Fitness and adaptability are the keys; how about the Dhoni Cup? – DTVHINDI


In about a week, two sets of players, many of whom were engaged in the IPL, will be squaring off at the World Test Championship final in England. Whichever team — India or Australia — does worse will face one line of criticism. It will be said that playing the IPL so close to the Test final was a mistake, and that players did not have sufficient time to acclimatise themselves.

But such thinking, plausible till recently, doesn’t hold true anymore. The modern cricketer is a model of adaptability, and can go from format to format, from centre to centre, or from continent to continent without his game suffering. This is partly owing to superior fitness and partly because playing competitive cricket (in any format) is good preparation anyway.

Most international series are played these days without first class matches in the build-up. In 1986, India played before the first Test in England, by 2002 it was down to two, and by 2007 there were none at all.

Rock star

The modern cricketer, as a colleague put it, is like a rock star, touring 300 days in a year, performing at various countries and venues, adapting their lists and styles to each one. Fitness and adaptability are the key.

England’s leading batsman Joe Root thought the IPL this year, where he didn’t get to play much, was good preparation for the Ashes. “I think I’ll come back ready and excited to dive back into Test cricket,” he said in an interview.

When Jonny Bairstow prepared for England’s home series last year by playing in the IPL, he faced criticism. Yet he had a great run of four centuries in six Test matches thereafter.

It may be that batters find the adjustment easier to make. Bowlers conscious of ‘Test match length’ as opposed to a ‘T20 length’ might need to work harder. Then again, maybe not. India’s bowlers are an experienced lot and have been making changes to their approach regularly now.

It is a cliché in sport that the greats of any generation would be greats in any other. But in this one regard — adaptability — the moderns score more points.

When the first T20 World Cup was played in 2007, India’s top players, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and others didn’t think it was for them; it was seen as a bit of a hit-and-giggle tournament, mainly for youngsters who wanted some fun. Next year, the IPL was played for the first time, and everything changed. Before a tour of the West Indies later, Ravi Shastri even went so far as to say that it would be good training ground for the IPL.

Face of IPL

This year’s IPL final was about the waning of one star, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and the flourishing of another, Shubhman Gill. In many ways, Dhoni is the IPL, the face of a tournament and everything it stands for, from the cricket to the elements beyond. The pan-Indian fan response has been amazing for someone who quit international cricket four years ago.

Perhaps the time has come to rename the IPL Trophy and call it the M.S. Dhoni Trophy. Dhoni has won it enough number of times, has influenced the course of the tournament often enough, and is probably the greatest white-ball captain ever.

He may or may not be around next year — he himself is not sure — with age (he will be 42) and fitness being the main concerns. The IPL being the centre of experimentation in the game, Dhoni might emerge as cricket’s first non-playing captain. Or remain a wicketkeeper and conduct operations from behind the stumps, something he has been doing so well for so many years. He is still a marketing man’s favourite, and CSK might use him even more creatively.

Pleasing and effective

Gill, currently the face — a clean-shaven one unlike most teammates — of Indian cricket is an all-format player both pleasing and effective, the ideal combination for a batter. There is a calmness about him that is not unlike Dhoni’s, and a wide-angled view that augurs well for the future.

As the players change clothes and formats without missing a step, India know they have a batting unit in good form, and will have to decide whether to play the second spinner. Or the extra batsman. They will have to think outside the box. Ishan Kishan as wicketkeeper? Jaydev Unadkat for variety in fast bowling? Good days ahead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *