The several Fantasy sites that have mushroomed to cater to the millions of fans have brought an entire new dimension to the followers of the game. In India, cricket is a religion and everyone associated with the game feels they are experts. Therefore, the popularity of being able to select one’s side and competing against others in an open forum to win a great bonanza is just the ingredient for thousands to come to the table.
The participation fees of these fantasy sites are quite affordable and so the young and old, to keep their interest in what has become the popular evening entertainment amongst family and friends, are now all part of the game. In cricket terms “on the ball”.
There is definitely an element of skill in the selection of ones’ dream eleven as one has to balance one’s selection taking into consideration the weightage of each player and the total spend allowed. The wonderful thing that has happened is that many young and still unheard of cricketers have also gained fan following and recognition as well.
The IPL 2021 in the UAE has once again brought to light the immense depth of talent that Indian cricket has at its beck and call. The performance of youngsters such as Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rahul Tripathi, Devdutt Padikkal, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Venkatesh Iyer, Arshdeep Singh, Chetan Sakariya, Umran Malik have been heartening to watch. These young aspiring cricketers seem to have immense confidence in the way they bat or bowl and interact with some of the best in the world. They all seem to emit an “attitude” that one has never been seen before in Indian cricket. All are trying hard to make a mark and to establish their intention very forcefully.
The IPL is just a precursor to the T20 World Cup, which will get underway with the qualifying matches on October 17, 2021. India will start its campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on October 24. Therefore, India will need to be at its best from the very first match. A defeat for any one of the two sides would be a mental upset that would take a lot to revive them from.
The Indian squad has already been selected for the tournament along with three permitted reserves. However, the window is still open as the last day to make a change to the squad is on Sunday, the 10th of October 2021. The IPL has given the Indian selectors a wonderful opportunity to relook at the squad selected. This may be unfair to the players who have been named in the team but one has to look at it in the correct perspective. One has to understand that due to the packed cricket schedule of the World T20 immediately preceding the IPL, there is no time or hope for players to regain form or to get match fit from injuries. A professional approach to have the best in-form Indian players representing them is the right way forward.
India has a golden opportunity to include the likes of Venkatesh Iyer, who has shown not only his skill as a batter but also as a useful all-rounder. Similarly, the terrific form displayed by Rituraj Gaikwad and Devdutt Padikkal as openers, Harshal Patel as a smart T20 bowler and Yuzvendra Chahal as a leg-spinner are prime candidates to be looked at.
Watching the young Jammu & Kashmir and Sunrisers Hyderabad fast bowler Umran Malik bowl, reminded one of the famous Pakistan bowler, Waqar Younis. He is another potential India prospect in the making and one who could clock the 100-miles-an-hour speed shortly.
With just a few days left to decide, one hopes that the Indian selectors and the think-tank that now includes Mahendra Singh Dhoni discuss the issue and review the possibility of a change in the Indian T20 WC side quite seriously.
A World Cup is always a very important trophy to clinch. India has not had an ICC Trophy success since 2014. The Indian team is looked at as the best in the world in all formats of the game. Their performance in the individual series against every country they have played recently has been superb. However, their cupboard is bare of any major trophy for a while now.
The Indian players are mentally, physically and tactically in the groove. They should now be very familiar with the conditions in the UAE, both on and off the field.
A grand opportunity for India, however, they may need to tweak their side to be more competitive and effective.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)