The search for mystery bowlers who can spring a few surprises and batters capable of hitting fours and sixes, especially in the middle and slog overs, is on again. Around 30-35 talent scouts, including former India players like Parthiv Patel, Ashish Kapoor, TA Sekhar, Pragyan Ojha, Rahul Sanghvi and Vijay Dahiya, are out to identify players for the next season of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Besides the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy, these scouts would also travel to different cities to identify suitable talents at the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Under-25 knockouts, Tamil Nadu Premier League and Maharaja T20 KSCA Trophy.
“It’s a tough job and one needs to do a lot of homework before scouting talent for a franchise. It’s almost a 50-day business in a year and I need to see almost all the T20 events across the country to collect players’ statistics as now the IPL is more about data,” said one such scout of a franchise on condition of anonymity.
“We remain focused on raw talent, especially mystery bowlers and hard-hitters. Last year, I spotted 3-4 (players with) raw talent, especially pacers bowling above 145 km per hour for a franchise from rural parts of a state, and those pacers are still being groomed and trained by the franchise,” he added.
However, he said that even though there would be a mini auction this time, the scout still has to do a serious job for the new season. “Few players would be needed by the franchise this time due to a small auction, but we are still putting our best foot forward to spot talent,” he said. “We spot talents by rotation. A player is being judged by a number of scouts of one franchise,” he added.
He also said that some franchises keep an eye on raw talent during school cricket matches as these talents are assets for the future. “Many such cricketers have done well for a side in the past. Franchises don’t find it right to groom a cricketer as sometimes another franchise buys that cricketer in the auction so it’s better to have raw talent of your own.”
Franchises like Mumbai Indians and few others send their own support staff as scouts as they find it more suitable, instead of hiring a professional for the job. “We have a very good, balanced side. We have a number of all-rounders and it gives a lot of flexibility to the captain,” Mumbai Indian’s chief mentor and scout TA Sekhar said.
“If a player is good, we ask him to appear in the trials. We have our own playing facility, where one can train all 365 days at any time. Our players play for the badge of the Mumbai Indians and we do a lot of positive things even off the field to make a good side,” he said.
So how does he spot a fast-bowling talent while scouting? “A fast bowler should have variations —yorkers, slower balls, slow bouncer and the bouncer. He should be able to use all the variations effectively. And in the case of batters, I see it differently. If it is an opening batsman, then I look at how he handles fast bowlers and whether he can hit the ball or gives away more of dot balls,” he said.
“A middle-order batter should be able to rotate the strike. I also look at a batter who can hit sixes and fours in the last four overs.”
Some of the IPL scouts take their video analyst with them to spot the talents. “The video analysts are a big help in identifying the skills of a player. Last season, I sent the video footage of a few raw talents to the team’s bosses and some of those talents were immediately called for the trials,” said another scout, refusing to be named.
He also said that besides having 18-24 cricketers for a side, a few franchises also prefer to hire youngsters as net bowlers. “Most of these net bowlers come from the domestic matches and also at a low price of ₹3-7 lakh for a season. They get to share the dressing room with Team India cricketers and learn a lot for the next season,” he said.
Besides having Parthiv Patel, Ashish Kapoor and TA Sekhar, the ongoing Lucknow leg of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy has scouts like Vincent Vinay Kumar (Punjab Kings), Suresh R (KKR), and Srinath (SRH).