India and Pakistan may not have been playing against each other in any bilateral series for some time now, but their contribution in lifting the entertainment value of cricket is laudable. Both the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Pakistan Super League (PSL) have played a huge role in not only ushering in new talent but shaping cricketers around the world to give their best.
With ICC Twenty20 World Cup to be held in Australia during October this year, these two leagues will be like a rehearsal before the big event for players. A strong showing in these leagues can boost many players’ chances of playing this World Cup. One cannot deny the fact that these two leagues are among the best in the world today.
The strokes played by batsmen in these leagues and some spells by a few bowlers despite the tremendous pressure of being hit, are worth watching. This is what results in thrilling finishes, and most matches end with very few balls to spare.
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In a recent chat with India’s legendary batsman Dilip Vengsarkar in Dubai, he made an interesting observation. When IPL started off, it was considered majorly beneficial for domestic cricketers given the opportunity to mix with international cricketers. Today, top international cricketers look forward to play in the IPL to strengthen their skills as well as earn good money since it is the ‘richest.’
International cricketers find it easier to perform at their best in front of a packed stadium, because nowhere in the world do fans turn up in such large numbers as they do during the IPL and PSL. The ongoing PSL created a festival atmosphere in Pakistan, especially in Multan and Rawalpindi, where they have been starved of highly competitive cricket for over a decade now.
When the T20 format was introduced and these leagues were initiated, many believed that this format would destroy cricketing skills. Similarly, people also suspected that big money from IPL could distract and spoil young cricketers. However, some innovative shots played in T20 games made cricket more attractive and even resulted in runs being scored quickly in the other formats. Also, the big money did not spoil cricketers; instead they were benefitted since most of them were able to focus full time on the game rather than worry about meeting ends - should they occasionally slip out of form.
While most agree that Test cricket is the most revered format in the game, it is these leagues that entertain fans and also reward cricketers handsomely. It is unfortunate that Indian players do not play in the PSL and Pakistan players do not figure in the IPL.
Imagine that happening one day.....then it will be a dream-come-true. If love for the game is paramount for cricket officials from India and Pakistan, they should work towards playing each other - irrespective of any political animosity.