The presence of the Australians in the IPL has made a fine contest even more thrilling, a fest functioning on pure skill, appear even more skillful. It, in some ways, lends itself to the great advantage the concept of globalization has brought about.
In the 21st century, globalization is a buzzword. It’s used as frequently akin to sprinklers watering a field. You know the definitions by now; the process of integration of companies, governments, collaborations and that sort of thing. And we know its impacts are multifold, whether in capital markets, commodity, insurance or credit markets.
Now in the 20th or 21st century, the globalization of sport and entertainment has also been approved. But it’s interesting to know how this rather corporatized terminology came to impact the very sport we love, one of its results being the presence of the Australians in the IPL.
Globalization’s surge hit the inner sanctum of cricket toward the late 2000s.
And with the BCCI unfolding the IPL in 2008, there was the elephant in the room all were happy to engage with.
Now one might argue globalization was already a work in progress in cricket with the sport being played globally. But that was more from a business point of view. Real integration that would bring about the feeling- what it’s like to have the stars from different nations playing together in the same team- was yet to transpire.
Regardless of whether you’re a Real Madrid fan, you cannot help but admit that you got chills when the Madrid board led by Florentino Perez brought together the likes of Ronaldo Lima, Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Raul Gonzalez, Luis Figo, Iker Casillas in the same team sharing the same dressing room.
Cricket too walked the same path. We also had our spine-tingling moments picturing- Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting playing for the same team or Jacques Kallis and Rahul Dravid, and so on and so forth.
But such a thing could have only happened in a video game.
Fast forward 2008.
The IPL emerged as the genie from Arabian Nights and fulfilled the much-cherished wish of the addicts. It not only ‘globalized’ the experience of the sport but also opened the door of immense possibilities that would reshape cricket altogether and Australian cricket has been no exception.
If there was an ISO standard for picking players in the IPL, you can be assured that being Australian would get you through unchecked.
Such has been the love for Australians in the IPL.
It doesn’t matter that they’re yet to win a T20 world cup. But the Australians, one may argue, remain the pivots of everything modern cricket today is.
In 12 seasons of the games’ most prestigious domestic T20 league, the Australians have been highly sought after.
And this love for Australians in the IPL, hasn’t been a one-way relationship.
As much as Test purists love to turn their heads away from the T20 circus, self-included, we can’t but acknowledge the winds of change it has brought about in the Australian cricket structure. The Big Bash League is a product of the IPL influence if one were to think of it, founded during 2011-12.
Sure Australia had their own T20 league but that was just with their 6 state teams with the least amount of private investment and lacked the blitzkrieg big time. 2011-12 saw a complete revamp of Australia’s premier T20 competition with 8 city-based teams with huge funding that changed the face of Australian domestic summers in ways one could have only imagined.
The BBL shaped future Australian stars that would go on to represent Australia not just in T20Is but ODIs as well. The likes of Dan Christian, Chris Lynn, Alex Carey, and Aaron Finch are worth naming. Moreover, it rekindled the fire of an international return in retirees- Brad Hodge and Brad Hogg.
From a financial point of view, the IPL bestowed its touch to Australian cricket as well. Over the years we have seen multiple Aussies get picked for multi-million dollar contracts. Even those not in the Cricket Australia central contract have gotten good contracts from the IPL.
This has undoubtedly breathed a sense of ease among the higher-ups the governing body. They have had less to worry about their cricketer’s financial security than ever before. From a cricketer’s point of view too, it has done wonders. An ‘out of contract player’ doesn’t have to worry about providing for his family by looking for second jobs which many in the past had to.
Nonetheless, the biggest aid underlining the presence of Australians in the IPL is the format offering budding stars a chance to make a mark and those that had fallen out of flavor to forge a comeback.
Performance in this tournament for an Australian is held in high regard. To put it simply, the conditions here are compared to those Down Under.
An uncapped rookie by the name of Shaun Marsh blasting on to the scene in the first edition of the IPL and going on to make his national debut in all formats will forever be a highlight of the contribution the league has had in Australian cricket.
Playing for the Kings XI Punjab, Marsh finished with 616 runs at an average of 51 for the tournament clinching the ‘highest run-scorer’ crown.
Talking about tales of comebacks, none can beat that of Shane Watson. The injury-prone all-rounder was in a tough place in his career in 2008 often without a place on the Australian side. Then came the Rajasthan Royals knocking on his door and boy did it pay endless dividends for him. He was climactic in helping the Royals inscribing their names as the champions of the inaugural season. He gave the world a true glimpse of his all-round prowess and lived up to Steve Waugh’s claim of “a genuine all-rounder” with 472 runs with the bat and 17 wickets with the ball. To no one’s surprise, Watson bagged the player of the tournament award that season as well. Watson was catapulted to superstardom ever since from which he never had to look back.
In recent times, Usman Khawaja- among the famous Australians in the IPL- has also benefitted from the contest too. The calm southpaw with an Asian mold and an Australian head- Usman Khawaja used the IPL to get accustomed to Indian conditions through the series and went on to deliver a winning performance in the 3-2 win in India in 2019.
The mainstays of the current Australian limited-overs side like Aaron Finch, David Warner, Adam Zampa and Glenn Maxwell have also reaped the full benefits of the grand league by getting to play more and more in Indian conditions and honing their skills as such.
Just like anything on Earth, the IPL has had its fair share of goods as well as some bads in the development of Australian cricket in the past decade or so.
Among the positives, several names around today have upped the ante and played more aggressively. This approach has now become integral to attack and battle in an age where the eternal high is the sweet sound of the bat connecting the ball.
This has brought about improvements and evolutions of techniques with both bat and ball. But whether the ceaseless rise of the IPL has led to a shift in priorities- national duty vs franchise availability- is a question up for debate, one that deserves keen participation.