Can IPL help India win the T20 World Cup?
With a few IPL-style minor tweaks to the rules, the T20 World Cup will be, without a doubt, in Mahendra Singh Dhoni's hands come October.
India will not win the 2012 T20 World Cup.
This is not the pessimist in me speaking. It's cold, hard reality that the IPL frenzied masses (and occasionally, the-should-know-better commentator) ignore. If the last two T20 World Cups were any indication, India will make it to past the preliminary stages but will not make it to the knockout stage. The shocking fact is that India have not, since 2009, won a single game in the Super-Eights stage of the tournament, having lost all six so far. This time as well, in Sri Lanka, India is likely to beat at least Afghanistan and make it to the Super Eights stage before going out of the tournament.
The situation is not much better with T20Is in general.
As Cricinfo's statsguru shows, in T20Is since the start of the IPL, India's win-loss ratio is less than one, putting it just above the West Indies for win loss ratios among major cricketing nations.
One possible excuse that could be offered is that the last T20 World Cups have happened in alien conditions – a traditional sub-continental malady. This does not hold water for two reasons – both Sri Lanka and Pakistan have at least made the semis of the last two, with Pakistan having won once and Sri Lanka being the losing finalists once. Ironically, the home teams in fact failed to make it to the knockouts in both the T20 World Cups.
This excuse also ignores the fact that India's only T20 World Cup win has come in South Africa.
How did the first champions of T20 end up with the second worst T20 record in less than five years after that triumph?
This seems all the more puzzling since the IPL attracts far more of the top T20 players from around the world than any other domestic T20 league, not to mention the fact that it is also perhaps the best paying.
Given the galaxy of names that it often touted as the reason to watch the IPL, one would expect that it features the highest quality of cricket and prepares its players as the blazing inferno does steel.
Clearly, it does not. The reasons could range from fatigue and staleness to an over-dependence on foreign and aging Indian stars who don't play T20 cricket anyway, but the fact of the matter is that India's performance in T20s since the IPL has plummeted horribly.
It should have been evident as far as back as 2009 when the first edition of the Champions League happened in India that the IPL teams, for all their “stars”, glitz and glamorous owners, were not the best cricketing teams on show. Not a single IPL team made it to the knockouts.
Naturally, this exposed the IPL's claim of being the best T20 League in the world so for the next edition, the rules were changed to allow the (by a long distance) richer IPL teams to keep their overseas players in return for paying off the teams which the overseas players were robbed from.
After this huge rule change which allows those with big purses a better shot at winning, IPL teams have enjoyed much greater success with the Chennai Super Kings winning it twice and atleast one other IPL team making it to the semis.
Far from showing off the quality of the players in the IPL teams, the Champions League has only shown us that IPL team owners one, will change the rules to suit their commercial interests and two, do not care a fig about the Indian cricket team.
While the average Indian fan clutches his or head in despair and can't understand why their team doesn't seem to be winning anything anymore, the likes of Srinivasan, Ambani and Shah Rukh Khan laugh all the way to the bank.
But, maybe it's our fault – a fault of perception.
We've been taught to believe, and in hindsight rather foolishly so, that the best in people always emerges when rules are made and applied equally to everyone. So we go through the rigmarole of entrance tests, placements, job interviews, obey laws willingly and other such deeply pointless things while seeing little or no improvement in our lives believing that “merit” is indeed rewarded. On the other hand, those who bend, bypass and break rules seem to enjoy all the best things in life. Anil Ambani will never go to jail for any crime, Vijay Mallya will keep his yachts and not be taxed, and Sharad Pawar will not lose a single hair on his already balding head over the fate of any thousands of farmers in the country. We've been taught, and needlessly so, that all these are bad things.
Winning is the only thing counts. Actually, winning is the only thing. It should be a truth self-evident that all the other things which people claim gives them “meaning” in their lives are the creations of delusional losers. Good and bad, fair and unfair matter not if you win.
If we really want to win the T20 World Cup, we should start applying some of the lessons we've learnt from the IPL. I'm not talking of lessons learnt with bat and ball or on the pitch and grass. The IPL's most important lessons are found in the boardroom, and there are really only two of them.
1. Play to your strengths. If your strength is money, make sure that money will determine who wins and who loses.
2. Rules are man-made. Men make them and men can unmake them. Self-interest is always the best justification to make and unmake rules. For how to ensure your self-interest is also the self-interest of others, see 1.
If Mr. Srinivasan and co are reading this, I would humbly suggest that they apply the important learnings of IPL to the ICC and bring in the following important rule changes in the T20.
1. Any player who played in the IPL automatically gets a right to play for India in the T20 World Cup.
2. In exchange, the home country gets some money.
With these minor tweaks, the T20 World Cup will be ours come October.
(PS: I wrote about the Royals last time, and they've not won a game since. I had a piece written out about Dale Steyn yesterday, and yes, the inevitable happened. I realise now that I seem to be the putting a “goat mouth”. I think I'm going to start writing about the awesomeness of Delhi Daredevils from now on.)
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