The IPL is weaker now

The eight teams made this league incredibly strong, pushing it to ten dilutes that.

The IPL is worse this year. It obviously had to expand to make it a real league, and ten teams is a bare minimum. I would assume that the BCCI have a magic number in mind, but there is no reason why there can't be 20 teams in ten years. That would be the kind of league they were always hoping to make.

Bring in second teams in large markets, and find some interesting smaller market places. Maybe have a tourist team in Goa or Puducherry, have fun with it. It's very 90s TV to only have one game a night. We stream now. If one game is shit, I want to scroll, and find something better to watch. Give me three or four games, perhaps even start them at slightly different times, so the middle overs don't overlap.

These are all options of a proper sporting league, but the IPL, like all T20 leagues, is so early on that we're still building. No one really knows what this will be because sports and how we consume them are moving so fast. But more teams is more games, and that will help in bigger rights deals. That is the aim.

So bringing the teams in was a good step.

But from a quality of cricket viewpoint, it's also a step backwards. We had 88 players in first elevens last season; we have 110 now. . Had we allowed for say, five/six overseas players, that maybe changes it a little. Instead it's still four, so you can easily suggest the league is around 20% worse.

Put it this way; there are 2.2 players in your favourite IPL team this season who weren't last year. So that fringe player - you couldn't understand why they kept trying last year- is a solid selection now. The players who barely got a scratch are now fringe players. Everyone gets to move up a slot or two.

So there are players in teams now that last year wouldn't be. Ajinkya Rahane was probably done as an IPL frontline player a year ago. He's never been perfectly suited to this format, he's a career 31/121 scorer. But in his prime he had some high scoring and par strike rate years. Of Indian players he is one of the best players of pace, and his brain is obviously a good thing to have lying around the dug out.

But he played two games last season, and the year before, he was in nine, and averaged 14 while striking at 104. So far this year his main innings is helping chase Chennai's sub-par 133, with a 44 not out. He should be a bench player at his age and ability now in an eight-team league. In a ten, he's probably worth a starting spot.

In that same game is Shivam Dube, who had the kind of match he is known for. Failed with the bat, and his own over got smashed. But as of the games on the 3rd of April, Dube was one of three players with more than 100 runs, and we went within a run of scoring back to back 50s.

Why you like to guess when Shivam Dube has ever scored back to back 40 plus scores in his career before that, it's never. This is only the second time he's made back to back 30+ scores. Dube is 28. He's played 65 games, mostly batting between three and seven.

Now, it is more than possible he is coming of age. 28 is pretty much prime years, and you only have to watch him to know he's underperformed. But it's interesting that he's had his first mini break out as the league has expanded. Although not with the ball, he's bowled two overs for 26 runs so far.

Let's look at a bowler, Umesh Yadav has not had a great IPL career. In fit's and bursts, he has shown that he can take wickets, but he's had three years of a sub-eight economy, with four over nine.

And because of that, he played two matches last season. He was overlooked in the first round of this auction. At 2 crore in the second round, you assume that it would be a bench role again. But Shreyas Iyer and Baz McCullum have sent him upfront to attack. They told him not to worry about runs.

Umesh has eight wickets in three games, that is the same amount he took in 2019, 2020 and2021 combined. Now you will assume there will be some pretty harsh regression to the mean at one point for him. His current Econ is 4.92; he must feel faint looking at it. His bowling average is also 7.4. But again, you have the signs that some of the players who were on the scrap heap are now bouncing.

There are even weirder trends, like Rahul Tewatia is a batter now. Only delivering 12 balls in his first two matches. Or my personal favourite, Deepak Hooda, who has 119 runs from three knocks. He’s in his eighth season, and he has 41 runs less than his best ever year.

There is a reason I picked all these players too. All of them have been written off as shit IPL players over the years. Rahane is the Test specialist who just clogs up a spot while looking out of place. Umesh Yadav is already the least appreciated Test bowler, and he's given plenty of reasons why fans can't trust him in the IPL.

Shivam Dube was the next Hardik Pandya, but in all truth, besides aesthetically pleasing movements when he bats, he's rarely looked like a player worthy of batting or bowling in the IPL. Deepak Hooda just got great money on the back of a career record of 16/129 with the bat and 50/8.4 with the ball. Rahul Tewatia played one great innings and since then has disappointed.

But these were already good cricketers, but the level of the IPL was so insanely high because of how few players were in it, that these players looked worse than they were. Dube, Tewatia and Hooda have all played for India. Rahane is still probably one of the better players of pace. And for all the love of the new crop of pacers coming through.

Now, all that said, this season is early, and two Shivam Dube innings does not tell a complete story. Hooda might still end up with less than 150 runs on the year. And Tewatia is going to bowl at some point. But just from a maths perspective, this league should be weaker, and players that people on social media love to hate might have some surprisingly good years because of it.

I went on the last wicket podcast recently. Had the flu, so I could have said anything. Enjoy.