IPL has made players understand that this format is the future and so needs to be taken seriously not just for India but for the franchise also. Those who have not come to terms with it are those who will be left looking from the outside rather than playing from the inside.
The DLF Indian Premier League was perhaps the best warm-up for the ICC T20 World Cup starting in a few days' time. Not just the defending champions India, but the other challengers will also have benefited from participating in the IPL for they will not only have got invaluable practice in this format of the game but will also have learned from close quarters how different players react to pressure situations. Being part of a franchise where tactics and strategy are discussed, the mind of a player can be read by an intelligent observer and that can be huge plus when deciding on the approach to a possible crunch time move.
Temperament as always will be the crucial element that will separate the men from the boys. The IPL has quickly matured some fresh faced kids into match winning players and India is blessed to have found a few through the IPL in the last two years. the other teams have also been lucky as they have found talent which didn't have the same exposure in their domestic tournaments, Shaun Marsh being a prime example from last season and Dirk Nannes this year.
Nannes was the find of this year's IPL and the South African pitches suited him perfectly though Adam Gilchrist put him in his place in the semi-finals with a flurry of boundaries in his first over. Nannes' shoulders slumped visibly and the Daredevils were gone from that moment. Nannes is not exactly a spring chicken so he may not be on the Australian selectors' radar now or in the future and that maybe the reason he has opted to turn out for Netherlands in the T20 World Cup. This loophole is one that needs to be plugged as there are many players who find that there is no place for them in the teams of the countries where they reside throughout the year and so opt to play for another country by virtue of birth or some grandparent being born there last century or so. The biggest beneficiaries are those from United Kingdom. A player can play for Scotland or Ireland in a World Cup and if his performances are impressive he can be picked for England immediately. Gavin Hamilton played for Scotland in the 1999 world cup in England and at the end of that season he was picked to go to South Africa for the England team. There is no cooling off period and not only that but at the administrative level Scotland and Ireland have a separate vote too. Yet they complain of a sub continent bloc when it comes to taking calls at the ICC. These things will never change and as the International Tennis Federation's decision to fine Australia a measly US $10,000 for forfeiting a Davis Cup match shows when it comes to ganging up there is none to beat the old powers. Any other nation that withdrew from a Davis Cup would have been banned for a year at least but Australia has been an outstanding Davis Cup nation with lots of notches on the cup so they have got away lightly.
The Australians may not have had the best of results as far as their T20 internationals are concerned but anybody who writes them off needs to have his head examined. They are as always a fiercely motivated team and this is one trophy that they would like to add to their kitty. Doing that would be the perfect warm up for the Ashes series that begins after the T20 World Cup so the Aussies will be a team to watch out for. Most of their players may have been prevented from playing in the IPL because the board wanted them to be fresh for the English season but Brett Lee's encouraging showing will have boosted their confidence too.
There is concern raised that the Indian players will be jaded by the IPL but India has a fairly easy time after the World Cup so the boys will no doubt be keen to give it their best and then rest after that. The players also are a lot fitter than yester years with all the scientific physical conditioning that is done nowadays and a lot stronger too so the tiredness part shouldn't be a worry. There are just two cities in England where the T20 world cup is being played so there won't be any tiring travel either where players have to wake up early and catch flights. The weather in England too will be better than it is in India at the moment so that will also be a big help.
India are the defending champions and if they play to their potential then they should do well again.
What the players must watch out for is the tendency to take this format lightly. This happens with a new format and it does take time to mentally adjust to it. It happened when limited overs cricket was introduced in the early 70s too. Many Indian players like me took a long time to realise that the format had come to stay.
India hardly played a couple of one day internationals each year so not many took it seriously but it was only after India went to Australia in 1980-81 where they had to play a triangular series with New Zealand as the third team that tactics and strategy began to be discussed. Suddenly India was playing 8 ODIs from the odd one that they played in their home season.
This is where the IPL has helped, for it has made players understand that this format is the future and so needs to be taken seriously not just for India but for the franchise also. Those who have not come to terms with it are those who will be left looking from the outside rather than playing from the inside.