Since its inception, the Indian Premier League has always provided a platform for players to rub shoulders with the best and elevate their game in the process. A number of Indian as well as overseas players have taken big strides in their careers thanks to the T20 competition. But ever so often, the IPL also sees players lose their mojo. At times they bounce back quickly, at times they need a longer road to redemption.
And the ongoing 2022 edition of the IPL has thrown up several such stories. From David Warner and Kuldeep Yadav finding success with new teams, thanks to the faith placed in them by the management, to the likes of Venkatesh Iyer and Yashasvi Jaiswal struggling at the teams that retained them, it brings up an interesting discussion around the question of faith.
In September last year, David Warner was going through the lowest phase of his glittering IPL career. He started IPL 2021 as captain of Sunrisers Hyderabad but after a run of defeats, he was removed as skipper before being dropped from the playing XI, over the two separate legs of the tournament.
But now, eight months later, the highest overseas run-scorer in IPL history is back to being one of the top performers in the tournament. Against SRH, now his former team, he played a classy knock on Friday to guide Delhi Capitals to victory.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround for the 35-year-old. He had led the franchise to the IPL 2016 title, won the Orange Cap thrice, and racked up impressive numbers both as captain and batter over several years. But, in his own words, there was little communication from the management as both he and the team struggled last season.
However, he bounced back as only the greatest do. Warner helped Australia win their first T20 World Cup title and bagged the player of the tournament award, before starting to pile on the runs for Delhi Capitals in IPL 2022. Recruited for a steal by the franchise at Rs 6.25 crore, Warner has wasted no time in showing SRH what they are missing out on.
Another such case of resurgence has been that of Kuldeep Yadav. He is the second-highest wicket-taker in IPL 2022 at the moment, with 18 wickets in 10 games for Delhi Capitals.
Like Warner, Kuldeep has had a point to prove this season after a tough phase at Kolkata Knight Riders. He was signed by KKR in 2018 and picked 17 wickets for the franchise in that season. But what followed was a rapid decline for the left-arm wrist spinner.
He played just nine games in IPL 2019, five in 2020, and not a single one in 2021 after being sidelined due to injury mid-season. Kuldeep’s stock in the Indian team too kept falling during this period and his confidence seemed to be at an all-time low.
But with Delhi this season, the 27-year-old has once again emerged as one of the premier Indian spinners. He has revelled in the confidence shown in him by skipper Rishabh Pant and coach Ricky Ponting, and provided crucial breakthroughs for the team. More importantly, he seems to be enjoying his cricket again.
The flip side
While the likes of Warner and Kuldeep are enjoying stability and thriving, there are also those who are probably a bit disillusioned.
Kolkata Knight Riders made a remarkable comeback last season to reach the final, and one of the key architects of that turnaround was Venkatesh Iyer. The left-hander made everyone sit up and take notice of his talent by playing one match-winning knock after another.
The 27-year-old’s performances in IPL 2021 helped him make his ODI and T20I debuts soon after, with KKR also retaining him for Rs 8 crore. The left-hander’s price shot up 40 times within a span of one year and the franchise obviously saw him as a key player.
But after playing nine matches this season, Venkatesh was removed from the KKR playing XI. He began IPL 2022 as an opener before being dropped down the order, a role he played for the Indian team too, and was eventually benched. The left-hander struggled to time the ball and the team management evidently ran out of patience.
A similar case has been that of Shahrukh Khan. The 26-year-old right-hander has been a mainstay for domestic giants Tamil Nadu in white-ball cricket for the past two years. He scored an unbeaten 33 off 15 in the final of the 2021-’22 Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy, hitting a six off the last ball of the match to help his team win.
At the IPL 2022 mega auction, Khan was acquired by Punjab Kings for Rs 9 crore. However, after just 98 runs in seven matches, he was dropped and hasn’t featured in Punjab’s last three games.
In all these examples, though, the most curious one has to be that of Yashasvi Jaiswal. Like Venkatesh, he too is a retained player on the bench. But unlike Venkatesh, he didn’t get a considerable run before being sidelined.
The 20-year-old was retained by Rajasthan Royals for Rs 4 crore. He was one among just three players that RR put such faith in, the other two being skipper Sanju Samson and star opener Jos Buttler. But it took just three games for Jaiswal to be replaced. He hasn’t played the last seven matches his team featured in.
Rajasthan recently defeated Royal Challengers Bangalore and the player of the match was Riyan Parag. The right-hander scored an unbeaten 56 off 31 to help his team win. This was after he had scored 48 runs in five innings earlier in the season, and averaged 11.62 and 12.28 respectively in the previous two seasons having played 23 games in total.
“…we had real belief and trust in someone called Riyan Parag. We have been backing him for the last three-four years and he just showed it to the world today,” said RR captain Samson after that win against RCB.
The trust in Parag is fine, but does it add up when one considers the case of Jaiswal?
On Friday night, we also saw Tim David show why his reputation is so high in the T20 circuit and perhaps Mumbai Indians missed a trick in not showing faith in his abilities after signing him up for Rs 8.25 crore at the auction. They clearly knew he was that good, but the faith evaporated after just two low scores and has only returned when the season is effectively over for them. And yet, they could still see rewards for it in the season(s) to come.
Finding success as a team in the IPL is definitely hard. The relentless nature of the tournament and the fickleness of T20 cricket can be incredibly difficult to master. With the stakes high, it’s understandable for teams to do whatever it takes to find the right balance. After all, trying to win games has to take precedence over everything else.
But history tells us that the most successful teams are those that had stability… the ones that trusted players and the process. Chennai Super Kings, for instance, kept giving opportunities to Ruturaj Gaikwad and he ended up winning the Orange Cap last season as CSK took home the title. Having said that, the onus also falls on the player to repay the faith soon. The key is to strike that balance on the go, and those who do that tend to succeed.
Would Warner and Kuldeep have been able to turn things around in their previous teams? Should Venkatesh, Shahrukh and Jaiswal be given longer ropes? Seeing players find their best for your team, or against it, often comes down to a question of faith.