IPL 2021: The Availability of WI Players & England’s International Commitments Two Biggest Challe – News18

The BCCI is very keen to reschedule the remainder of the 2021 IPL in the UAE in the window between September 19 and October 10. However, two of its biggest challenges would be the availability of the star West Indian players who form an integral part of the various franchises they represent in the IPL and the commitment of the England and Wales Cricket Board to international matches ahead of the World T20 in October-November.

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We look at the two big challenges and also some other international fixtures which clash with the proposed dates of the rescheduled 2021 IPL.

The Clash With the CPL

The 2021 Caribbean Premier League is slated to be held between August 28 and September 19. The West Indies Cricket Board would need to tweak the schedule of the home series against Pakistan in order to bring forward the dates of the CPL. The Pakistan home series is currently slotted between July 28 and August 24. The gap between the matches would need to be reduced and only a more compact Pakistan series would allow the CPL to start a week in advance, say around the 20th of August. That would mean that the T20 league could be over by the 10th or 11th of September giving enough time to the star West Indian players to quarantine in the UAE before the start of the IPL on the 19th.

Currently there is a nine-day gap between the end of the West Indies-Pakistan T20I series on August 3 and the beginning of the Test series on the 12th of August – and herein lies the window of opportunity for the WICB to tighten the schedule.

The West Indies players are premium for any league in the world and even more so at the IPL where the top stars from the Caribbean are game changers for their various franchises.

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Kieron Pollard produced the highest impact knock of IPL 2021 as he blasted an unbeaten 87 off just 34 deliveries against the Chennai Super Kings in a scintillating successful 219-run chase in Delhi. With Hardik Pandya not at his best this season, Pollard is the X-factor for the Mumbai Indians in the middle order. He scored 268 runs at a stunning strike rate of 191.42 – the highest in the competition – in the 2020 edition of the IPL in the UAE. He had a strike rate of 156.74 in the 2019 season. Pollard’s cameos, often from hopeless situations, were one of the major reasons for his franchise’s back to back title triumphs in 2019 and 2020.

The Universe Boss, Chris Gayle may not be at his destructive best any more but is still a major force in T20 cricket. He has an aggregate of 4950 runs in 139 innings in the IPL. His average of 40.24 and strike rate of 149.45 place him in a unique club of three in the IPL. Only two others – AB de Villiers and David Warner have an average of in excess of 40 and strike rate of more than 140 in the league’s history.

Gayle won two successive Orange Caps (for the RCB) in 2011 and 2012 amassing 608 and 733 runs at a strike rate of 183.13 and 160.74 respectively. He also holds the record for the highest score in IPL history – a devastating unbeaten 175 off just 66 deliveries against the Pune Warriors in Bengaluru in 2013.

Andre Russell may have lost a bit of his mojo but just a couple of seasons back in 2019 he blasted 510 runs in 14 matches at a stunning strike rate of 204.81 in what was the most destructive batting display in a season by any batsman in the history of the IPL. The Knight Riders know his worth and thus they retain him in the XI even after a very poor 2020 and a below-par show in the first half of 2021.

It is a similar story for the other star player from the Caribbean for the Knight Riders – Sunil Narine. Not setting the tournament on fire in the last three seasons, Narine was in destructive form with the bat in 2017 and 2018 where he had a combined strike rate of above 180. The off spinner had led the KKR attack both in 2012 and 2014 finishing as their leading wicket-taker taking his side to victory in the tournament.

Nicholas Pooran may have had a nightmare of a season for the Punjab Kings in 2021 but it was not too long back in 2020 in the UAE where he smashed 353 runs at a strike rate of 169.71 for the same franchise.

37-year old Dwayne Bravo still has a number of tricks up his sleeve with his slower balls and variations and remains one of the most deceptive bowlers at the death in the T20 format. He is the joint third-highest wicket-taker in IPL history with 156 wickets in 141 innings at a strike rate of 17.8. For someone who bowls a majority of his overs at the death, his economy rate of 8.38 is outstanding. Bravo still holds the record for the highest number of wickets in a single season of the IPL – he bagged 32 wickets at a strike rate of 11.7 in the 2013 edition of the tournament.

Shimron Hetmyer has produced a number of cameos for the Delhi Capitals batting in the lower-order and has a strike rate of a touch over 150 in the IPL. Overall there are three West Indians (Russell, Narine and Pooran) in the five top strike rate batsmen in IPL history!

Thus, the non-availability of any of the West Indian players even for a part of the remainder of the 2021 season will be a massive blow for the respective franchise and completely changes the balance, dynamics and balance of the competition.

Some other international stars like Faf du Plessis are also a part of the CPL. The South African has been CSK’s best batsman across 2021 and 2020 and his batting at the top of the order is one of the major reasons for the franchises’ fightback and transformation this season.

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England’s International Commitments & Other Tours

ECB’s Director of Cricket, Ashley Giles recently stated that the priority of the England players would be to be on national duty over any rescheduled IPL. England are committed to play limited overs’ series in Bangladesh and Pakistan between late September and early October in preparation for the World T20. A number of England players play important roles for their franchises in the IPL. These include the likes of Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Sam Curran, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes.

Rajasthan Royals with three big English players and Chennai Super Kings with Ali and Sam Curran would be the two most adversely affected franchises should the England players not be available for the second half of the IPL in September-October.

New Zealand are expected to take part in a limited-overs’ series in Pakistan in September-October while Afghanistan are scheduled to host Pakistan in the Emirates in September in another white-ball series.

India-South Africa T20I Series

India was set to host South Africa for a three-match ODI and T20I series in late September/early October as a build up to the World T20. But with the rescheduled 2021 season to be played during the same window, reports suggest that the entire limited overs’ series might be called off or postponed to a later date. This, however, will not be such a big concern for the BCCI as they can always compensate by playing more matches when they tour South Africa in December this year.

Yes, it does set a bad precedent with respect to cancelling an international bilateral series to accommodate the cash-rich IPL, but it will not be such a bad move seeing the larger picture and the value and significance of the prestigious league.

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