed as the Delhi Daredevils’ captain this season. And as Michael Clarke was ruled out for this season following an injury he picked up during the Border-Gavaskar trophy, the team management zeroed in on Angelo Mathews as their new captain. That makes him the fourth captain for the Pune team in three seasons, and the third Sri Lankan captain for this year’s IPL.

Adam Gilchrist has been retained as the Kings’ XI captain after he made it known during the latter part of last year that he would, in fact, play in this year’s edition of the IPL as well. He had earlier indicated that previous year’s IPL was his last. And for the Mumbai franchise, a new leader was found in Ricky Ponting, who was picked up only recently at the February auction. Interestingly, he has not featured in the IPL apart from the first season.

This is in stark contrast to the first season, where all the participating teams, barring Rajasthan royals, were led by Indian captains, Shane Warne being the exception. Interestingly, most of these Indian captains were icon players, who were not auctioned as there was a team from their city.

But in the very second edition of this gala event, teams started doing away with Indian leaders, and turned towards foreign shores, with Deccan Chargers and Kolkata Knight Riders turning to Adam Gilchrist and Brendon McCullum respectively for inspiration. DC’s move immediately fired, leading them straight to title ownership.

Is this a planned strategy to boost the teams’ chances? Or are the Indians (barring a few) not seen as capable enough to be leading their sides?

There seems to be logic behind not appointing foreign players as captains to keep more options available for team selection, as there is a restriction in terms of the number of overseas players that are allowed to feature in a given match. An overseas player as captain limits flexibility of any particular team in its team selection.

Regardless of such an obvious drawback, the teams are increasingly appointing foreign recruits (most of them time-tested leaders in their own right) to lead their squads, as this years’ list aptly suggests. And a cursory glance at the teams featuring an overseas player as their captain is sufficient to suggest that no particular Indian individual presents a strong case to be pitching for captaincy. And in teams that do possess such Indians, they are either unable to perform or are themselves wary of the entailing responsibilities and its effect on their performance.

Sehwag has made it clear that he does not wish to be burdened by the additional weight of captaincy on him, and hence has relinquished the position to be able to play more freely. So has Sachin, who gave up captaincy last year itself. Harbhajan was appointed full-time leader last year, and this year it is Ponting who will shoulder the responsibility.

And for the other three teams, Gilchrist has been leading the Kings Xi ever since he joined them in 2011, and there is no Indian in the squad who, at the moment, seems fit to lead them. Same is the case with Sangakkara, who has been captain for the Hyderabad since 2011. He also led the Punjab franchise in 2010. Matthews was appointed as a make do 
captain for the Pune warriors after Clarke was ruled out.

Nevertheless, it is evident from the maddening rush for international captains that the teams are eagerly chasing players who have led their national teams with élan (Sangakkara, Gilchrist, Ponting et al). Which in itself is an indication to the fact that domestic players with proven track record are never really in serious contention for leadership, even though there is no dearth of such individuals (Parthiv Patel, Dhawan, Manoj Tiwary to name a few).

True, a proven overseas captain might be more effective and popular than say, a domestic one. But does that mean there is a dearth of capable Indians? Not really. In fact, it makes the league multi-faceted. Plus, teams are here to win, not satiate Indian tastes. Not a matter of great concern if foreigners lead the existing franchises. What’s more, it adds an international touch to the league.

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