No England Players, CPL, India’s Bio-Bubble: IPL 2021 Roadblocks
IPL to continue before World Cup, but at what cost?
With 31 matches of Indian Premier League 2021 still remaining and over Rs 2,500 crore on the line, the BCCI is actively looking for a window to complete the season.
The only question is – when?
When in a packed year where India is playing the World Test Championship final and touring Sri Lanka and then playing England in a five-match Test series and also, most importantly, hosting a 16-team T20 World Cup, is there a one-month window to fit in the IPL?
The board is expected to make that big decision on 29 May at their Special General Meeting that has been called by Jay Shah to discuss the 'upcoming cricket season'. While the way forward for domestic cricket may be the agenda, IPL and the venue of the T20 World Cup is expected to form a big part of the discussions, with the ICC's next big meet scheduled for 1 June.
When is a Window Available?
The Indian Test team, currently in Mumbai, fly to England next week for the World Test Championship that starts on 18 June and while their next assignment will be the 5-match Test series against England starting 4 August, BCCI President Sourav Ganguly has made it clear that the team will not be returning to India in the interim, keeping in mind the quarantine rules that needs to be followed both in England and India.
That then ensures that Virat Kohli and co will remain in England till about 14 September, which is scheduled to be the fifth day of the final Test match of the series.
With the T20 World Cup expected to start around mid-October (the date has not been finalised yet), that leaves the BCCI with about a one-month window from 14 September to about 15 October for the IPL.
With 31 matches remaining – including the knockouts – there are about 18 days of play left to finish the season, even if teams play double-headers every day. Add another 5-7 days of quarantine and 4-5 days of pre-season training, and that’s about a 30-day window that the IPL will need to complete the season.
Meaning, Non-Stop Bubble for Indian Team?
Rs 2,500 crore is what BCCI President Sourav Ganguly has estimated to be the amount the board stands to lose if this year's IPL is not completed. Add to that the salaries Indian cricketers will not receive – not the contracted Indian players, but the domestic cricketers who already lost a lot of money last season due to the cancellation of the Ranji Trophy – and one can understand why it may be essential to play the 31 remaining matches this season.
But, at what cost?
While the domestic Indian cricketers may be forced to sit home with no other cricket on and even international players get to spend time with their families, Virat Kohli's Indian Test team will be forced to live a non-stop bio-bubble life for almost six months – from the start of the England tour next week to the T20 World Cup in November, if the month between their England tour and the World Cup is utilised for the IPL.
The team faced a similar situation last season when they went from the IPL bio-bubble to the Australian tour, forcing the Indian captain to urge the board to consider
“Bio bubble isn’t easy, to be honest, or to be a part of as I have said in the recent past as well. Somethings that need to be considered going forward is how many cricket matches you actually play,” Virat had said after the completion of the England series in March.
"You can't expect everyone to be at the same level of mental strength," the skipper further added in another interview.
Now with just a three-week gap after the suspension of the IPL and then what looks like a six-month stretch in the bio-bubble, the BCCI may want to prioritise finances by hosting the IPL in September-October, but with players regularly speaking out about the difficulties of living constantly in confined spaces, the richest cricket board may consider making priority not the funds coming in, but the players who make the game possible.
No England Players
While on the topic of boards taking a stand (or the lack of), the England Cricket Board (ECB) has already announced that they will not be freeing any of their international players for the second part of IPL this year.
"If we go from the end of the fifth Test in September, we are set to leave for Bangladesh on September 19 or 20. We have a full schedule right through including Pakistan and wherever the T20 World Cup is," England director Ashley Giles said.
"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, wouldn't be for them to go and play cricket elsewhere. 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."
Without English participation, IPL will miss some of the biggest names including KKR Captain Eoin Morgan, Rajasthan Royals' Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, and Sunrisers Hyderabad's Johnny Bairstow.
Not just England, Australia are slated to play Sri Lanka in the weeks before the T20 World Cup while New Zealand are scheduled to play Pakistan, according to the ICC's FTP.
While the choice for England players has been made by their board already, it would be highly unlikely that internationals like David Warner, Pat Cummins, Kane Williamson will be allowed to miss international cricket to play the IPL.
Much like before the 2020 IPL season, the Caribbean Premier League is likely to see its dates clash with an IPL in September. The CPL is scheduled to be held from 28 August to 19 September in St Kitts & Nevis and some of the big international who are likely to not have international commitments at the time, have been rostered in the tournament.
Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shakib-al-Hasan, Faf du Plessis have all confirmed their participation and while a direct charter flight will help work around the 5-day quarantine period, it will still mean the players will only be available after the first week of the IPL.
Which Leads to Another Question, Will Franchises Agree?
With more than half the season still remaining, the title is still on the line even though Delhi Capitals led the standings with 12 points, on the date the season was suspended. CSK and RCB were placed second and third with 10 points each but if the season resumes later in the year, the squads will likely not look the same as they did in April.
Rajasthan Royals depend heavily on their English trio of Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler, and Ben Stokes and KKR have their captain Eoin Morgan – and if they are not part of the second half of the season, how does BCCI get all franchises on the table?
A mini-auction could be an option the board could look at, adding some more new overseas faces to take the spots opened up by foreign players who will not be available.
But how the finances of that are managed, may be an issue the BCCI discuss on Saturday, regarding how players are compensated if they can't play in October, but had been in India during the first half.
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