The IPL has witnessed some extraordinary performances since its inception in 2008. The ongoing season is no exception, of course. While it is always great to see a young talent explode, it is also reassuring to witness an experienced hand steer his team towards success. As invaluable as the players are the members of the support staff, whose job it is to ensure that the stars – young and old – stay match-fit, physically as well as mentally.
The days when the Delhi franchise would struggle to get its act right on and off the field, are long gone. Delhi Capitals are reaping the rewards of meticulous homework and preparation, which in turn have led to performance. Ricky Ponting, the coach, must take a lot of the credit for the franchise’s record in this tournament. He has created a setting in which the senior and junior players have bonded beautifully. Shreyas Iyer, the captain, is not as experienced as some of the members of his side, but he has done an outstanding job as batsman and skipper so far. Had someone claimed that the team would do so well in the early stages of the league despite a proven performer like Ajinkya Rahane sitting on the bench, no one would have believed it. Rahane has played only one game at the time of writing this piece, and his inclusion in the playing XI will only enhance his team’s prospects, which are already bright. They did lose to Mumbai Indians last Sunday, but I have no doubt that they will come hard at their opponents in the matches to follow.
The Mumbai Indians, who are heading the points table at the time of writing this piece, seem a certainty for the Playoffs. The side has witnessed a fair bit of attrition of late, but its core is intact – Rohit Sharma, the captain, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah. The team owes its success to its support-staff, which has taken good care of the team’s core. I do feel that it is time to give someone like Suryakumar Yadav an opportunity at the highest level. He has it in him to succeed.
If on one hand, Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians are doing well, the most consistent team in the history of the IPL seems to be floundering. While it is true that Chennai Super Kings are missing Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh, they haven’t done their prospects any good, by being inconsistent. The senior players are struggling to get into a rhythm and the junior lot isn’t standing up to be counted, for now. Having said that, it would be extremely unwise to write them off. A combined effort by the players and support-staff, on and off the field respectively, will enable them to recover. It remains to be seen how they handle the pressure they are under at the moment.
A look back at the top teams in the IPL over the seasons, suggests that the key is to strike a balance between experience and youth. Both cannot click in isolation. Both need each other to thrive. This is precisely what Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals have achieved. For years, Chennai Super Kings have been treated as a yardstick by other sides in the IPL. The time has come for roles to be reversed. Chennai Super Kings would do well to study the methods of both sides and look to emulate them in the days to follow.