It was 3rd Feb 2008. India vs Australia. Brisbane.
Manoj Tiwary was the latest debutant in Indian cricket. He went on to bat at no 5 with India having lost Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, and Gautam Gambhir cheaply. And Brett Lee was spitting fire among with usual suspects Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Bracken.
I still remember his 2 runs off 16 balls. Brett Lee peppered him with pace and short balls. Tiwary had no clue what to do. To play or not; to duck or pull. There was a very evident lack of confidence. His clean bowled came as no surprise.
As I said, it was early 2008. A couple of months later, IPL happened. And the cricket changed in India. Just like that.
Being a 90’s kid, I still remember my early winter mornings whenever India toured Australia. Setting up an alarm of 5.30 to see the first session of the test match before I went to school. If you get half an hour late in switching on the TV, one always feared if India will be 70/3. And most of the time they were. And Rahul Dravid was trying to bail out the team.
There was a visible lack of belief in the team and its members because they were outside their home conditions and playing the mighty Australians. Especially the batsmen. A complete generation was pampered by flat pitches and small boundaries used to scoring huge runs against local bowlers. Hence, the tours to Australia, England, South Africa became difficult even before they started.
Fast forward, today, India played Australia in a T20 International. The playing 11 had direct exports of IPL- Sanju Samson, Washington Sundar, T Natarajan.
Sanju Samson made an enterprising 20s.
Washington Sundar bowling figures were none for 16 in 4 overs.
T Natarajan took 3 wickets on his debut.
And that is what IPL has done to Indian cricket.
IPL has become a de-facto route for the Indian players to get into national reckoning. They play for their states in Syed Mushtaq Trophy when nobody is watching apart from some very keen IPL scouts. Then they get sold for crores (or bargains) in the mega auction. Then they play in IPL, locking horns with the biggest of the names. You prove yourself; you get selected. Or you go back to the drawing board.
Take the example of Sanju Samson. He first played IPL in 2013. The feedback was good but he was not a finished product. He went back to the domestic circuit, scored tons of runs, and came back to IPL. Last 2 seasons he has played magnificently. And today, against the Australians; it didn’t look as he was out of place. He was very much a part of the gang. The big grounds, (very) hostile opponent, different pitches- these things didn’t seem to faze him. And this is what IPL has done to Indian cricket.
I firmly believe IPL has done wonders for Indian cricket. Yes, it took some time but like all good things; the process was important. IPL will always be a glamorous tournament for its critics but for Indian cricket, what it has done is something that people do not acknowledge enough.