Indian Premier League has made a big impact on cricket and changed the way it is being played. T20 cricket, which originally started in 2003, was made an ICC tournament in 2007 but the popularity of T20 cricket came with inaugural edition of IPL that led to starting of numerous T20 leagues all over the world. IPL took T20 cricket to the center stage of cricketing world.
On 18th April 2008, Brendon Mccullum played a scintillating knock in inaugural match of IPL. He scored 158 runs in just 73 balls. That knock was just a glimpse to what was in the store for the future of cricket. That was the first glimpse of the changes that IPL will bring in the cricket. 9th edition of the IPL is about to finish and when we look back at all these nine seasons of IPL then we realize what massive changes IPL has brought in the cricket.
Earlier there were few players like Mccullum, Afridi and Sehwag who used to play fearless cricket while others stuck to traditional approach, even AB de Villiers was subdued at that time. After the introduction of IPL, it has unleashed monsters in cricket who know no fear. Now, there are umpteen number of cricketers who can hit the ball hardest: be it Russell, Miller, Maxwell, Butler, Smith or the new sensation Braithwaite and here we, still, haven’t talked about the big daddies of the game: Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, MS Dhoni. IPL not only popularized Sehwag’s theory of “See the ball, hit the ball” but also ingrained this theory in the brains of every batsmen.
Effects of IPL has spilled over to ODIs and even to Test cricket. Let’s first look at the stats to know exactly how IPL is affecting ODIs and Test cricket. From the start of new millennium i.e from 1st Jan 2000 till the start of IPL i.e 18th April 2008, score of 300 was crossed 185 times where post IPL it has been done for 253 times. Similarly, between 1st Jan 2000 to 18th April 2008, score of 300 or more was successfully chased 19 times whereas post IPL this number has almost doubled to 35. Similar changes are seen in Runs Per Over (RPO) in the same comparing period. RPO, between 1st Jan 2000 to 18th April 2008, hovered between 4.5 to 5.0 whereas post IPL it has gone between 5.0 to 5.5. In 2016, it stands at 5.72. In list of fastest 100 in ODIs, 5 out of first 10 belongs to post IPL era. In fastest 50 list too, 6 out of first 10 belongs to post IPL era.
New millennium has seen many changes which have tilted game in favour of batsmen. Rules have been changed to suit batsmen; bats have become broader and more powerful; pitches have become docile; all these factors helped batsmen to improve their run scoring ability but the audacity to play unconventional and innovative shots, the ability to score at brisk pace have been provided by IPL. Some of that audacity has also been transferred into traditional test cricket.
In test cricket, 300 in 4th inning is considered very difficult to score. In the history of test cricket, there are only 92 instances when score of 300 and above in 4th innings were scored. Out of those 92 instances, 30 belongs to Post IPL era. If scoring 300 in 4th innings was considered difficult than chasing 300 was considered improbable and a target of 400 was considered safer than White House. In the history of test cricket, there are only 28 instances when a score of 300 or above was chased and out of which 6 belongs to post IPL era.
One perceptible change, that doesn’t need any backing from stat, is drastic improvement in fielding standards. The kind of acrobatic and superhuman efforts that we see in post IPL era was seldom seen earlier. Fielding, which was not regarded as important aspect of cricket, has now become a major aspect and important criteria for players’ selection. One of the recent example is how Sarfaraz Khan was dropped from RCB, even after good batting performance, because of his substandard fielding.
IPL has also made cricket a game where taking decision based on stats is more important than taking decision on what brain/intuition think is right. Game is now more about exploiting weakness of opponents than banking on own strengths. All thanks to, trend of computer geniuses sitting with their laptops in IPL franchises dugouts and pronouncing judgments based on their findings. Even if bowlers feel that, on the pitch, it would be judicious to ball a short-pitch ball directed at body of batsmen. They are forced to try to bowl a yorker in death overs as the stats say that yorker can’t be hit easily. This trend of bowling as per stats leads to mistakes which could have been easily avoided. Latest example of it is Ben Stokes’ final over in T20 world cup final. A bowler who is not used to bowl yorkers tried to do that and was hit for four sixes. A Malinga, a Bumrah or a Chris Jordan could have done it because bowling yorkers is their strength but not of Ben Stokes. May be, if Ben stokes bowled to his strengths the result could have been different on that night of T20 finals.
Cricket is fast becoming game of power hitters under the influence of IPL but on the flip side, it is gradually eating up traditional grinding skills of batsmen and patience of bowlers. Now a days, test matches are finished in two-three days not because of superior skill of batsmen or bowlers but because of lack of it. T20 cricket has forced players to alter their game and forced them to forget the skill of patience. Earlier, batsmen used to have patience and they gave due respect to bowlers in conditions that was adverse for batting but now batsmen neither have patience nor have skills to survive in adverse condition which results in finishing of match in 3 days on bowler friendly pitches. Similarly, bowlers go for plenty in ODI cricket where pitches are suited for batsmen. They also need conducive track to perform. Even best of the bowlers struggle on flat tracks, only few bowlers bring changes/variations in their bowling and become successful on pitches that are conducive for batsmen. Gone are days when we saw batsmen having last laugh on bowler friendly wicket or bowlers stealing the show in adverse conditions. Only old school cricketers like Malinga, Nehra, Hashim Amla are some of the exceptions. New generation of Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Kane Williamson are few of the torch bearers of traditional cricket and yet successful in the generation of power hitters, rest of the lot have come far away from traditional cricket and made T20 style of cricket mainstream.