IPL’s Supremacy Undisputed, But Its Utility Exploited Most By ECB?

While BCCI prioritises the IPL, has the ECB learned over the years how to benefit the most from the tournament?

4 min read

The Board of Control for Cricket in India’s oldest-running cricket tournament has been cancelled for the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the Indian Premier League (IPL) can happen twice, in a matter of six months.

England’s players will sit out of some of their international matches against India.
But they will play the IPL.

Certain Indian players risked injury/got injured but still played the IPL – even if it meant missing national duty.

So, I hope you’ve understood what I’m trying to say here, right?

That the IPL has now become the Alpha in the world of cricket. At least for now.

And while most other years, one would be questioning the decisions that have led to that status quo, the 12 months that the world of cricket has seen so far, one could concede that an IPL is indeed needed. At a time when Cricket Australia was almost at the verge of going bankrupt and players across the world took big pay cuts due to lack of international cricket because of the COVID-19 lockdown, an IPL is indeed needed.

Even if it comes twice in a span on six months.

But while I explore that one facet of this topic there is also an interesting parallel narrative building – of the England Cricket Board (ECB), one of the last to fully embrace the T20 league. The ECB now is all but all-in for the coming season of the IPL.

So coming back to the IPL and the cancellation of the 2020-21 Ranji Trophy season. India’s oldest domestic cricket tournament has been cancelled for the first time in 87 years.

The pandemic forced the lockdowns in March that postponed the start of the 2020 edition of the IPL to October – a time of the year that’s traditionally booked for domestic cricket tournaments in India. But instead, everything else was put on hold and the 13th season of the Indian Premier League took play in the UAE.

Now, one could argue that the formats are different and the structures of the two leagues are poles apart. But while the Second World War couldn’t stop the Ranji Trophy, two IPLs within six months have. Because, while IPL 2020 saw BCCI fully invested there and not look at the revival of domestic cricket until January, the IPL in April 2021 means there’s effectively no window left to organise the Ranji anymore.

And if there’s room for a little more argument here, I’ll draw your attention towards international cricket in the year 2019.

While England and Australia pulled their players out of the IPL two weeks before the end of the season, to join their teams in preparatory camps for the ICC World Cup, the BCCI left their players to fend for themselves. Players who could be exhausted by the end of a two-month IPL to jump right into the World Cup or even players who could be risking injuries playing almost every second night during the T20 tournament. But the BCCI chose to take that risk and Virat even said players themselves needed ‘to be smart and rest’ when they think they needed it.

So, like Jasprit Bumrah was expected to tell Rohit Sharma he needed to be rested during the semi-final?

Jasprit Bumrah at a Team India training session with Virat Kohli.
Jasprit Bumrah at a Team India training session with Virat Kohli.
(Photo: AP)

Anyway, now that we can all just learn to live with the ‘fact’ that the IPL is the BCCI’s biggest ‘baby’, what is great to also see is that foreign boards are treating it the same way now. Like how the ECB is rotating their players and resting them from international matches while making no mention of players needing to rest during the IPL.

Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes sat out of the Sri Lanka tour last month and Jos Buttler will return to England after the first Test against India with Jonny Bairstow also sent back home during the first two Tests.

Why are they doing this?

In a year that saw the ECB cut cricketers’ salaries due to COVID-19 to facilitate a process where players can draw in an extra few million from a third party, doesn’t sound like a bad idea right?

But, it’s also a lot less superficial than that. As Eoin Morgan himself confessed after leading England to the World Cup title in 2019 letting their players play the IPL is part of the ECB’s plan.

'It is completely beneficial to play the IPL. We are using it as a vehicle to try and grow players,’ he had said after a successful World Cup campaign.

Interestingly, there’s an ICC T20 World Cup slated to be played in India later this year.

A World Cup in which Ben Stokes Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler are expected to play big roles for England.

Also, remember when I said England were going all-in?

Well, England’s limited-overs analyst Nathan Leamon will be joining KKR as a strategic consultant for this IPL season. The season before the T20 World Cup when he’s actually being given a leave of absence by the ECB to work with their captain Eoin Morgan in KKR and collect data of players from across the world, data on pitches, and conditions across India.

So well, you see, while the BCCI may prioritise the IPL and in the process hurt other formats of the sport in the country, the England Cricket Board has also prioritised the IPL, but to their benefit.

Who then really is ‘winning’ this IPL game?

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