The Indian Premier League is a thrilling tournament that produces some exciting, nail-biting cricket and, therefore, also serves its purpose of making money. But its motto is "When talent meets opportunity," which it has certainly lived up to in its 11 seasons. So, when the brouhaha over Chennai Super Kings' third tournament win is done, we ask the important question: What did season 11 of the IPL do for Indian cricket?
Unlimited talent for limited overs cricket
It's become clear that the IPL carries much more weightage than domestic cricket as far as selection for ODIs and T20Is are concerned. This is actually a good practice by India's cricket administrators. The standard of domestic cricket in India is far too low to produce international prospects on a regular basis. The IPL is on par with international cricket in terms of quality, and performances in it are a good measure of how players would fare while representing their country.
These are great times for limited-overs cricket in India because of the talent brought to the fore by the IPL. For the first time in years, Indian cricket is producing more quality bowlers than batsmen. Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Kuldeep Yadav have already proven themselves to be some of the best in the world.
After the new season of the IPL, this talent pool been enriched further. Siddharth Kaul, who has broken into the national team, gives India a trifecta of death-overs specialists. How he does in the 50-overs format remains to be seen, but his temperament seems perfect for international cricket. He will be an alternative to Bhuvneshwar Kumar in ODIs, who currently plays all three formats and has a very heavy workload.
Several other fast bowlers have come to the fore as well. Shivam Mavi and Avesh Khan have consistently clocked over 140 km/h and their talents could be honed to make them viable international prospects. Shardul Thakur took up the challenge of bowling at the death for CSK and was among the wickets.
Spin twins Chahal and Kuldeep have some competition, as wrist spin is the flavour of the season. Mayank Markande and Shreyas Gopal are their the biggest challengers after some head-turning performances this season. India also have another left-handed all-rounder in Krunal Pandya, who was extremely economical with the ball and equally explosive with the bat. Being a better striker of the ball than Axar Patel and a smarter player than Ravindra Jadeja puts him in contention for a place in the team.
Expectedly, India has choices on the batting front as well. Players like KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, and Ambati Rayudu, who've already been in the Indian team at some point, are making a case for re-entry. Dinesh Karthik has cemented his place in the team as a finisher. Suryakumar Yadav and Sanju Samson are knocking on the doors as well.
However, in all of this, the fact remains that India only has rich reserves for limited-overs cricket. Their talent pool for Test cricket remains woefully small and even regulars in the longest format have struggled in alien conditions in recent times. In fact, it wouldn't be out of line to suggest that India's small talent pool for Test cricket is because the IPL occupies two whole months on the calendar and leaves players burnt out or injured, and unfit for Tests.
Dhoni still king, Kohli not so much
While CSK's title win isn't simply a result of good performances, it cannot be denied that MS Dhoni has proven that he is still a fantastic leader and probably deserves to remain India's limited-overs captain. Not only that, but this season of the IPL has proved to be his second coming as batsman.
It has been clear for a while that Dhoni is now more of an accumulator of runs than an explosive batsman, but the last two months have proven that all he needed was regular cricket and some confidence. For the last few years, Dhoni has not been playing much domestic cricket, which leaves him a little rusty coming into international games. This year's IPL has been a way for him to get some competitive cricket under his belt and get his mojo back.
Dhoni's success as captain makes Virat Kohli's failure even more worrisome. Kohli's captaincy has been very questionable in tough conditions. His limited-overs captaincy leaves a lot to be desired. All of this was foreshadowed for years in the IPL, but it did not deter the BCCI from making Kohli the Indian captain in all formats.
Yet another season of the IPL has gone by in which Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore have failed to make an impact, and this reflects poorly on him. With the world cup just a year away, one has to wonder if Kohli is the best person to lead arguably the best team India has had in years in this crucial period.
What to do with Rahane?
Amid all this, Ajinkya Rahane remains a very confusing figure in Indian cricket. Many would say that a sub-par Rajasthan Royals making it to the playoffs was largely because of Rahane's clever captaincy. Even in the past, Rahane has shown that he reads match situations better than most and has a cool head on his shoulders.
While this would suggest that he's a very good alternative to Virat Kohli as captain of the national team, Rahane has exhausted the long rope he's been given to cement his place in India's limited-overs team. His performances in ODIs have been patchy, and his IPL strike rate raises questions about his ability in these formats.
To sum up, India will not be hurting for talent in limited-overs cricket in the near future, but they might regret that their best leader no longer leads the national team and the second-best option isn't good enough to make it in as a player. As for Test cricket, all eyes are on England now.