The Indian Premier League and the Silicon Valley have something in common – they are famous for churning out millionaires. While the IPL paraded 50 millionaires in the recently concluded 15th edition of this lucrative league it has helped local and international players take their game to a different level altogether.
Both Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow have credited the IPL for their scintillating form since returning from India. For several years England’s cricket bosses were skeptical of their players joining the IPL as they felt it would hinder their form in Test matches. But the rest of the leading nations with the exception of Pakistan did not stand in the way of their players. Pakistani players were unfortunately not considered for selection in this cash-rich league because of political reasons. Australia has led the way in the IPL with 13 players with a handful from South Africa, the West Indies, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. It finally dawned on the blazers in England to reset their thinking after that 2015 ODI World Cup debacle when England was sent home packing in the group stage by tiny Bangladesh.
The then newly-appointed director of cricket Andrew Strauss decided to open the gates to enable English players to gain IPL experience if they were to play any significant role in limited-overs cricket. Since then at least 12 England players are regularly inked by IPL squads and it has paid huge dividends for the country. It has also helped the players pad their wallets. Rajasthan Royals signed Buttler for $900,000 US this year and with bonuses, he pocketed a little more than $1 million. Punjab Kings, meanwhile, paid Bairstow $1.5 million and he did not disappoint. But the star of the show in 2022 was Buttler who smashed 863 runs and helped guide the Royals to the final where it lost to Gujarat Titans.
On returning home, the Smilin’ Assassin gave The Netherlands a taste of his willow when he plundered an unbeaten 162. His century in this ODI encounter came off just 47 balls as England decimated the Dutch on its way to setting a world-record one-day score of 498 for four in Amstelveen. Buttler’s innings were studded with 14 sixes and seven fours and other centuries came from Phil Salt and Dawid Malan in this one-sided contest. Buttler was quick to praise the IPL for helping him build his confidence coming into the international home summer
“The IPL couldn’t have gone better for me,” said Buttler. “I absolutely loved it, and that gives you a lot of confidence. Coming here I was feeling in good touch; I turned up with a lot of motivation and freshness which I think is really key.”
Well, one expected a slam-bang performance in the one-day match. But Bairstow went one step further and thrilled the crowd at Trent Bridge in the second Test against New Zealand with a knock reminiscent of limited-overs cricket. The ginger-haired Bairstow credited the IPL for giving him the “gears” to chase 299 runs to help England to victory and an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-Test series. Bairstow’s outrageous hitting took him to three figures from just 77 balls and he missed the England record for the fastest century of 76 balls that has stood for 120 years. Bairstow was finally out for 136 off 92 balls having clobbered seven sixes and 14 fours and as one would expect he was given a standing ovation by the delirious crowd. After his departure, skipper Ben Stokes also played aggressively in making an unbeaten 75. Stokes isn’t likely to play in the third Test that starts in Headingley, Leeds, on Thursday after skipping practice the last two days.
“There were a lot of people that were saying I should not be at the IPL and I should be playing county cricket,” said Bairstow. “Yes, people say it would be fantastic if you had four games of red-ball (first-class) cricket under your belt (before a Test series), but, unfortunately, that doesn’t happen with the current scheduling of everything around the world.
“There are elements to it where you are playing against the best in the world at the IPL. Being able to have those gears, to be able to go and switch them up, switch them down, is important.”
Bairstow has now opened the door for lusty hitting and hopefully others will follow to keep alive Test cricket from extinction.
SRI LANKA ON TOP
In an absolute thriller Sri Lanka topped Australia in the fourth ODI by a nail-biting four runs in Colombo on Tuesday. Sri Lanka was all out for 258 with Charith Asalanka hitting 110 and Dhananjaya de Silva weighing in with 60. Veteran opening batsman David Warner led the Aussies with a solid 99 and Pat Cummins (35) as the Aussies folded for 254. The Aussies were undone by Sri Lankan spinners Chamika Karunaratane, de Silva and Wanindu Hasaranga who each collected two wickets.