Like it or hate it, the Indian Premier League has become a significant part of modern-day cricket. While a lot of us tend to look down on the IPL and T20 cricket in general, the fact is, the format and the tournament do help pull in the crowds and does attract the best of players.
The IPL offers a heady cocktail that not everyone might enjoy but we have to admit that seeing some of the best modern-day superstars in a colourful extravaganza does make for exciting viewing. Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket was also similarly scorned at back in the day but even today, in the few video clips we have of the tournament, the sight of someone like Barry Richards and Imran Khan playing for the same team, is so inexplicably thrilling.
And since we are talking about players from the past who featured in a breakaway competition, it would be interesting to imagine how some of them would have fared in a tournament like the IPL. Many yesteryear greats never played T20 cricket but their skills, one feels, would have made them excel in the format. Moreover, their character would have allowed them to seamlessly fit into a tournament like the IPL.
Let’s now take a look at few such vintage superstars who would have ruled the IPL with aplomb.
Vivian Richards (West Indies)
He is probably the first name that would come to anyone’s mind when we think of a list like this. Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards was a player of a different league. He gave “swagger” a new meaning in cricket and remains arguably the most destructive batsman of all time. While many other batsmen would have better records than him, none were as intimidating as King Viv. There wasn’t a bowling attack he hadn’t demolished and there wasn’t a bowler who could unnerve him. Viv’s calculated menace and power resulted in many an unforgettable knock and his ODI strike-rate of over 90, in an age when it was unthinkable, only illustrates how devastating he could be. Viv would have absolutely loved to play T20 cricket and a tournament like the IPL was tailor-made for his swagger, his power, and his colorful persona.
Ian Botham (England)
Ian Botham is one of the most impactful cricketers England has ever produced. The buccaneering all-rounder could turn any game around single-handedly with the bat and the ball. His all-round heroics in the 1981 Ashes are now the stuff of legends and that one series alone conveys the measure of talent this man had. Beefy, as he was lovingly called, bowled with great heart, swinging the ball at pace, and on his day could be the best bowler of his team. As a batsman, Botham might not have been the most elegant, but his brute power and ability to hit boundaries would have made him perfect for the shortest format. We can easily imagine Beefy coming down at No.5 for an IPL game and striking a 25-ball 50 or turning the match around with a 3-wicket spell in the Power-play.
Kapil Dev (India)
Here’s another vintage all-round star who would have fit the T20 format perfectly. Kapil Dev wasn’t just the best all-rounder India has ever had he was also one of the best of his time. He was the frontline seam bowler for his side and a big-hitting lower-order batsman with a flair for lusty hits. We’ve all heard tales of his incredible match-changing 175 against Zimbabwe in the ’83 World Cup and his four consecutive sixes to save his side from a follow-on in a Test against England. Many say that Kapil didn’t do full justice to his batting talent and often gave his wicket away due to a lack of patience. In the IPL, where all he would have needed were just 20 balls to make an impact, he would have struck gold. As a bowler too, Kapil’s out-swingers and yorkers would have been more than handy. In fact, one could easily foresee Kapil using his bag of varieties in those four overs and changing games single-handedly.
Dean Jones (Australia)
An innovative stroke player, a fantastic runner between the wickets, and a brilliant fielder. The late Dean Jones was a terrific and dynamic ODI batsman; in fact, he is still regarded as the pioneers of the format. He played a game which teams weren’t used to back in the day: walking down the pitch to the bowlers frequently, running frenetically between the wickets, and being an outstanding outfielder. Jones was fearless and aggressive and knew how to adapt his batting to different situations.
He would have been the perfect No.3 for any IPL team, guiding them throughout the middle-overs while also accumulating quick runs with his attacking style. Moreover, Deano was a natural showman and his infectious charisma would have only added more colour to the IPL.
Malcolm Marshall (West Indies)
To be honest, any great West Indian pace bowler from the ‘70s or ‘80s would easily walk into any IPL side. But the luminosity of Malcolm Marshall stands tall above the others. He wasn’t as tall or menacing as Joel Garner but he possessed crafts that very few did. Marshall’s ability to swing and seam the ball both ways with a quick-arm action made it really difficult for batsmen to gauge just what was he going to unfurl next.
Also, his open-chested action and the skiddy bounce he extracted even from the driest of surfaces made Marshall a nightmare to the best of batsmen across conditions. Today, all IPL teams would surely have been making a beeline to get Marshall and we can only salivate envisioning the great West Indian fast bowler having a go against AB De Villiers and Virat Kohli in a pulsating opening spell. Now that would have been quite a sight.