It's the hits, the heaves and the "Yes maximums" that makes any T20 match an exciting and entertaining one. So if IPL 6 is high on Christ Gayle, it has also seen quite a few pacers giving a good account of themselves. All thanks to the lively pitches, even contests have been a par for course this season. Venues like Jaipur, Bangalore, Mumbai and Mohali have all dished out pacer-friendly tracks much to the benefit of speedsters.
It always helps in the development of a fast bowler and also a team's plan especially if the next big international assignment is the ICC Champions Trophy at a venue like England. So an impressive IPL performance will always serve as a fair indication of a bowler's skill, adaptability and consistency in testing conditions and challenging situations.
Obviously, IPL being a domestic competition has a great sense of Indian interest. Every new Indian entrant is seen with curiosity. His performance hailed and is labeled as an Indian prospect. This only means an Indian discard or even an Indian player has to do a lot more to impress in his bid to find a secured spot for India.
Even as a lot of emphasis is put on the Indian batters in IPL, a great four overs by a bowler is a chest of gold. From economy to wickets, if a bowler impresses in IPL, there is a great possibility for consideration. And with as many as 10 pacers (contenders) for the 2013 Champions Trophy squad participating in IPL 6, every performance serves as a selection trial.
The pacers list in the 30-man squad throws up some interesting names indicating great competition for spots for the flight to England. There are as many as 10 contenders to make it into the 16-man squad -Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda, Umesh Yadav, Shami Ahmed, Irfan Pathan, Vinay Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Ishwar Pandey and Siddarth Kaul.
A quick look at the list and one automatically looks back at their recent outings and performance. Ishant for Sunrisers Hyderabad has reinvented himself as a pacer. He was good in the Test series against Australia but in the shortest format, Ishant has bowled with a big heart to take 10 wickets in nine games but it's the pace with which he has been steaming in with. It of course helps when you have Dale Steyn at the other end. Ishant has complimented Steyn well and his recent form makes him a strong contender.
Up next is Bhuvaneshwar, the most impressive bowler since his international debut late last year. He can move the ball both the ways and his consistency of line and length with the white ball makes him a wicket taking asset for Dhoni. He recorded the best figures during Gayle's unbeaten of 175* which is testimony to his strength, skill and talent. Bhuvneshwar is flying to England for the Champions Trophy.
Dinda may be the best domestic bowler for the last couple of seasons, but lacks international consistency and class. Head band or no head band, he needs to use his head much more in his delivery plans. He is a hard worker but a smart worker is what MS Dhoni also wants to see in him. Dinda generates pace, is a team man and a very good fielder but he fails to contributes in his primary role. Unfortunately he is likely to miss out despite doing relatively well for Pune Warriors.
Yadav is another strong contender likely to make it into the final squad, but it depends on how the team management wants to utilize him. The last time he was left out of the ICC World Twenty20 in a bid to preserve him for bigger 'Tests', however if he plays almost every match in the IPL Yadav makes himself available for selection. On English pitches he should enjoy bowling.
Ahmed for Kolkata Knight Riders has been used sparingly; sadly this can go against him. He did well against Pakistan in the ODI series and generates decent pace and swing but finds strong competition with the rest of the experienced pack. Ahmed will need to do something special in the remaining IPL games to find favour.
Irfan's IPL performance has been decent. He has been as asset with the bat and with the new ball has been miserly, even recording two maidens this IPL season. In England he can be lethal and knowing Dhoni's habit of going in with allrounders, Irfan walks into the playing XI as well.
The toss up is between the Praveen and Vinay. Both bowlers have found favour but only one of them is likely to make it. Both have their strengths and limitations. Praveen can swing the new ball by a mile while Vinay can be effective in the death overs. It depends on what the captain wants, but it looks like Vinay holds the edge at the moment.
The remaining two, Pandey and Kaul, have hardly played for their IPL franchises so their names in the 30-man list come across as fillers. Nevertheless, they bowled really well this domestic season for their respective states and are worthy recipients of a mention.
Saturday is when the selectors sit down to select the side for the Champions Trophy. Each one of these 30 probables will be aware of the importance of this last week, in particular the pacers who have only four overs to impress the selectors. A few more good performances may just be enough for a ticket to England.