Cricket Xtra: Basil Thampi is IPL’s gift to Indian cricket

Ajit Vijaykumar 09:34 24/04/2017
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Basil Thampi celebrates a wicket.

Every IPL throws up a few names billed as the next big thing. The tournament is, after all, an opportunity for youngsters to grab attention immediately and find a quick route to the national set-up.

There have been many Indian players over the years that have made an impact in the league and then replicated that success at international level.

However, what cannot be said with certainty is that it was the IPL which ‘created’ them, as many had performed consistently in the domestic circuit alongside or beforehand, like Rohit Sharma for example.

Let’s look at Indian fast bowlers and how the IPL has played its role in putting them on the spotlight. Batsmen and spinners generally need to be tested for technique and consistency in different environments to get a better idea about their abilities.

But fast bowlers are a bit different. If they can last the entire tournament, bowl at good pace and display enough variations and the ability to beat batsmen, it proves there is potential to work with in different formats too.

Many batsmen can slog the ball over midwicket and get the job done and spinners keep things tight by bowling flat or negative lines in T20s, but those abilities get exposed at the highest level.

This season, there is already talk of Gujarat Lions pacer Basil Thampi knocking on the doors of national selection. The Kerala quick has all the required ingredients – strong action, high pace, swing, potent slower one and the ability to bowl yorkers at will.

One of his finest efforts came against Royal Challengers Bangalore. While Bangalore ran amok, scoring 213 for two, Thampi finished with respectable figures of 1-31, trapping Chris Gayle lbw when the batsmen was going hammer and tongs.

Quite a few pundits across the country believe it’s only a matter of time before the 23-year-old represents India.

And while I have my reservations about trying out players performing in the IPL at the highest level, the league has done well more often than not in identifying quicks for their next challenge. The one Indian fast bowler who can definitely be termed as a product of the IPL is Jasprit Bumrah.

The Mumbai Indians pacer made his first class debut after playing in the IPL and his unusual action and killer death bowling has made him the first name to be pencilled in the limited overs teams.

Mohit Sharma got fast tracked into the national team after impressing the then India captain MS Dhoni with his impeccable lines while at Chennai Super Kings, finishing with an economy rate of less than seven in 2013.

While he is not on the selectors’ radar anymore, his returns at the international stage – 31 wickets from 26 ODIs at an economy of 5.45 and six wickets from eight T20s at an economy of 8.04 – show that he definitely had it in him.

We can also add the names of Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav and the returning Ashish Nehra to this list. Admittedly, Yadav and Aaron made their first class debuts in 2008 and made their IPL bows only in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

But it is a fact that they made their India debuts right after playing in the IPL and while Yadav has become their premier quick in the country, Aaron still has to realise his potential.

After being sidelined following an impressive 2011 World Cup, veteran left-arm quick Nehra proved he was still good enough to bowl in the limited overs format after a stellar 2015 IPL, taking 22 wickets at an economy of just over seven.

He played for India in T20s the next year. Obviously, it’s not a perfect system. Many thought Manpreet Gony would be a regular member of the Indian team with his strong build and smooth action. But he came up well short in national colours, taking two wickets in as many ODIs.

But overall, the IPL has proven to be a good testing ground for Indian quicks. Which means the performances of Thampi can be taken a lot more seriously than, say, of a top order batsman for who impeccable technique has to be the priority.

In fact, it can be argued that IPL is the final test that Indian quicks need to pass. Just look at Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur. He has played 49 first class matches and picked up 169 wickets, delivering consistently for his state side for five years.

But forget a national call-up, he has played only two editions of the IPL, the current one being his second one. Also, the national team is a bit short on the pace bowling front with Ishant Sharma losing his edge and Mohammed Shami having just returned from a long injury lay-off with, frankly, no guarantees he won’t break down again.

Thampi has shown enough glimpses of his potential in the IPL and given the track record of the league in giving its stamp of approval to pacers, I believe he is one to watch out for.

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