TELFORD VICE, Bulawayo
DAVID Warner has made a career out of scaring purists, and his views on what the Indian Premier League (IPL) does for test batsmen against spin bowlers will keep aficionados up at night.
“I’ve been (playing in the IPL) for (seven) years in a row now and the experience you gain from training on the wickets there – not necessarily the playing, it’s the training side of things – you can use to your advantage,” Warner told reporters in Sr Lanka, where Australia are playing a test series.
“Yeah, it’s a white ball but the conditions and the surfaces, once they deteriorate, get quite challenging.
“In that form of the game you have to try and score (quickly). So it gives you an advantage to look to score and to improvise when you play test cricket because the game’s about moving forward.
“We try and get on with the game, and it gives you an advantage to try and look for those scoring options rather than just trying to survive.
“But then again it does teach you, in certain areas, to get back in your crease and use your feet to survive.”
You can hear the sputtering from here: what does the recycled rabble rousing rascal think he’s doing?
The IPL prepares players for massive crowds, garish playing kit and how to spend more money than they could dream of earning if all they had were their real jobs, or international cricket.
Surely the IPL does not and cannot improve the ability of the finest batsmen to spar with the finest spinners in cricket’s most challenging format.
Except that, if we look past all that blustery opinion and consult the facts, Warner has a point. At least, he does in the case of AB de Villiers.
When De Villiers arrived at the IPL, in May, 2008, he had a test average of 38.05 against spin bowlers. Since then, he has averaged 61.55 in whites for SA dealing with slow poison.
De Villiers’ before-and-after one-day average against spin has also leapt – from 56.00 to 65.80.
Not that coincidence should be confused with causality.
The fact that De Villiers has faced almost four times as many deliveries from spinners in all formats in international cricket since he made his IPL debut, compared to before, means he is now a far more rounded player.
That said, it’s difficult not to take Warner seriously when the attraction of playing in competitions like the IPL is soon likely render the idea of putting a national team first as quaint as grand amateurism.
The other side of the equation is JP Duminy, who was averaging 103.00 against the slow stuff in tests when he played his first IPL game in April, 2009. Since then, his test average against spin has dwindled to 28.00.
But Duminy’s average before he played in the IPL was pneumatically enhanced by the two unbeaten half-centuries and a century, all against Australia, he scored in his first eight test innings.
He is currently struggling against all styles of bowling and has gone nine completed test innings and almost two years without reaching 50.
The IPL hasn’t helped Duminy scale the heights he reached early in his career. In eight innings for the Delhi Daredevils this year, he scored 191 runs with a best effort of 49 not out.
Warner, it seems, is as right as he is wrong.