In 2017, cricketer Sam Billings claimed that the Indian Premier League (IPL) is the closest a player can get on the domestic level in terms of pressure to international cricket. Billings’ words were likely dismissed by some cricket fans but the T20 league is by far and away the top domestic division in the sport. Its status as a top-tier league along with the amount of money available to players adds to the pressure.
Famed England batsman and former Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils player Kevin Pietersen backed up Billings’ claim of the pressure in the IPL. Pietersen joined Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2009 after the cricket club paid £1.1 million to purchase his rights in the player auction. At the time, Pietersen became the world’s most expensive cricketer. In spite of the high levels of pressure, Pietersen excelled at the Bangalore-based club.
Pietersen recently appeared in an interview with Betway where he revealed his experience playing in the IPL. “England’s greatest modern batsman” spoke about the pressure he found in the IPL from minute he arrived in Bangalore.
If the pressure on Pietersen at Royal Challengers Bangalore wasn’t high enough after becoming the IPL’s highest-paid player, it soon increased. The club’s owner Vijay Mallya handed Pietersen the team’s captaincy.
The pressure wasn’t just due to the amount of money Pietersen earned or being captain, however. According to the cricketer, compared to playing in London at Lord’s Cricket Ground where the game is passive and lacks energy from spectators, the IPL is a cauldron of noise and expectations.
It is this noise and the high expectations of fans in India that builds pressure on the players. As a batsman walks out to the wicket, music blasts over loud speakers, fans dance and sing creating a cacophony of sound. The players must act and react to every bowl, hit, and wicket while the noise is being produced by fans that expect the most out of each player.
Dealing with pressure in the IPL
The pressure isn’t reserved just to the pitch, however. Pietersen stresses that the owners of IPL teams hold a vast knowledge of cricket. They know the sport, the players, and tactics, which adds to the pressure of performing.
As captain, Pietersen didn’t just have the weight of being the IPL’s record buy on his shoulders but he had to position the team. He also had to keep everyone as happy as possible. Mallya obviously saw the potential Pietersen had and knew the Englishman could fulfil the role.
Billings played for the Delhi Daredevils – Pietersen played for the Daredevils after his time with Royal Challengers Bangalore – in the IPL in 2016 and 2017. He believes playing for England is personal which offers a different kind of pressure to playing in India. In addition, being an overseas player makes it even more difficult as fans expect players from abroad to be world-class stars even if they are not regular internationals.
Pietersen played six seasons in the IPL and his longevity in the league prior to his retirement showed an ability to deal with the pressures of the cricket league. It was the IPL’s pressure that helped make it one of Pietersen’s favourite competitions during his career.
Check out the video interview with Betway.