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For these players, home is where opportunity is

Tuesday, 6 May 2014 - 6:15am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

When he scored that match-winning half-century for Rajasthan Royals against Delhi Daredevils last weekend, middle-order batsman Karun Nair joined a list of Karnataka players to play and excel for non-Bangalore franchises this IPL.

Well, a Karnataka player turning out for a Jaipur-based franchise team that is playing its home matches at Ahmedabad is what IPL is all about.

Nair, the 22-year-old right-handed batsman, had an impressive debut Ranji Trophy season that ended in February first week, scoring three centuries in successive matches and tasting title triumph straight up.

But Nair, like seven others from Karnataka, have to come to terms with the fact that they will be 'visitors' at their otherwise home turf in Chinnaswamy Stadium where they have played all their life.

Such is the way IPL goes where a fan can hardly connect with their local players. The franchise owners choose players of their liking, whom they feel can win them matches and spend on them. No doubt, it is their team and their money.

Fans find it tough to digest the fact that a Tamil Nadu player in Lakshmipathi Balaji is turning out for Kings XI Punjab but not for the Chennai Super Kings the same way as 'Bengali Babu' Ashok Dinda playing for Bangalore and not for Kolkata or leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal from Haryana representing Bangalore while Bangalore's own wrist-spinner Shreyas Gopal, who had an impressive maiden Ranji season, has been picked up by Mumbai Indians and not by Bangalore.

Or, for that matter, an out and out Delhi-ite, Mithun Manhas playing for Chennai Super Kings while R Vinay Kumar, from Davanegere, the interiors of Karnataka, is a key bowler for Kolkata Knight Riders. And, until last year who played in all of Chennai Super Kings match since the start of this league six years ago, S Badrinath, does not find himself in his team.

The players also have begun to accept the fact that they are in demand outside their regions and more importantly, they are playing in IPL. "Better to be playing for some team" and "We have no choice but to play for the team we are chosen to represent" is the common refrain.

When IPL began, five teams named their icon players, all faces of those particular cities – Sachin Tendulkar for Mumbai Indians, Rahul Dravid for Royal Challengers Bangalore, Yuvraj Singh for Kings XI Punjab, Sourav Ganguly for KKR and Virender Sehwag for Delhi Daredevils. Hyderabad's VVS Laxman put team before self and declined the icon status given to him by Deccan Chargers so that the team could spend more on players. As it was then, an icon player got 15per cent more than the highest paid player in the side. The icon status has since been discontinued and Karnataka legends Dravid and Anil Kumble are now the faces of Rajasthan and Mumbai IPL teams, respectively.

Other than RCB, Delhi Daredevils is the only other team in this league that does not have a single local player. In fact, the only Delhi-ite in DD's squad, Milind Kumar, was released from the team as his services were not required for now.

Do the fans feel connected to their city team or is there a disconnect? Not many seem to complain as long as they are entertained by the top international players. Will a Bangalorean complain when AB de Villiers runs amok as he did on Sunday night against his South African country-mate Dale Steyn? Everything about the local connect will be forgotten when Chris Gayle unleashes his six-hitting abilities, sending the ball soaring into the stands.

TA Sekar, director of GMR Sports, owners of Delhi Daredevils, had this to say when dna asked him about the missing local connect. "How many Englishmen are playing for Man United in EPL? The thing is Delhi Daredevils or Royal Challengers Bangalore is a city team. At the auctions, we have to pick the players who we believe are good for us. If we had have good Delhi players, it could have been fine. The auction went in such a way that we were regrouping our team. All these will be forgotten once the team does well. Ours is a Delhi team, it is Delhi Daredevils and not something else."

It would make an interesting sight when Vinay Kumar bowls Kolkata to victory at Chinnaswamy Stadium or Mithun Manhas scores those winning runs for Chennai Super Kings at Ferozeshah Kotla. Whether the fan is disappointed because his city team lost or pleased that a city lad came up trumps.

After all, it is the Indian Premier League, isn't it?

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