ith the Indian Premier League now into its third week, the battle lines between those that love and abhor it couldn't be any more clearly drawn. One group, with the stated aim of 'preserving' Test cricket – no one seems sure how – makes almost a fetish out of ignoring the IPL. They will happily announce how they were up till 3am watching Test cricket from the West Indies, while ignoring the 'manufactured' last-ball finish in the late IPL game.
The other group considers the five-day game passé, like a 78rpm record in an iPod world. This lot insists that modern life has no time or place for the unique rhythms of Test cricket, that its followers are those stuck in a time warp. Both arguments can be amusing to the subset that watches every form of the game. Like George Bush's with-us-or-against-us doctrine, the extremist viewpoints are devoid of nuance and shades of grey.
The best assessments usually comes from senior players, those that grew up aspiring to play Test cricket and then saw the Twenty20 juggernaut gather steam in the autumn of their careers. Rahul Dravid admits that he's unlikely to remember any of his T20 innings in the way that he will his 180 at Eden Gardens or the 233 at the Adelaide Oval. At the same time, he says that playing the shortest form of the game allowed him to work on his repertoire of strokes and become comfortable with those that he might not have attempted otherwise.
One of the best innings that he played in the final phase of his international career was at Ahmedabad in 2009 against Sri Lanka. Chanaka Welegedera had run through the top order and it was Dravid's 177 that laid the foundation for a total that allowed India to escape with a draw. Late on that first morning, Sri Lanka brought on Rangana Herath. Dravid smashed the final ball of his first over past the sightscreen for six.
The inability of some IPL stars to adapt to other forms of the game has often been cited by its critics as evidence that it adds little to the game. There are several examples. Swapnil Asnodkar who stopped booming many moons ago.
When he spoke at the end of the series, he said that strokes like that were certainly part of what he had taken from the IPL. "It's not that I haven't asserted myself in Test cricket before," he said. "But in the IPL, you play lofted shots very often and it gives you the confidence that you can pull it off in any situation."
The inability of some IPL stars to adapt to other forms of the game has often been cited by its critics as evidence that it adds little to the game. There are several examples. Swapnil Asnodkar, the Goa Cannon – if you went by Shane Warne's nomenclature – stopped booming many moons ago. Manpreet Gony hardly gets any game time with the Deccan Chargers and has little chance of adding to his two India caps.
Manish Pandey scored the first IPL century by an Indian in 2009 and enjoyed an outstanding domestic season a few months later. Since then, he has regressed and is rarely mentioned as an international prospect. Lucrative IPL contracts are again blamed for such a state of affairs. But when it comes to such things, there can be no absolutes. Whether a player succeeds or fails is ultimately down to him. His IPL contract or the Mercedes convertible that the franchise gifted him has little to do with it.
Virat Kohli is the Indian face of Royal Challengers Bangalore, and they certainly don't pay him peanuts. But the riches and fame haven't dimmed his desire an iota when it comes to playing for India. In the final analysis, it's all about that one word – desire. If Pandey doesn't make it, it'll be because he just doesn't want it as badly as Kohli does. As for Kohli, he'd be a star regardless of whether he plays Tests, ODIs, T20 or gully cricket. The special players recognise that the basics don't change.