Last year at the D Y Patil, Jacques Kallis smacked me straight over my head for a six. He was of course part of the Kolkata Knight Riders team while I was part of the many fortunate net bowlers that day. Every time I ran up to bowl, I was completely aware of the fact that Wasim Akram was watching. Bowling alongside someone like Brett Lee was something I only dreamed about. This year, instead of being on the field, I sit behind a computer writing about my experience. C’est la vie, eh!
During that session, the only bowler who was bowling at full tilt was Brett Lee. He did not bowl much, but during his short burst he hit a certain player on the helmet, in a really painful place and also dismissed him. Uncomfortable against pace, this batsman went to the spinners’ net and started smacking the ball around. On the other hand, Kallis batted for quite a while against the quickies. Not until his shirt was drenched with sweat did he take off his gloves. Some of the Indian contingent however, seemed quite lackadaisical. A couple of players came out, ran a little, stretched a little and were not seen after that.
I saw Wasim Akram advising a young left arm seamer about his bowling action and follow through. The bowler heard and went back to bowl and that was the end of that. When does he work on what Akram told him to? A correction or a change in one’s action does not happen overnight. The experience the seniors share is no doubt, valuable. But without enough time, that is exactly what it remains for these young guys; an experience.
Even though the IPL has seen players of different nations playing together, the fielding standards continue to remain surprisingly different. Undoubtedly athleticism is something genetic and maybe a little culture influenced. But basic catching techniques should be the same or can at least be shared across the globe. So why then are catches being put down by the young Indian guys? Given the humidity, their hands are probably sweaty. But so are those of all the foreign imports. Yet they seem to hold on to their catches well enough. Is there a difference in the way they practice?
No one expects the young guys to perform outstandingly. But the self imposed pressure and the belief that a great performance at the carnival will give them a chance to play for India are leaving these young guys a bit jittery. The only precaution that can be taken is enough practice. The question remains, does this cramped schedule leave enough time? Playing for so many teams means so many coaches. Who are they supposed to listen to? Or are these two months simply about having fun without worrying too much about the cricketing basics?
That practice session ended with me having a few sandwiches, a bottle of Gatorade and the feeling of ‘wow, did I just bowl to KKR?’ But more importantly, it made me realize that cricket is not fun and games. It’s hard work. So while it is easy to question the players’ intent and technique or lack of it, the solutions are hidden in strenuous, painstaking hard work. So, is every Indian cricketer prepared to put in those hard yards required to become a great player? Or has the IPL instilled a sense of satisfaction in being a good enough player? When being able to do a bit of both batting and bowling earns you a higher price, then why bother with specializing? If an MBBS earned more than a heart surgeon, I wonder how many heart surgeons we would have. So much has been said about Sachin Tendullkar and the amount he practices. Makes one wonder, what if every member practiced that much? Would we have an army of Sachins? If only there were time for 10,000 hours of practice…