As much as we’d like to deny, the unhindered truth is that, days post its conclusion, we still find ourselves drowned in all-things-IPL-2020, unable to move on and zap back to reality. This drowning has given birth to excessive thoughts which, in turn, has made us raise a few ‘Burning Questions’.
The general burning questions
Should players be allowed to hand-in mid-season transfer requests?
David Miller, Mohammad Nabi, Chris Lynn and Mujeeb, four of the finest T20 players in the entire world, made a combined total of 4 appearances across IPL 2020. Given franchises exercise a ludicrous amount of control over players in almost everything, is there a case for the cricketers to hand in mid-season trade (or) transfer requests to get more game-time? No franchise would agree to it, for they would love to have strong depth in their bench, but would it not be fun if players had the leverage to exit the club mid-season for their own personal gains?
How about a ninth ‘Board President’s XI’ team to give exposure to the younger players?
Cricket Australia did this in their Domestic One-Day competition where they put together a ‘CA XI’ team which comprised ‘state rookies and members of the National Performance Squad’. Come to think of it, wouldn’t it be cool for the BCCI to do something similar in the IPL? Put together a ‘Board President’s XI’ filled with youngsters and fringe players and have them play each franchise once. Don’t consider them a part of the IPL; just give them 8 games of exposure. This wouldn’t overburden teams either, given it’s just one extra match in which they, too, can field second-string sides. A win-win situation?
Should there be specialist third umpires appointed - across cricket?
Clear deflections missed, soft signals ignored and Ultra-Edge spikes misread - it is hard to think of any other tournament in recent memory with so many erroneous TV Umpire calls. Given technology, as things stand, is operated by umpires who largely do not have a great understanding of its nuances, is it time to have ‘specialist’ Third Umpires? Who are specialist Third Umpires? Experts who understand both the sport and the technology involved in DRS inside out; the ones, say, who are skillful and smart enough to three-dimensionally analyze a situation and figure out where an Ultra-Edge spike is coming from, rather than assuming every spike to be an edge. The standards of third umpiring in IPL 2020 was appalling, to say the least.
Is technology being under-used?
Along the same lines, is cricket, for one, criminally underusing technology? Technology is not used to determine short runs, potential waist-high no-balls et.al and there were multiple instances this season which indicated little moments like these could potentially define matches. If the TV Umpire can be given the power to check front-foot no-balls and ‘foot-touching-the-rope’ why not empower him/her completely and give them the authority to overrule every erroneous call made by the on-field officials? It can’t be too hard, after all.
Are Indian captains caring too much and shouldering excessive responsibility with the bat?
KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer, despite being inherently aggressive batsmen, all boasted abominably low strike-rates in IPL 2020 and there was one commonality between the trio: they all captained their respective franchises. In the name of shouldering responsibility, each of the three batters shelved their natural games and resorted to a ‘bat long, bat slow’ approach which, ironically, ended up hurting their sides. Is it time captains - specifically Indian captains - stop caring too much about their franchises, take more risks and start expressing themselves a bit more - even at the cost of potentially throwing their wicket away? From the outside, at least, one does get the feel that each of these three aforementioned batsmen have been held back by the burden of captaincy, which has had a bizarre effect on their style of batting.
Is opening the batting the easiest - and best - slot to bat in, in T20 cricket?
Robin Uthappa, Ben Stokes, Steve Smith, Nitish Rana, Wriddhiman Saha - was it a mere coincidence that all these batters looked at their very best when they opened the batting? At some point or the other in the season, all these batters - okay, barring Stokes - struggled perennially in the middle yet, somehow, registered their best knocks up top. The likes of Stoinis and Kishan, too, looked twice the players they were, up top, despite doing a great job down the order. Even young Priyam Garg started as well as he ever had all tournament, in Qualifier 2, when he was sent to open. So is opening the batting, after all, the easiest thing to do in T20 cricket? Big if true.
The franchisee burning questions
Is it time for KKR to finally move on from Sunil Narine?
Second season in a row with an economy over 7.5 and an average over 34 with the ball; second season in a row with dwindling returns with the bat - are KKR heading to a cul de sac by expecting too much from a seemingly washed out veteran in the form of Sunil Narine? The x-factor Narine once possessed with the ball seems to have vanished and he, largely, looks to be focused on ‘keeping the runs down’ rather than pick wickets, which he now seems incapable of doing. With Varun CV almost emerging as Narine’s natural successor, is it time for KKR to let go the West Indian mystery spinner whose bowling is no longer a mystery?
Is MS Dhoni’s extended stay a bane for CSK?
MS Dhoni broke the internet prior to CSK’s final league game versus KXIP by announcing that he would turn up next season, but could the move be counter-productive to the franchise’s future? With him nearing 40, and with his batting deteriorating at the rate of knots, Dhoni, if anything, will only delay CSK’s transition by an extra year by turning up to play in IPL 2021, given there will be no short-term or long-term benefits for the franchise in having him in the team. With the mega auction still a year away, Dhoni stepping away would perhaps aid the team more, for they could use IPL 2021 as a free-hit, knowing very well they are in transition and they have nothing to lose. Even in the case of the mega auction happening in a few months' time, Dhoni stepping away would perhaps do more good for the Super Kings.
Will a change in captaincy really make a difference for RCB?
Gambhir hit the nail on the head when he stated that Virat Kohli was lucky to still have the captain’s armband, but would Kohli’s resignation make any difference to the franchise - at all? For RCB’s woes are not something that can be fixed by as simple a change as replacing the captain. The management dropped the ball in the mega auction prior to IPL 2018 and every problem the side is currently facing is a direct consequence of the missteps they took three years ago. A change in captaincy might be a step in the right direction, but that is far from the only revamp that needs to happen within the club. The next mega auction, one feels, will decide the fate of RCB.