IPL 2021: A Change of Role & Striking Form Early Keys To Success For Rejuvenated Maxwell and Ali

IPL 2021: ‘We Couldn’t Execute Our Plans, Gave Away 25 Runs Extra,’ Says Virat Kohli

Mind you, neither Maxwell nor Moeen went cheap, but they are delivering on expectations. So far. The case for them collapses if they are one season wonders and not consistent matchwinners over a few seasons at least to leave a lasting impact.

Nonetheless, what makes a player struggling in a team come alive when he switches to another is an interesting phenomenon to understand? What catalyses the transformation from a Non-Performing Asset (NPA), to borrow from financial jargon, into a success story with a change in team?

There is no hard research on the issue, but there are trigger points. “Finding rhythm early is so important,’’ says former India player Yajurvindra Singh. “This format can be cruel to those struggling for form and rhythm, batsmen or bowlers.’’

No player can bide time to find his touch, batting or bowling, says Yajurvindra. “If you squander too many deliveries to get your feet moving, you are asking for trouble. And bowlers have only four overs in an innings, so you can’t take 1or two overs to find the right line and length.’’

This is compounded by the fact that the pace at which the IPL unravels – matches every alternate day – does not give too much opportunity for corrective time and sessions in the nets. Players have to learn, correct and improve on the move as it were.

“That is why, it is so important that players are in the right frame of mind and in rhythm very early, best from the start of the tournament,’’ says Yajurvindra Singh. “If not, you lose your place, which may be difficult to regain, and finish the season as a failure.’’

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Yajurvindra is right in this respect when you consider Maxwell’s and Moeen’s travails last season. Neither got off to a good start, and as the tournament wore on, the struggle became more pronounced (as in Maxwell’s case), or led to the player being frequently overlooked, as happened with Moeen.

But finding early rhythm, while terribly important, is only one aspect of how a new player new to a team settles in. Choosing the right player for the right role is crucial in all formats, but more so in T20 where margin of error is miniscule.

For instance, Maxwell is being slotted at no.3 or 4 this season by RCB, unlike with Punjab last season when he was used primarily as a finisher at 5 or 6, and as the team started struggling, as a floater, being moved up and down the order.

A defined batting position comes with its own responsibilities. So while Maxwell is renowned for his big hitting prowess, he also has to hold the RCB innings together if 1-2 wickets fall early. And this without compromising on his strength.

How well he’s done that is evident from stats: He has the most runs in the middle overs (as I write this), as well as the most boundaries. This means that RCB’s inning doesn’t slacken in run getting, which has helped them post or chase down big scores, leading to wins.

Moeen Ali, promoted to no. 3 by CSK, has been stroking the ball beautifully. He’s not had a really big knock as yet, but has been consistent, and scoring runs at a rapid clip, which puts pressure on the fielding side. He’s also bowled his off-spin with fine control, and in tandem with Jadeja, CSK have a formidable spin duo.

These were the roles which these players were expected to play for their earlier franchises too. It’s not that the KRAs have changed, but the deployment of these players has been judicious, leading to success. This may happen because of a new batting position, when a player is brought in to bowl, but even more important, on the top-down communication.

“Making a player feel good about his skills, important of his place in the side, puts his mind at ease, and therefore quick to jell with team culture and purpose’’ India coach Ravi Shastri told me after the huge successful tour of Australia when I asked him how so many untested and young players had performed so well.

This might sound pedantic, but is critical, as the IPL evidence suggests. It is easier for younger players to settle into a side (e.g. Padikkal for RCB, Gaikwad for CSK, Gill for KKR, and in the past, Raina and Jadeja for CSK, Kohli for RCB, and Rohit for Mumbai), than established stars who come with baggage.

For instance, Yuvraj Singh and Kevin Pietersen, two outstanding batsmen, couldn’t quite settle down in the different teams they played for. Ajinkya Rahane, who had some terrific seasons for Rajasthan Royals, seems to have an existential issue in Delhi Capitals. Chris Gayle, who’s delivered for every team he’s played, irrespective of length of tenure is the exception who proves the rule.

There are more like Maxwell and Moeen to illustrate the opposite point: For instance, Trent Boult, who became Bumrah’s partner with telling effect immediately on joining Mumbai Indians from Hyderabad, and Dwayne Bravo, who’s performances for CSK have been as influential as they were for MI. And this is not restricted to only overseas players. Gautam Gambhir was stellar after he moved to KKR.

National, cultural, religious diversities in the IPL poses a challenge to man-management skills of the captain and others leaders in the franchise for players to settle in swiftly and produce optimum results. In team sports, it is not just talent that is crucial, but also chemistry between players and a team ethos that allows best expression of talent.

There is no codified formula for this. The best leaders find a way to bring out the best in others, who collectively settle into a rhythm that makes for strong team. It is hardly surprising then that teams which have won the title multiple times have had the least upheavals and changes.

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CNN-News18 is an Indian English-language news television channel founded by Rajdeep Sardesai located in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India. It is currently owned by Network 18. CNN provides international coverage for the channel, while Indian Broadcasting Network concentrates on Indian and local reports.

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