IPL Could Resume in 2021, But When And at What Cost?
The remaining 31 matches of IPL could be finished in 2021, but a lot of hurdles will have to be overcome.
“IPL has not been cancelled, it’s only been postponed. It will happen.” “The rescheduled IPL will not be in India.” “We are looking for a window before the ICC T20 World Cup.” These were some of the comments made by BCCI President Sourav Ganguly and Vice-President Rajiv Shukla over the last few days, pretty much indicating that the Board has not given up hope of completing the 2021 season of the IPL, which still has 31 matches left.
As Ganguly revealed, the BCCI, according to early estimates, stood to lose about Rs 2,500 crore if the season is not completed.
When Can the IPL Resume?
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.
From June, a packed cricket calendar will start. It will involve India playing a World Test Championship final against New Zealand, then India playing England in a five-Test series and then India hosting the T20 World Cup. There’s also the Ashes between Australia and England later in the year.
Where in all this will the BCCI find a one-month window for the IPL?
June? No, June has India playing New Zealand in the final of the World Test Championship starting 18 June in England with Virat Kohli’s team expected to leave by the last week of May, especially considering the strict quarantine rules in place for any travel from India.
July will see India travel to Sri Lanka for a limited-series tour, as announced by Ganguly in a recent media interview. The three ODIs and five T20I series will, however, not see Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma as part of the squad because they will continue their stay in England for their next assignment. Instead, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the Pandya brothers will be seen in the series.
August will have the Indian team in England getting back on the field with a five-match Test series against England, starting 4 August and continuing till 14 September.
In October, according to the ICC FTP, India is slated to play South Africa in three T20Is and three ODIs. It will in the first week of October. The T20 World Cup is also slated to start in the middle of October and continue till the final on 13 November. The tournament will be hosted by India, but may have to be moved out of the country and played in the UAE, especially following the suspension of the IPL.
With the matches with South Africa being a bilateral tour and no official date yet, manoeuvring around that commitment will not be a tough job for the BCCI. That would open up the one-month window that the board president had indicated they were looking at to complete the IPL.
But Will Foreign Players be Free to Play?
If India manage to push the South Africa tour to a later date, it would make the Indian and the Proteas players available for the IPL. But having the English, Australian and Kiwi players also join and continue the season will not be as easy a task.
The ECB, in fact, have already declared that they will not be freeing up players from international duty to play in the league, especially if it is held in the window before the T20 World Cup. England have committed to tour Pakistan for a two-match T20I series around mid-October in their first visit to the country in over 16 years and the ICC FTP has them playing Bangladesh in the two preceding weeks before that.
“We’re planning on the involvement of England players in England matches. We’ve got a full FTP schedule. So, if those tours to Pakistan and Bangladesh (in September and October) are going ahead, I’d expect the players to be there.”Ashely Giles, England Director of Cricket
A similar situation will be faced by the Aussie and Kiwi players as well.
Australia is slated to play Sri Lanka in the weeks before the T20 World Cup while New Zealand is scheduled to play Pakistan. Negotiations will not be so easy for the BCCI in these cases, considering that players from Sri Lanka and Pakistan don’t play in the IPL. Pakistan, of course, is not allowed to participate in the IPL. So, it won’t be that accommodating in cancelling or postponing an international series, especially in the run-up to a World Cup, simply so other players can play T20 cricket.
Will Franchises Agree to an IPL without English, Aussie and Kiwi players?
The unavailability of stars from these countries will make many squads lopsided with teams like KKR and SRH missing even their captains. Sunrisers Hyderabad will be without the services of three of their biggest stars – Kane Williamson, David Warner and Jonny Bairstow. KKR will be without Pat Cummins and its captain Eoin Morgan. Virat won’t have Glenn Maxwell while Mumbai won’t have Trent Boult.
Will franchises agree to complete an IPL season with such depleted squads while a franchise like CSK may not take as big a hit with possibly just Sam Curran being ruled out.
More Importantly, Will Players Agree?
While all decisions on schedule, player availability, negotiations with franchises may have ways for the board to work their way around, one very important factor will be that of player fatigue.
If the IPL is indeed completed this year in October then the Indian Test team players will be travelling for cricket from the first week of June right till the second week of November, if it reaches the final. That’s almost six months.
Is that something the Board would want to put its players through?
Kohli has earlier spoken about how tours need to be planned, keeping in mind the bio-bubble, and the players’ fatigue and fitness.
Is that something the Board wants to risk by making the players play back-to-back tournaments?
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