It’s come a month or so earlier than the last two years. But, yes, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is back, with the third edition kicking starting with defending champions Deccan Chargers facing Kolkata Knight Riders here on Friday.
International stars play a major role when it comes to attracting crowds and advertisers, but when it comes to the on-field business, everyone stresses the importance of domestic players.
After all, even though a team is allowed to have 10 overseas players on their roster, they can field only four of them at a time.
“It all depends on how good your Indian players are,” Mumbai Indians’ Director of Cricket T.A. Sekar said. “Any team that has seven good Indian players has done well in the tournament. It is easy to get four brilliant foreigners. But to get the right balance, it is important to have seven good Indian cricketers.”
No wonder then that the Deccan Chargers coach Darren Lehmann opted to give his strike bowler, R.P. Singh, a full day’s rest, since the paceman had played the Deodhar Trophy final only 24 hours earlier.
Lehmann was also forced to rest some of the main domestic players since most of them are coming into the IPL somewhat jaded, thanks to an unstoppable domestic season.
As a result, the teams are strategising about how to keep the domestic players fresh through the tournament. Most of them have played non-stop cricket since the domestic season began with the Corporate Trophy in September last year.
While some were busy playing the Deodhar Trophy till Tuesday, some of the reserves in the franchises’ squad will turn out for their state teams during the knockouts of the inter-state T20 meet, from Thursday.
As Sekar stressed, despite the star value and strength of foreign recruits, the first two editions of IPL have proved that the consistency of the domestic players proves critical.
Lehmann was point blank in admitting that his real job would be to keep the flock fresh throughout the tournament. “We have just got together, so we had a longer session today. But then, throughout the tournament we won't be training so much. It will all be about recovery for me," Lehmann said.
On Wednesday, the likes of Rohit Sharma and Pragyan Ojha, the vital cogs in the Chargers set-up, were given a light workload. Even Kolkata Knight Riders, who have been training in the city, have not put the likes of L.R. Shukla and Ajit Agarkar through the paces.
Lehmann signed off highlighting the need to balance the domestic players’ workload.
“Traditionally Indian players like to hit more but we have to make sure that they are fresh when the games come along,” said Lehmann. “That's the balancing act between getting enough practice and not getting enough.” In seven weeks we will know which outfit struck the right balance.
With inputs from Amol Karhadkar