IPL: Paying for the best

IPL: Paying for the best
Australian batsmen Steve Smith (L) and Shane Watson (R) celebrate after hitting the winning runs to defeat New Zealand in the 2015 Cricket World Cup final in Melbourne on March 29, 2015.

James Faulkner is one of the better finishers in limited overs cricket and he was up against Mitchell Johnson of the Kings XI Punjab.

Just over a week earlier, he had demolished his Australian teammate.

But now he had a target and he thought he had to connect, he thought he had to run and, as we often see in sport, the pressure of the result infiltrated the mind.

The calm mind is most dangerous, the turbulent mind is more frequent and more prone to failure.

Faulkner's mistake was not in missing the ball, that happens because the bowler is skilled too, but in following a scrambled mind that told him he must run after missing the ball.

That is what I like about the super over.

It doesn't only test your skill but challenges you to stay calm and give your skill the best possible chance of surfacing. It is like the footballer taking a penalty in a shoot-out as opposed to one in normal play.

The skill on both occasions is the same but it is indecision and a scrambled mind that causes him to miss in a shoot-out.

And so, you see, it isn't only a one over cricket match but so much more. It tests a cricketer differently; it allows another dimension to sport.

It was interesting that each of the eight players involved in the super over was an overseas cricketer.

The decision to go with the overseas players, with both bat and ball, was taken on either side by a group that included a very senior Indian cricketer.

They took a dispassionate call and picked the players most likely to win a game.

But it shouldn't surprise people that this was the case because at the auction, franchise owners look for specialist skills that they may not find in the more competitive pool of the best Indian players.

The overseas players are the best from around the world and they are picked to play the big roles.

The pool of Indian fast bowlers, for example, is growing but doesn't yet have a large enough quality base.

Umesh Yadav might get the ball at Kolkata Knight Riders and maybe Ashish Nehra at Chennai Super Kings but, because that is in short supply, franchises invest in overseas fast bowlers.

Hence the presence of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Chris Morris, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, James Faulkner, Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter Nile, Trent Boult and Tim Southee.

The seam bowling all-rounder is another that is rare to spot in India and so, the interest in Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera and Faulkner. Even Darren Sammy, Sean Abbott, Albie Morkel and David Wiese.

There is a third category that could find diminishing utility - the big-hitting opener who grabs at the match early in the contest.

Brendon McCullum, David Warner, Dwayne Smith, Chris Gayle and Aaron Finch are among the best, but as a more aggressive lot of younger Indian players emerges, the likes of Mayank Agarwal, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson and maybe Deepak Hooda if he can expand his offering, that category will become relatively less attractive.

With almost any other combination of teams you would probably have seen an Indian player in the super over. It would have been a good examination. A couple of super overs more will be good!

tabla@sph.com.sg


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