Former India captain Rahul Dravid said that the Indian Premier League is “ready for expansion” in terms of number of teams, without compromising on the quality, based on the talent available in the country, reported PTI.

There are talks that the 2021 IPL will be featuring nine teams instead of eight and will go up to 10 teams by 2023, which has been the Board of Cricket in India’s long-term plan.

Dravid, who is the director of the National Cricket Academy, said that if there are more teams, all the talented players could be fitted in and there won’t be a drop in quality.

“I feel IPL is ready for expansion in terms of talent, if you look from talent perspective. There are a lot of talented players who are not getting an opportunity to play,” Dravid was quoted as saying by PTI.

“It’s been fantastic to see so many of those young Under-19 boys come on and establish themselves, not only for their state teams but also in the IPL. But many more are actually not getting opportunities. They are sitting outside in a lot of these teams, because the quality of the cricket is so good and there are so many good and experienced players,” Dravid said during the virtual launch of Manoj Badale and Simon Hughes’s book A New Innings as per another report in ESPNCricinfo.

Earlier, The Hindu reported after the final of IPL 2020 that the BCCI has indicated to the franchises about their intentions to hold the auctions. The motive behind the move to add a new team for BCCI is to attain financial balance after the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown.

The new franchise is likely to be from Ahmedabad, where the Gujarat Cricket Association has refurbished the stadium with a record capacity of 1,10,000.

The former Indian captain said it is because of IPL that someone like Rahul Tewatia from Haryana has been able to showcase his skills to a global audience.

“Earlier, you only depended on your state association to select you for Ranji Trophy. Now, from a state like Haryana which produces so many quality spinners like Yuzvendra Chahal, Amit Mishra and Jayant Yadav, Tewatia would have had limited opportunities.

“So it’s no longer limited to state associations,” said Dravid.

He spoke about the heady feeling of playing international cricket without actually playing it, which the IPL provides.

“As coaches, we can help the young players in their journeys but what helps them grow is experience. Look at a Devdutt Padikkal who is batting alongside Virat Kohli or can learn from AB de Villiers.”

Another aspect in which the IPL has helped young players is the availability of worthwhile data to improve their game.

“Look at someone like T Natarajan. It was because of the the quality of data that he was able to go back and work on his yorker and that one skill has now got him into the Indian team,” he said.

Rajasthan Royals co-owner Manoj Badale echoed Dravid’s thoughts and said that a nine-team IPL in 2021 is “definitely possible”. He welcomed the idea of expansion and also spoke about various aspects that need to be factored in.

“BCCI needs to take a decision and they will take a call on what would be the exact approach.

“Making a nine-team league in 2021 is definitely possible but as a consequence, you will have to have more afternoon games and maintain quality of the competition,” said Badale, a British citizen of Indian origin.

Dravid, on his part, explained why Mumbai Indians have been such a prolific team having won an unprecedented five IPL titles in 13 editions.

“They (MI) have a strong core with a high quality. Their core is built with world class T20 players and balanced it with young exciting talent. They have a very strong scouting structure in place,” Dravid said.

The last decade (2011-2020), according to Dravid, has been India’s best in terms of white ball cricket and the IPL has contributed with its appropriate tagline ‘talent meets opportunity’.

“It has been India’s best performing decade in white ball cricket. We won a World Cup (2011), Champions Trophy (2013) and reached semi-finals and finals of World T20. Young players have learnt a lot watching and listening to experts on TV,” he said.

(With PTI inputs)