In the terms of mathematical logic, if we define set A as ‘Talent’ and set B as ‘Opportunity’, the intersection of the two sets can be called ‘Rajasthan Royals’.
Being a cricket fanatic, I would suggest you to ride the train from the local suburbs to Churchgate, walk to the Wankhede or the Brabourne stadium and watch a Ranji match. One should experience the thrill of a batsman playing the cover drive, the leg spinner pitching it in the rough and turning the ball almost by a foot. We are talking about witnessing the local talent here, who at the end of the day will take a train or ride a bus to go back home. Next day you may or may not get to read their names in the newspapers and as the time passes, you may forget their names.
Now, imagine yourself sitting at the jam-packed Wankhede, with the crowd shouting their lungs out and supporting Mumbai Indians. The local lad playing for the opposite team bowls a leg spinner, pitches it in the rough and the star batsman is bowled around his legs. Now will you remember the name of the local lad? I think it will be etched in your memories for a long time. This is exactly what IPL does to a player. Bringing the much smaller stars to the main galaxy and allowing them to shine. But does the local talent really get opportunities to showcase their game?
In any sport, opportunities play on the mental condition of a player. If Tendulkar wouldn’t have got the opportunity to open the innings on that fine morning in Auckland, he might have always played at No. 4 for India. On the similar lines, if Rooney aged 17 had not got a chance to play that evening for Everton against Arsenal, he wouldn’t have entered into the record books for being the youngest goal scorer in the Premier league. Athletes will never moan over the opportunities that went bad, but over the opportunities that never came by.
What I am trying to convey here is the fact that how small decisions play a vital role in the making of a bigger picture. S. Badrinath was a part of the team that had Hussey, Vijay, Raina, Dhoni and Hayden. This line-up never gave him a chance to showcase his talent. He was never seen as someone who could blast 40 off 20 balls. At the same time, Jadeja was turning out to be the ‘Rockstar’ of the RR team because he was made to realize that there was no one else to strike big in the lower order or bowl quick left arms in the middle overs. Jaddu’s talent met the right opportunities. Today, India cannot imagine their 2015 WC campaign without Jadeja. Rajasthan Royals as a team stand out for providing ample opportunities to a large number of local players. A team can do it for a year or two, but to build up a reputation of a ‘youngster – grooming’ club, the team atmosphere must be phenomenal.
1. Team Atmosphere
If there is one place where I would like to be during any of the IPL’s, it would be the RR team meetings. After their success over the past years, I am really curious about how and what the captains, coaches and the support staff speak to such a young and a relatively inexperienced squad. What would you say every day, if your job was just to make ordinary feel the extra-ordinary? Shane Warne, Rahul Dravid and Shane Watson have captained very mediocre teams but have instilled a self-belief into the players. The belief that winning is possible from any situation of the game and it does not matter whom you are pitted against. A phenomenal team atmosphere, rather than a coaching manual is responsible for grooming players. RR has the vision to acquire the best of the talents and make them play. Karun Nair scored a dazzling 151 in the Ranji semi-final for Karnataka. RR recognized his potential and provided him a chance to bat at the top of the order and his performance was more than just impressive.
2. You can win a game – You play
Praveen Tambe has been the story of the IPL 2013 and 2014. One can imagine the impact in IPL 2013, after which he earned a call from Mumbai Ranji team. No other team in the IPL would play him, given his age, his swiftness in the outfield and his batting ability. Then why does RR? Well, RR simply believes in an individual possessing the talent to do enough on the cricket field. Tambe was not bought in the auction by most of the teams. RR was shy in buying him through the RTM. He was bought for a base price of Rs. 10 Lakhs and picked the wickets of iconic players like Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Kohli, Pietersen and Duminy. Tambe has had the heart to flight the ball to some of the biggest stroke-makers playing the game. For anyone growing up with an aim to play some serious cricket, Tambe is the story to read, to follow and to match.
3. The outside force
Unlike other teams, RR has picked some lesser known international stars in their line-up.Would you believe that Kane Richardson, who opened the bowling for RR, has bowled just 6 overs for the Australian Cricket Team? Kevon Cooper, the game changer, has played just 2 first class games for West Indies. Thus, they don’t have a habit of buying more than two high-profile foreigners. Like the head which wears the crown for them (read: Dravid), they believe in the power of simplicity than players having a lot of paparazzi around them. No wonder you don’t see Faulkner showing his love for his rivals before the game or does Watto waste his time and energy on sledging. It’s a pleasure to see these foreigners too marvel in the shadow of Dravid, with calm and cool head becoming a way of life for most of them, at-least while they wear the RR jersey.
4. The Youth
Karun Nair, Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson came in to bat at position 1, 2 and 3 for RR. If you have to pick top 3 for your batting line-up from all the IPL teams, these names might never appear on the list. RR has really played pivotal role in providing Indian cricket with such talented young cricketers. Karun Nair played the IPL 2014 with a strike rate of 142, which is an amazing number for a 22-year-old cricketer facing the best bowlers from around the world. Rahane did prove himself in New Zealand and is shaping into the mainstay of the RR batting line up. Dazzle is the word that can describe Sanju Samson’s performance in IPL 2014, who is turning out to be a huge prospect.
The previous day I saw a bunch of kids playing cricket. I stopped by to ask them which IPL team they would prefer to play for, if given a choice. Only one out of the ten kids wanted to play for RR. I was curious about his answer and asked him the reason. He smiled sheepishly and said, “Because I will really get to bat, if I played for that team.”
I believe that great leaders make great teams. It was Rahul Dravid who got a 19-year-old Kohli to play for RCB and it is Rahul Dravid again, who has got a 19-year-old Samson to play the IPL.