When IPL was suspended on May 4, Delhi Capitals, in search of their first title, were in unchartered territory—on top of the leaderboard with a 75 % victory record. Rishabh Pant and Ricky Ponting had marshalled the team to within a couple of wins from making the playoffs. Languishing at the bottom of the points table were Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad with 4 and 2 points respectively. But, as any IPL regular would know, freakish reversals of fortune are always around the corner in the league.
When IPL action is planned to resume on September 19, expect more uncertainties. First, teams will have to contend with playing on livelier tracks in the UAE instead of the slower Indian wickets. More crucially, teams will have to figure out whether their overseas stars will be able to play at all.
At BCCI’s special meeting last month, it was discussed that there would be talks with all overseas cricket boards for international player availability. Those talks are still in progress and a number of leading franchise executives said they are yet to get any confirmation from the BCCI over their international participants. A leading BCCI official said talks are positive and would result in “maximum participation”.
Although rules permit only four overseas players in the eleven and nine in the squad, these players often have an oversized impact on the tournament. When the league was suspended in April, the leading wicket-takers of four teams were all overseas players—Chris Morris from Rajasthan Royals (who is also the most expensive player in the history of the league), Rashid Khan (Sunrisers Hyderabad), Sam Curran (Chennai Super Kings) and Pat Cummins (Kolkata Knight Riders). Four foreigners—Faf Du Plessis (CSK), Jos Buttler (RR), Jonny Bairstow (SRH) and Glenn Maxwell (RCB) were topping the respective team’s scoring charts.
Despite the attraction of IPL riches for the players, some overseas boards have been publicly unwilling to release their players. The reason is the T20 World Cup, also slated to move from India to the UAE and scheduled tentatively to start a couple of weeks after IPL.
Australian media has already reported that Cummins won’t play the IPL to preserve himself for the World Cup and the Ashes.
ENGLAND PLAYERS UNAVAILABLE
England’s cricket board has been the first to make it clear that its players won’t play IPL. “We are going to have to give some of these guys a break at some point. But the intention of giving guys a break for, say, Bangladesh (series), wouldn’t be for them to go and play cricket elsewhere,” Ashley Giles, ECB’s director of cricket, told ESPN recently. “We have to manage our schedule now, so we get our guys arriving in the best shape possible for the T20 World Cup and the Ashes.”
From KKR’s point of view, playing without skipper Eoin Morgan and Cummins could be a body blow to their hopes of making a late surge in the race to playoffs.
In fact, because English players have such a prominent presence in IPL, many other franchises will also be affected. For RR, their English trio Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer (currently unfit) play all games. To find able backups for players of that class in a team which is light on capped Indian players may be impossible. For CSK, whose ageing squad strung together many victories earlier, English duo Sam Curran and Moeen Ali played crucial roles.
CLASH OF DATES WITH CPL
CSK will also be fretting over the availability of Faf du Plessis, and RR over Chris Morris; both would be playing in the Caribbean Premier League. BCCI officials are said to be in talks with CPL to advance their tournament by a few days from its September 19 close to help IPL out. Two IPL franchises, KKR and Punjab Kings own teams in CPL too. “We remain hopeful that some solution would be found. But we haven’t heard from any of the leagues,” said one related franchise official.
However, making that late change is not easy for Cricket West Indies with their final home Test against Pakistan ending on August 24 and CPL scheduled to start on Aug 28. Nine West Indies players play in IPL. Mumbai Indians captain Kieron Pollard, KKR’s Sunil Narine and Andre Russel, PK’s Chris Gayle and Nicolas Pooran, CSK’s Dwayne Bravo and Delhi’s Shimron Hetmeyer will be in St. Kitts, playing CPL. In 2020, a bubble-to-bubble transfer was allowed for the entire CPL contingent.
Pakistan is in talks to finalize its World Cup preparations that include away matches against Afghanistan, followed by home matches against New Zealand and England in September-October. BCCI officials however are confident they would be in a position to ensure Afghanistan and New Zealand players’ presence in IPL. New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson leads SRH.
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