When BCCI decided to monetise the T20 format in 2008, they had no idea that their efforts to commercialise the game would negatively impact the national pride attached to cricket. Now, 13 years later, players are prioritising the cash-driven IPL while representing India has taken the back seat.
IPL-Reason for India’s poor show
India’s two humiliating losses at the hands of arch-rival Pakistan and New Zealand owe much more to the factors other than the poor performance by the team. Yes, the team performed bad, but the question still lurks, why? It turns out that our players seem more interested in proving their loyalties to their IPL bosses, rather than improving their skills for international cricket.
The second part of IPL ended just two days before the start of the world cup. Since IPL requires all Indian players to play, and the T20 world cup started just after the commencement of the IPL, the players could not get the chance to recover and work on their fitness. Also, players couldn’t refuse to play as it would have negatively impacted the brand value of the multi-billion dollar tournament.
This resulted in poor performance of some of the Indian cricket players who possess the ability to win the entire T20 match singlehandedly.
Impact of IPL on team’s performance
Hardik Pandya who provides stability due to his equivalent batting and bowling ability played IPL solely as a batsman despite him not being able to bowl since March 2021. The stress of IPL dampened his injury recovery which led to him being an underconfident bowler for India.
Hardik was hammered for 8.5 runs per over in a match when the required run rate was 5.5 runs per over. Similarly, the IPL proved to be an unbearable strain on Captain Kohli. The burden of winning a trophy for his IPL team was too much for him to bear, especially in a year when the Indian national team showed that it can win matches even in the absence of Virat.
As Kohli’s team entered into the second-leg of IPL, his mental exhaustion was visible. His batting confidence which was earlier shaken by James Anderson and Moeen Ali did not see much improvement, due to which he had to resign from his post. All these negative sentiments on the shoulders of the Indian captain trying to lead the national team in a world cup reflects only on the poor state of relations between players’ priorities for the IPL and national team.
Batting wise, except for KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan, no Indian player could leave a mark on the second part of the IPL which led to the batting order losing their confidence. The lost confidence along with the exhaustion from the IPL are two of the biggest reasons behind India’s poor batting show.
Similarly, in the bowling department, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami did end up with heavy wicket tallies, but their often inconsistent performances as well as the dwindling economy rate did not inspire much confidence. Moreover, in the middle of the tournament, key bowler for India’s world cup prospects Bhuvneshwar Kumar faced an injury scare which was prevented only because he was rested by his team.
Bowlers are already one of the most hardworking bunch in the cricketing circles. The amount of stress their knees and upper body take is not sustainable for a long-term career. Their bodies need time to relax, recover and heal to maintain longevity. James Anderson is still playing Test cricket and bowling 20 overs a day at the age of 39, simply because he knows the importance of recovery. He does not play any T2O tournaments as Indian bowlers do.
Various players prioritised nation over IPL
As the schedule for the second leg of the IPL and T20 world cup was announced, various players had withdrawn their names from the tournament owing to recover themselves to represent their national team. Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Dawid Malan, Chris Woakes and Jonny Bairstow were six English heavyweights who preferred their nation over the IPL money. Similarly injury-prone Australian speedster Pattrick Cummins also took his name back from the second part of the IPL to shield Australia’s bowling prospect for the world cup.
IPL is one of the most entertaining and expensive cricketing tournaments in the world. Over the last 13 years, it has become a stage for relatively unknown players to garner experience by playing with already established international superstars. However, as the tournament is progressing, various players have used this tournament to launch themselves in the glamour world. Players who perform well in one or two seasons of IPL start to get media attention and slowly they start to appear on television shows and advertisements.
The glamour shields their eye from their love of the game and slowly they become seasoned IPL stars, but not good enough for national teams. Some players who leapfrog into the national team owing to IPL performances turn out to be a big disappointment due to their careless attitude.
Moreover, the tournament has become a retirement plan for experienced individual cricketers. Ever since it started, players like Adam Gilchrist, AB De Villiers, Ricky Ponting, Anil Kumble treated the tournament as post-retirement insurance. Though the above-mentioned players retired at a crucial juncture in their careers players like DJ Bravo, Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard rely on this tournament for furthering their careers while showing no interest in representing their country. The T20 format created by the IPL has turned cricket from a game of bat and ball to a commercial company.
IPL needs to be managed better
IPL is a necessary evil to maintain the cricketing infrastructure of the country. However, it needs to be remodelled and BCCI should learn from Cricket Australia and the English cricket board. Both of the boards earn money from their Big Bash League(BBL) and Natwest T20 leagues respectively, but their priority is maintaining their players’ fitness for their national team.
During IPL, the Indian team does not play any international tournament and players are fully committed to the IPL. This means that IPL is scheduled during the off-season for Indian cricketers. The off-season which could be used to re-energise by the players ends up being spent on accelerating the cash inflow for their board. While during BBL and Natwest T20 leagues England and Australia keep playing their international tournaments. English and Australian Cricket boards allow their players to relax during the off-season to maintain their persistence.
T20 world cup, which was earlier scheduled to be held in 2020 was pushed to late 2021 due to covid-19. The rescheduling should have been good enough opportunity for Indian players to rejuvenate themselves for the world cup. Moreover, the World Test championship and England tour were the only other main international cricket India played under the future tours program of ICC.
However, the cramming of IPL by the BCCI just before the world cup proved to be a proverbial sword that chopped off India’s world cup dreams.