Indian Premier League fever grips nation, but business as usual elsewhere
Australia, scarred by controversy, is a patient recovering from surgery while the cricketing world is currently preoccupied with the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL).cricket Updated: Apr 19, 2018 12:31 IST
In summer, the cricket world spins around the IPL axis. But while India is immersed in the annual cricket carnival much is happening in the cricket world.
Australia, scarred by controversy, is a patient recovering from surgery, taking unsteady steps to healthy life after the ball tampering nightmare. When Steve Smith’s team fiddled with the ball, it sandpapered the nation’s reputation and plunged Australia into its biggest cricket black hole.
The worst, however, is past and the new media deal has dispelled fears about public outrage triggering a commercial backlash. The deal brought in significant changes: ODI’s and T20 cricket went behind a paywall and Channel 9 lost a property they owned for 40 years.
Australia announced its annual central contracts, equally rewarding Tests and ‘white ball’ experts. One major beneficiary in this, understandably, was captain Tim Paine. With Smith and Warner suspended, Paine finds himself in the box seat — muqaddar ka siqandar — considering not long ago he lost his place in home state Tasmania.
England too has issues, but only annoying niggles compared to Australia’s major challenges. Disapproving voices in boardrooms are growing louder about the new T20 tournament starting in 2020 and other governance matters. Counties are seeking a greater share of IPL and demanding clarity about players dashing off to India at the last minute.
The counties, meanwhile, have attracted top overseas talent. For a change, India is sending a strong contingent to England: Virat at Surrey, Pujara at Yorkshire, Ishant at Sussex, Axar Patel at Durham and Varun Aaron at Leicestershire. The South Africans are also present in full force with Morne Morkel, Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar heading enmasse to counties, joining Kolpak colleagues Kylie Abbott and Simon Harmer.
Closer home, Pakistan took the PSL final to Karachi and hosted three matches with a West Indies side so weak it would struggle against a Division 2 county side. Pakistan also announced its squad for England. Missing: Misbah and Younus Khan, both retired. Axed: veteran Wahab Riaz, for non performance. Injured: Yasir Shah. Included: Fakhar Zaman (left-handed dasher) and Shadab Khan (the mystery leggie).
In Sri Lanka, simmering discontent between the cricket board and the ‘interim’ government-appointed body threatens to blow up into war. Despite the looming uncertainty Sri Lanka announced ambitious plans for a T20 league, rebooted the domestic structure and is about to appoint (Asanka Gurusinha) a new coach .
But this turmoil is nothing compared to the continuing bizarre drama in Zimbabwe. Stung by the team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, the cricket body sacked captain (Graeme Cremer) coach (Heath Streak/Lance Klusener) selector (Tatenda Taibu) with immediate effect through an email. Then, realising this wouldn’t stand legal scrutiny, all were reinstated — only to be sacked again the same day, this time after factoring in a three-month notice period!
India, once done with IPL, Afghanistan will play Bangladesh in an ODI series in Dehradun. After that India will host Afghanistan’s inaugural Test in June in Bangalore and then fly to Ireland to play the new Test team.
After that it’s serious business — the three-month tour to England.
(Amrit Mathur is a senior cricket writer and has been involved with IPL in official capacity)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by author in this article are personal.