A headache caused by an array of riches

A headache caused by an array of riches

KKR’s Ajantha Mendis hardly got a chance to show his class

No other side in IPL III has had to expend as much mental energy as the Challengers in deciding which of the four overseas players from amongst the array of riches at their disposal ought to be fielded in the playing eleven. At various stages, the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Dale Steyn and Mark Boucher have had to warm the benches. Roelof van der Merwe, one of the stand-out performers at home in South Africa in IPL II, hasn’t so much has got a look-in, nor has Dillon du Preez, considered by many as the not-so-poor man’s Jacques Kallis.

Kallis’ has been the one voice advocating five foreign players in the eleven, a belief that has found few takers. All other stars, international and Indian, have asserted that four is the ideal number because, after all, this is the INDIAN Premier League.

While the Challengers have been the most badly hit in terms of having to make difficult choices, other sides haven’t been immune to this problem. The Kolkata Knight Riders have had to leave out such proven performers as Brendon McCullum and Ajantha Mendis, the Chennai Super Kings have been forced to bench virtuosos like Muttiah Muralitharan and Michael Hussey, the Mumbai Indians have struggled to accommodate the out of sorts Sanath Jayasuriya and the Deccan Chargers haven’t been able to fit in Chaminda Vaas, who had such great success early in the tournament, or one of their most expensive signings, Kemar Roach.

If there is one team that is closest in its predicament to the Challengers, it is the Delhi Daredevils. It was IPL II that catalysed a tremendous ten months for Tillakaratne Dilshan. The cheeky Sri Lankan found his calling at the top of the order, redefined the approach to batsmanship not unlike his then Daredevils skipper Virender Sehwag, and ran red-hot for the rest of the year in all forms of the game.

This season, after early-tournament blues, Dilshan has been more off the park than on it. AB de Villiers, the mercurial South African, has been in a like boat, while Farveez Maharoof, who has hardly put a foot wrong, has had to bow to the superiority in the Twenty20 format of bravehearts such as David Warner, Dirk Nannes, Paul Collingwood and Daniel Vettori.

The handling of overseas players, several of them superstars in their own rights and carrying the attendant ego which is almost a must for any creative artiste, calls for tact, diplomacy, a little bit of firmness and a sense of fair-play that must be seen to exist.
At the end of the day, no performer is satisfied at merely watching on from the sidelines. He derives his high from the adulation of the masses, the appreciation of the critics and the respect of his peers, none of which can be earned by not taking the field.

It is inevitable, as it was in the case of Pietersen who was benched for three games midway through the Challengers’ campaign, that there will be plenty of bottled-up angst. The trick for the management team, and the player himself, lies in channelising this pent up anger and frustration. Pietersen responded to being left out with a blistering 29-ball 62 in a potentially semifinal-clinching effort in Jaipur the other day. If such response could be the norm, it won’t be the worst idea to bench him from time to time!

Wounded egos

While the think-tank’s conundrum extends beyond merely assuaging wounded egos in explaining the rationale behind inclusions and omissions, it’s easy to understand why players feel they have been given the short shrift. The IPL and cash-rich have come to become synonymous; if ‘cash’ was indeed the only consideration, most players should, by extension, be happy simply to earn easy money by going to the ground for training and then ferrying water to the middle during play without having to live with the pressure of having to justify million-dollar price tags!

It’s the maturity shown as a group by everyone in the squad that dictates what state of mind a team enters a competition in. Moping, brooding, grumbling components will only pull the side down; the Challengers, possessing a veritable Who’s Who of international T20 cricket, must take credit for managing their headache of plenty with aplomb. Not that you would expect anything else when the man at the helm answers to the name of Anil Kumble!

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