During the ITV coverage of the Chennai Superkings versus Kings XI Punjab yesterday, the results of a poll came up on the screen - the TV company had asked "should the number of overseas players allowed per side be increased?", the result was fairly clear-cut - two-thirds wanted the number to be increased from the current maximum of four players per side.
So this got me thinking, what exactly does India want this to become? At the moment, as I see it, with a requirement for 7 Indian players per side you are giving a large number of Indian youngsters really great exposure to very competitive Twenty20 cricket. The likes of Saurabh and Manoj Tiwary, Virat Kohli and Manish Pandey, to name just a few, are developing into fabulous talents to the great benefit of Indian cricket as a whole. Its too early to say definitively right now, after only two completed IPLs what the impact of the IPL will be on India, but the likes of Pandey in particular wouldn't have come to such wide attention without it.
Above: Manish Pandey celebrates his hundred - the first and only Indian to score a hundred in the IPL (so far - Sehwag's got a 94 and Raina a 98).
But what if the number of overseas was increased to five or six, so that Kolkata could fit Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle in the side along with Owais Shah, Shane Bond, Angelo Mathews etc., Rajasthan could afford to field an attack featuring Morne Morkel and Shaun Tait, rather than having to pick one of the two? For sure you'd get some cracking cricket, but India cricket would lose more than it would gain in my opinion.
If there was only room for 5 Indians in any given side, and remember there's one 'icon' player (Tendulkar at Mumbai, Sehwag at Delhi and so on) per team, so only room for four and sometimes fewer up-and-coming Indians per side the IPL would cease to be a hotbed of young Indian talent.
Of course you'd get the odd one or two coming through, but more often than not the experienced overseas players would fill the top order slots and bowl the crucial overs, because so much rides on them. Just like the raison d'etre of the County Championship is to produce players for England, at least one of the key goals of the Indian Premier League should be to develop players for India.
Granted with two new franchises there will be more slots across the board, but I think as a matter of principle the number should remain at four to maximise the development of young Indian players.
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