The auction for the 2024 Indian Premier League (IPL) is almost upon us and the teams will be engrossed in preparing the list of players they could bid for on December 19 in Dubai.
Despite the growing notion that performances in domestic cricket are given the cold shoulder as far as selection to the white-ball teams is concerned, scouts have been traversing across the country in search of talent ahead of the world’s biggest cricket extravaganza.
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The preparatory work for the auction gathered steam during the last quarter of the year, with the two scheduled domestic tournaments being a hotbed of scouting activity for the teams.
The recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT) and the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy (VHT) provided the IPL franchises with one last opportunity to watch and analyse the players that could be a part of their roster for the next edition.
Who will strike pay dirt?
Sportstar understands that X-factor middle-order batters and fast bowlers are among the key roles IPL scouts are looking for ahead of D-day.
While the use of data has revolutionised the scouting of players, adages like ‘sound of the bat’ and ‘hit the bat hard’ continue to be looked at by the scouts.
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Since the VHT is a 50-over-a-side affair, scouts say there are more opportunities for players to play the long innings without taking risks. Hence, a bucket-load of runs through the tournament is unlikely to cut the ice.
An important facet that the scouts are looking for includes the batter’s ability to hit the ball down the ground – that is in the V between mid-off and mid-on.
They reckon there are enough batters in the country that play square of the wicket well. The high level of bowling in the IPL will not allow them to rotate the strike in that area, thus limiting their run-scoring options.
‘Intent’ and the short-ball litmus test
‘Intent’ is a watchword often associated with batting in the shortest format. Though commonly mistaken for the quality of being exceedingly aggressive, scouts say intent is measured based on the batter’s ability to play according to the situation.
A batter who tonks the ball must also be capable of playing the game long if there is a flurry of wickets falling at the other end.
An important differential between good batters and the best, according to scouts, is the ability to play the short ball.
The scouts say that bowlers in the IPL are often instructed to test the domestic batters with a short ball in the first few deliveries they face. Their lack of experience in playing these balls coupled with the fact that very few bowlers on the Indian domestic circuit have the skill to be able to bowl an effective bouncer often lead to the batter’s downfall.
Negative ‘impact’ on all-rounders?
With the implementation of the Impact Player rule, the scouts opine the role of all-rounders in the team has reduced. Unless a player can contribute effectively with both bat and ball, there is no necessity to include them in the playing XI.
However, despite the decrease in the reliance on all-rounders, the teams prefer finger-spinners who can bat.
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On the bowling front, scouts say there is plenty of new-ball bowling talent in the domestic system but they are unlikely to be picked due to their one-dimensional ability.
Pace bowlers who bowl upwards of 135 kmph and can be deployed through the middle and death overs in a 50-over game are likely to be picked.
The ability to bowl short balls is crucial, the scouts say. Therefore, quick, ‘hit the deck’ bowlers will be hot property in the upcoming auction.
With franchises releasing a large number of players this time around, domestic cricketers with the above attributes might be in for a good payday.