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IPL breaks new ground in talent spotting

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A rain-interrupted finals denied the Gujarat Titans (GT) back-to-back titles, with Ravindra Jadeja snatching it for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the last couple of balls of the tournament. In terms of edge of the seat thrills, 2023 IPL had it all. GT dominated the finals for long parts due to the splendid batting of Sai Sudharshan.

Monday blues seemed set to extend deep into the night, thanks to a Chennai boy who made his mark for Alwarpet CC, and then got spotted through the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) route before an injury to Kane Williamson opened the door for him in the GT batting line-up.

Many CSK fans probably share that exasperation, even a secret pride, watching Sai Sudharshan (GT), Shahrukh Khan (Punjab Kings), Natarajan (Sunrisers Hyderabad), Washington Sundar (Sunrisers Hyderabad) or Varun Chakravarthy (Kolkata Knight Riders) or any of the 12 TN lads plying their trade in other franchises.

‘Marketisation’ pitch

In addition to the soon-to-be $10-billion valuation, glitz and telecast nous of the IPL, this ‘marketisation’ of talent spotting and promotion may catapult the IPL into stratospheric levels. Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) and its various grass-roots activities earlier monopolised TN talent spotting and promotion but now IPL auctions — featuring 10 teams, each vying to build their best possible roster — compete in this talent spotting and promotion business.

Take Mumbai Indians (MI) for instance. They have spotted and promoted champion cricketers – Suryakumar Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah to name only the biggest stars. Now imagine, this talent machine and mechanics apply to each of the 10 franchises, their hinterlands and wherever a kid plays in our cricket crazy country.

Team philosophy

Each of the 10 IPL teams has a philosophy guiding its team composition. GT’s batting line-up is dominated by India talent – Saha, Gill, Vijay Shankar, Sai Sudharshan, and its bowling is built on the two Afghan spinning whizzes, an Irish pacer, Shami and the almost forgotten Mohit Sharma. CSK’s batting currently appears to be built on a balance of India and overseas players.

Its bowling relies on Deepak Chahar and Deshpande to do just enough so that the spinners and the slinger could stifle the opponent after the Power Play. Take Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Rajasthan Royals (RR) or Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) – each of them take a singular approach for winning games. Some philosophies have succeeded (CSK’s ‘daddy army’) and some have struggled (RCB’s star studded top-order batting).

Back room support

But marketisation of talent spotting and promotion is not the panacea for all ills plaguing talent management. CSK’s large back room staff, we are told, backs players to the hilt, giving them not just the odd chance, but a reasonably long run as allowed by the rough and tumble of the modern day.

Their 2023 squad has rich evidence that their way works – Jadeja, Rayudu, Dube and Ajinkya Rahane came up with cameos and held their nerve when the chips were down in the finals. Patheerana and Theekshana showed that they belong. Gaikwad and Conway showed that old fashioned batsmanship still has takers.

Perhaps the strongest endorsement for the CSK way came from the rival captain, Hardik Pandya, who hinted that GT were built on the same lines as CSK. Dhoni came and went first ball but not before taking off the bails in a flash to send Gill packing (bowler was Jadeja). IPL’s juxtaposition of the glitzy with the timeless and its complementing talent (spotting and promotion) game make it a compelling watch, well worth waiting for.

The writer is Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode



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