IPL and International Cricket Council need to coordinate schedules much better in future

Even as TV and digital viewership of the IPL this year dropped sharply, both ICC and IPL need to revisit their schedules

IPL and International Cricket Council need to coordinate schedules much better in future

Vijayan Bala

This year’s Indian Premier League had 10 teams participating and lasted over two months (26 March to 29 May). Undoubtedly the IPL has done a lot of good for young players in terms of money and exposure to the best of the world’s cricketing talent. But it has not been an unmixed blessing for all in international cricket.

The ICC has started conducting the World Test Championship and started giving points to the teams in the limited overs format to decide which teams among the bottom ranked ones will directly qualify for, say, the World Cup in 2023. Even the once formidable West Indies, is among those teams.

Since the IPL offers really big money, players of different countries - even mediocre ones with some skills - prefer playing the IPL instead of representing their respective countries. To ensure that all countries have their best players always available for tests and limited over internationals, the ICC should see to it that there are no international games -- tests or limited over ones -- at least during the IPL window and 10 days prior to and after the IPL. What meaning or significance will the World Test Championship have if the best players of different countries are neither available nor matchready? Of course, it will greatly help if the IPL can be completed in one and a half months.

When South Africa played two tests vs Bangladesh at home in March- April this year, the host country had to play without a top middle order batter Rassie van der Dussen, a talented batter Aiden Markram and almost its entire pace attack of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Marco Jansen and Lungi Ngidi as all these players felt it was better for them to play in the IPL. They unfortunately took this decision despite their test skipper Dean Elgar requesting them to play for their country. In these circumstances, the IPL franchisees must, as a policy, allow international players from other countries to join the IPL late or leave early so that they represent their countries with full commitment.

Thanks to the IPL, South Africa was able to play only one quality pacer against Bangladesh - Duanne Olivier. South Africa was able to win the series as the two test wickets aided spinners and South Africa’s two quality spinners - off spinner Simon Harmer and left armer Keshav Maharaj proved to be unplayable.

The West Indies play the Netherlands on its home turf - Amstelveen in three ODIs on 31 May, 2 June and 4 June. The IPL ended on 29 May. One of the main West Indies pacers- Alzarri Joseph, played for the Gujarat Titans in the final on 29 May. I wonder how he could play an ODI in absolutely different conditions just two days after the final.

Imagine a situation where the West Indies ODI captain -Nicholas Pooran was playing in the IPL final. The already disorganized West Indies side would have been in total disarray. Fortunately for the West Indies, star allrounder Jason Holder has been rested by the West Indies selectors while, unfortunately for the West Indies, ShimronHetmyer, a class young batter, has preferred the IPL to representing the West Indies in the ODIs vs the Netherlands and Pakistan.

Another example is that of the New Zealand team presently in England. The first test between New Zealand and England starts in England on 2 June and New Zealand’s star left arm pacer Trent Boult, playing for the Rajasthan Royals, represented his team in the final on 29 May. Is it possible for Boult to be in proper condition to play the first test? Many other top Kiwi players participated in this year’s IPL but fortunately for New Zealand, the teams for which they were playing did not make the playoffs. New Zealand has been able to adjust because of its quality bench strength.

Though, admittedly difficult, it is time that countries like South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies in particular, make it clear that the IPL should not come in the way of their players representing their respective countries in tests, ODIs and T20s. The Cricket Boards of these three countries must make this point clear to their respective players too.

India completed its international fixtures ten days before the IPL and is restarting its international fixtures after the IPL with a home limited overs series vs South Africa beginning on 9 June.

The IPL management and the franchisees should ensure that overseas players who are bought are of a certain standard and have consistently good performances to their credit. Mere warming the bench is of little use to the player and the franchise. Promising young Indian players should be selected with thought and nurtured by the coaches of the franchises they play for.

Surely quality overseas players, in particular, who are unlikely to be regular playing members in the IPL will be better off playing county cricket in England or improving one’s skills at home. They must realize that not being able to play for most of the two months can result in a huge loss of self-confidence. A close look at the IPL teams and the players they bought will illustrate the point.

Now a question for the ICC. Is the World Test Championship complete without India and Pakistan playing each other? A solution has to be found –possibly by playing on a neutral venue?

International cricket - be it tests or limited over formats - will have greater meaning and significance if these issues are addressed at the earliest.

(Author of ‘Indian Sports-Conversations & Reflections’, the writer has been an educationist, sports writer and commentator)

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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Published: 06 Jun 2022, 1:00 PM