Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cricket for Bigger Gains

The cheer girls are ready, the squads are rolled out, the venues are set but the Indian Premier League is still taking sometime to take off. The tussle between the home ministry and the high profile IPL officials have delayed the dates. And no one knows when the league will get a green signal.
However it has got the biggest names lined up, and not just for money. Kevin Pietersen believes that India’s performance levels have gone up due to the IPL. So like KP, many biggies want to get T20-ready ahead of the World T20 Championship. IPL offers them the ideal platform to think, strategize, play and win in the super-short version of the game. The championship kicks off in England shortly after the IPL and most of the top line T20 players will turn up for the billion dollar league in India.
Despite security concerns and home ministry delaying permissions due to elections clashing with the IPL, no one yet has cancelled their India trip. The players and their managers have blocked the dates for India. After all India till date is not perceived as dangerous a territory as Pakistan. So it is just not money but the thrill of twenty20, the glitz, the glamour, the high that the likes of Shane Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, Graeme Smith and many more do not want to give it a miss.
Such is the passion of this format that many have books their tickets a fortnight in advance. Some top players will come down soon to get acclimatized to the Indian conditions. All that they are waiting now is the date. Many in Australia still believe that Adam Gilchrist had a year or two cricket left in him and so did Shane Warne. They called it quits because they found IPL the ideal cricket fix for the year. So they will not be there in Australia’s defence of Ashes this summer.
Minus Gilly, minus Warnie, minus Haydos, minus Pigeon it won’t be easy. So Ricky Ponting made a conscious decision to stay away from the league and concentrate on the Ashes later in the summer. Though many would say his decision of not coming for IPL is largely because The KKR management refused to guarantee him a place in the side. Whatever it may be, the top line is not coming to India and if the series against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi falls through they may well head to England for conditioning.
Infact some of them have raised interest to turn out for English counties. The counties themselves are excited at the prospect of little help from the Aussies to reclaim their regional glories. But English skipper Andrew Strauss feels that allowing them to appear in counties will be at the cost of national interest. Stuart Clark will turn up for Kent. Strauss thinks that Australians playing county cricket before the Ashes is different because Stuart Clark will be using a stint with Kent to regain form and fitness after elbow surgery. The Australian vice captain dismissed Strauss four times in the previous Ashes series.
Of course ECB does not have the power to over rule the counties. So they cannot stop the influx of the Aussies ahead of the Ashes. But the BCCI certainly has more authority in the running for the game. So Mr. Modi and Co is currently involved in a powerplay that could well see a season two of IPL shortly, even if it is not in the ideal home and away format.

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