If you’ve just woken up from a deep slumber since 2009, this headline would definitely baffle you. You would think, “Why is the BCCI barring its young players from taking a trip abroad to play in foreign leagues? Isn’t playing cricket what they ought to do?” Well, my friend, happy waking up! It is not 2009 anymore. The cricket fraternity has introduced itself to the concept of arranging commercially beneficial tournaments, and these commercial benefits have indoctrinated a few things about the structure of this game we call cricket.
What happened after you dozed off was that India, undoubtedly one of the giants of the game, protected its T20 league by bringing forth a ruling. The same ruling which barred the Indian players from featuring in franchise tournaments other than the Indian Premier League.
How Does Not Playing in Foreign Leagues Make Sense and Benefit India?
Let’s put it this way – as of now, Indian players, of any strata, can only be seen donning a franchise jersey in the IPL. This means the fans who want to watch Indian players compete in a league will only get this opportunity once a year, that is, in the Indian Premier League. Naturally, the viewership would increase, so will the attraction for brands, and so will the amount of money generated. However, the experts have only just discovered the harms of letting this Trojan horse inside.
At the same time, there are people who see nothing strange in the way things already are. Amidst this confusion, I try to present my case using the following three reasons:
Lack of Exposure Compared to those who Play in Foreign Leagues:
The first and definitely the most pertinent reason is that Indian players are missing out on getting familiar with pitches across the world. This stings them, especially, when they have to play in multi-national tournaments as well as away bilateral series. No other team has to be up the same creek as India in this scenario. To cite as an instance, nearly all of the English playing XI in the final of the latest edition of the Twenty20 World Cup had featured in the Big Bash League down under. Resultantly, the team knew very well how grounds in Australia behave and, as shown by them winning the trophy there, this BBL experience proved fruitful for them.
Similarly, Pakistan’s Shadab Khan and Haris Rauf were able to prove their mettle, despite their team’s full-of-disappointment start, owing to the same reason. Indian players, especially their bowling attack, were new to the conditions down under and had to endure a subpar World Cup campaign. To prove the point, let’s compare the World Cup 2022 performances of the Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya to his Pakistani counterpart, Shadab Khan:
|Innings||Runs||Average||Strike Rate||Dot %|
The tables above very clearly show how both Asian players performed during the mega-event. Shadab, obviously, dominates this match-up and does so because of his time spent playing in the BBL for Hobart Hurricanes and Sydney Sixers. Pandya, on the other hand, last played a match in the region in 2020 (before the T20 World Cup 2022).
Fewer Matches to Test New Players:
Moreover, the Pakistani tweaker played 25 shortest format matches in three cricket leagues across countries in the year 2022. This allowed him to rub shoulders with a number of players who would be his opponents in the mega-event, allowing him to understand their approach. The Indian all-rounder could not enjoy this luxury. Although the total number of all the 20-over matches (International and other matches) played by Pandya precedes that played by Khan, it is Leggie’s diverse experience that mattered when he truly needed it.
|T20 matches||T20I matches||Total matches|
Luckily for the Indian fast-bowling all-rounder and players like him, playing a good number of International Twenty20 matches helps them make up for this shortage. However, the uncapped Indian players as well as those who are not lucky enough to be a part of the national squad have to suffice with IPL matches or the solo domestic T20 tournament – Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. This implies that they hardly get 10-15 matches each year to prove their worth to selectors. For example, let’s talk about Yash Dhull, who was the highest run-getter of the SMA Trophy last year. Dhull only got to play 8 innings in total in the tournament.
On the flip side, players around the world take advantage of franchise tournament matches to get their voices heard as well as to work on their weaknesses in certain conditions. Just recently, Alex Hales got, what hitherto felt like impossible, called for the national team in the World Cup after his successful outings in the Pakistan Super League and Big Bash League. His stint in the BBL also helped him take the bowlers to the cleaners each time he came out to bat during the recent 20-over World Cup.
Eclipsing the National Duty
The Indian Premier League has around 74 matches which take place over a span of three months. This is an immense window of cricket being consumed by the league for the Indian team. Although normally, it would not seem much of a problem, this becomes an issue when there’s a mega-event coming the same year. Three months of IPL along with bilaterals hardly give the players any window to prepare themselves for the tournaments. This can be the reason why India has struggled lately to secure an ICC or ACC trophy.
Similarly, the ICC T20 World event in the year 2021 saw India making an early exit and concluding IPL just a few days before the tourney is often cited as the reason for this premature exodus. Likewise, after the recent WTC Final defeat, the Indian team came under the radar of criticism for choosing to feature in the IPL rather than prepare for the Championship Final. With only one shortest format league available for them to play, that too a league as lucrative as IPL, the players’ priorities can undoubtedly take a sharp turn. This problem can be solved without much hassle by allowing players to play in foreign leagues so that even if they miss the IPL for national duty, they would have some league cricket to look forward to.