IPL 2021: Representation of local players in franchises needs introspection

The Kolkata Knight Riders squad for IPL 2021 does not include any local player, as is the case with SunRisers Hyderabad.

IPL 2021 has been suspended indefinitely after many players tested positive for the coronavirus. (Image credit: IPL Twitter)

Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MLA Danam Nagender recently grabbed the limelight, following his warning to the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) team management. Nagender issued a strong message to the franchise, asking them to remove Hyderabad from the team name in case of non-selection of local players. While the politician’s displeasure is an area of concern, he has certainly raised a valid point that extends to other franchises as well.

SRH have not selected a single player from Hyderabad in their squad for IPL 2021, which has been slammed by former Indian cricketer Mohammed Azharuddin as well. The other franchises have further given limited importance to the inclusion of local players, with defending champions Mumbai Indians’ (MI) squad the most favorably placed in this regard.

The MI squad includes homegrown players in Rohit Sharma, Aditya Tare, Dhawal Kulkarni, Suryakumar Yadav and Arjun Tendulkar. They are followed by Delhi Capitals (DC). The Delhi-based franchise comprises local players like skipper Rishabh Pant, Ishant Sharma, Lalith Yadav and Shikhar Dhawan. The same is the scenario for Punjab Kings (PBKS) whose camp has players like Arshdeep Singh, Harpreet Brar, Mandeep Singh and Prabhsimran Singh. Chennai Super Kings (CSK) include three homegrown players in Narayan Jagadeesan, R Sai Kishore and C Hari Nishanth.

The Rajasthan Royals (RR) squad only comprises two local players in Akash Singh and Mahipal Lomror. The Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) camp similarly has homegrown players in Devdutt Padikkal and Pavan Deshpande. The Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) squad does not include any local player, as is the case with SRH.

Factors behind decline in homegrown players

The decline in presence of homegrown players in squads of franchises has been a recent development, over the last few editions of the cash-rich league. It certainly wasn’t the case in the first few seasons as evident from the barrage of players in the CSK team, who hailed from Tamil Nadu. Players like Subramanium Badrinath, Ravichandran Ashwin, Murali Vijay, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Palani Amarnath, Hemang Badani, Napoleon Einstein, Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan and Abhinav Mukund were part of the roster in the initial editions.

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One factor behind this decline would certainly be the increased pressure and weight of expectations. The IPL is a tournament that draws the attention of millions of fans around the world. Success in the tournament directly impacts the brand value of the franchise, with a positive impact on the owner’s personal repute as well. Failure to deliver the goods has a negative impact on the parent brand as well, with the players themselves forced to face uncomfortable questions.

An example of this would be Virat Kohli’s inability to lead RCB on to an IPL triumph over a sustained period of time. Kohli is forced to bear criticism from experts like Gautam Gambhir, with questions raised over his position as the captain of the Indian cricket team. Bearing this in mind, franchises would certainly prioritise the right fit to their requirements, rather than including a homegrown player who might not be able to perform.

Another factor could be the negative impact on team selection. The presence of a home-grown player often puts a lot of pressure on the team management with regard to the selection of the final 11, bearing in mind the reactions of the fans. Benching such a cricketer due to some or the other reason for a certain period of time often results in fierce backlash.

There is a need for deep introspection with regard to the presence of local players in IPL franchises by all parties involved, in order to ensure a fine balance gets struck.

Arnab Mukherji

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