The cloud of uncertainty over the marquee Indian Premier League (IPL) has lifted, with the Governing Council giving its formal nod to the tournament. However, a slight change in the tournament’s schedule may impair India’s preparations for the all-important Australia tour, it’s first assignment on return to international cricket.
At the Governing Council meeting, chaired by Brijesh Patel, it was decided that the IPL, to be hosted by the Emirates this time, will get underway on September 19 and culminate on November 10, and not November 8 as was earlier reported in the media.
The Indian team is supposed to regroup for a preparatory camp ahead of the tour Down Under within weeks of the IPL. Now, with the country’s top domestic event extended by two days, there’s every chance that skipper Virat Kohli and his boys will have to make do with a cramped training schedule.
High-stakes Test series
To put things in context, the upcoming series Down Under is billed as a high-stakes one as while Australia would be keen to avenge their last series defeat at home to India, thereby closing in on the latter in the ICC Test Championship points table, Kohli and his charges would want to inflict another series loss on the Baggy Greens and pull further away from them in the points tally. However, a shortened training camp could leave the Indians short of the required match fitness and preparation ahead of the crucial Test series.
For, make no mistake. It’s a grudge series for Australia and they will go all out to settle scores with Team India. And, it’s a significantly stronger Australia that will take the field against Kohli’s boys.
Their batting will be bolstered with the return of former captain Steve Smith and the explosive David Warner, who missed the last series as they were serving suspension in connection with the ball tampering scandal during the infamous Test rubber against South Africa.
As per the interim schedule released by Cricket Australia, the first Test was to begin from December 3. However, it was being rumoured that the Indians might play two practice games after landing Down Under, as a result of which the first Test could be pushed back to December 10. But with the IPL finishing later than originally scheduled, there is a good chance that Team India might play a practice game less.
In effect, the IPL extension is likely to put Team India at a disadvantage before they go to battle the Baggy Greens. Hence, the Test regulars would have to use the IPL to get whatever practice they can under their belt. It’s clearly short of ideal preparation but that’s all that their cramped cricket schedule would afford them.
The Indians are scheduled to begin the tour with a three-match T20I series. However, with the International Cricket Council (ICC) declaring a postponement of the T20 World Cup, which was to be held Down Under this year, the series could well be cancelled.
Be that as it may, it’s the high-octane Test series that Indian fans will mostly have their eyes on. It would be foolhardy to expect our cricket bosses to issue a whip, asking all Test regulars to withdraw from the IPL and train for the Australia series instead. Barring Cheteshwar Pujara, who doesn’t feature in the IPL, all our Test stars happen to be marquee players for their respective franchise as well. Hence, it’s unlikely they will choose to miss out on IPL action, unless it’s on fitness grounds.
So if the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner put Team Kohli at an advantage in the last series, expect the Aussies to catch the Indians off-guard this time.