by S Venkat Narayan,
Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, April 3:
The months-long bubble life is beginning to take its toll as international players have started to drop out of the world’s richest cricket Indian Premier League’s (IPL) 14th edition citing bubble fatigue.
Fast bowler Mark Wood, who has spent many weeks, on and off, in bio-bubbles with the English team since July last year, was the first to withdraw, hours before the auction in February. Then, a couple of weeks back, Australian wicket-keeper batsman Joshua Philippe informed his franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) that he is not coming. Now, two more Australian cricketers, Mitchell Marsh and Josh Hazlewood, have made themselves unavailable, hours before their flight to India.
The IPL begins on April 9 and concludes on May 30. The tournament will be staged, without spectators, in six bio-secure bubbles even as India is in the grip of an intense second wave of the pandemic.
All the players who have opted out have spoken of the challenge of playing while under the constant restrictions of quarantines and bio-bubbles, often away from their families for long stretches at a time. The IPL requires all stakeholders to undergo a week of hard quarantine before entering the bubble.
“It’s been a long 10 months in bubbles and quarantine at different times. So, I decided to have a rest from cricket and spend some time at home and in Australia in the next two months,” Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) seamer Hazlewood told cricket.com.au on Thursday. “That’s the decision I’ve made and it sits pretty well with me.”
The Australian internationals have been living the bubble life since July last year, competing in England, then the UAE IPL, followed by the international bubble at home against India. Hazlewood said he has prioritized international cricket, with this being a T20 World Cup and an Ashes year. He could now be seen playing at the back end of the domestic season for New South Wales.
On Wednesday, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) declared that all-rounder Marsh had “opted out due to personal reasons”. Marsh had to pull out of the last IPL in SRH’s season opener itself due to an ankle injury. After recovery, he played in the Big Bash league as well as the T20I’s against New Zealand. Philippe, who is a white ball specialist, competed in the same competitions post-IPL as Marsh.
Although the franchises have been left to look for last minute replacements, they have been publicly supportive of the players’ decisions. “The RCB management is disappointed to lose a player of Josh’s calibre for this IPL season. But, at the same time, we fully understand, respect and support his decision of excluding himself from the tournament,” the franchise said in a statement.
RCB found a like-for-like replacement for Philippe in New Zealand’s Finn Allen. SRH have replaced Marsh with England’s prolific opener Jason Roy, although their top order resources are many with Jonny Bairstow, David Warner and Kane Williamson in the squad.
With the IPL being the most lucrative tournament in cricket, the predicament before the players is real.
“It’s life-changing money which is why it was such a difficult decision for me,” Wood said. One of the fastest bowlers in the world right now—he regularly bowls at 150kph—Wood is a much sought-after player. “I didn’t want to go into the auction and then let a team down at a later date. I didn’t think that was fair,” he said.
As many as 12 of Wood’s English teammates are competing in the IPL this year. England Cricket Board’s acceptance of IPL as a part of the cricket calendar is as much about the quality of the league as it is about the money on offer.
“We don’t particularly want to go toe-to-toe with our players over IPL participation in the long run because we may face losing some of our best players,” Ashley Giles, ECB director of cricket said in a BBC talk show. “I don’t want that to be a kiss of death. I think we have to understand that it could be a danger in the future.”
England’s rotation policy for their all-format players, which came in for criticism for not fielding their best Test team against India, was devised with the seven-week long IPL in mind.
No Indian player has withdrawn from IPL-14. But captain Virat Kohli also spoke about the workload and bubble fatigue recently.
“Scheduling needs to be looked at in the future, because playing in ‘bubbles’ for so long is going to be very, very difficult going forward,” he said after the conclusion of the two-month-long home series against England. “You can’t expect everyone to be at the same level of mental strength. Sometimes, you do get cooked.”
Indian players have been competing in bubbles starting with the UAE IPL last September. Since then, there was a long tour to Australia and a lengthy home series against England. There is non-stop cricket ahead too, with the WTC final following the IPL, a five-Test series in England, and more home matches before the T20 World Cup this October.
While BCCI officials say the players are permitted to opt-out, unlike England there is no planned rotation policy in place.
Bringing cricket’s glory days back
Rev. Br. Nimal Gurusinghe FSC
After several setbacks in cricket in recent years, the national cricket team is looking to regain past glories. I must congratulate the national selection panel headed by former fast bowler Pramodaya Wickramasinghe for some of the bold decisions they have taken over the past two months.
In the Caribbean, the selectors handed the first Test cap to Pathum Nissanka, who made a hundred on debut and then last week in the second Test against Bangladesh, the selectors blooded in Praveen Jayawickrama, who took 11 wickets for 178, a Sri Lankan record for a debutant. It is also the tenth best figures by a player on debut in the history of Test cricket.
There is no doubt that we have talent in the country and bold moves such as these throwing the players into the deep end will bring us desired results.
I would like to see continuity in selections and for this to happen the current lot of selectors need to serve for a longer period of time. Our present system where we change selectors every year simply doesn’t help.
One of the things that I would like to see is resource personal like psychologists being brought in to assist our players. The modern day game has changed so much and a psychologist will be able to help players meet modern day demands. I see that teams like Australia, England and South Africa make use of psychologists. Although we too have done so, there is no continuity in this vital aspect.
One of the modern trends that I have seen in Sri Lankan cricket is our tail is too long. We do not have many tail-enders who are able to contribute towards the team’s total. We need to emphasize a lot on the tail getting exposure during training sessions and as a result they will be able to contribute towards the team’s total.
I am also glad to see that the selectors emphasizing a lot on fielding these days. At the same time, I would like to see them giving equal importance to fielding. This vital area has been neglected so long and that is one reason why we do not do well at present in one-day cricket. Sri Lankan teams of the past were on par with teams like Australia and South Africa when it came to fielding. But not anymore.
When we stress the importance on fielding in selections, if players are able to take half chances and create run outs that is going to be so crucial in crunch games.
Another aspect that I would like to see improve is running between the wickets. I can not recall when the last time a Sri Lankan pair completed three runs was. Physical fitness is so vital for this to happen.
Another thing that I would like to see happening is our players doing well not just at home but overseas as well. We are yet to win Test matches in Australia and England although we have been a Test playing nation for 40 years now.
I wish Pramodaya and his team good luck and look forward to see them transforming Sri Lankan cricket. Pramodaya is a member of the World Cup winning team and he knows what is required to become a champion team.
National badminton players dominate Summer Season Tournament in the hills
The hills were alive with the swish of rackets and smashing shuttles as the popular Summer Season Badminton Level I Championships came to a close last week. What was noteworthy was the performances of Sri Lanka’s top shuttlers who left no room for contention by winning all the plums of the scintillating competition. With Olympic prospect Niluka Karunaratne away on the international qualifying circuit and brother Dinuka domiciled in the UK on an advanced training program, the rest of the Elite Squad were equal to the task.
Ranthushka Karunatilake, for long in the shadows of his more renowned exponents came out fighting to get the better of the seasoned Buwaneka Gunetileke. The hunger Ranthushka displayed was plain to see for after giving up the first set, he clawed his way back to surprise the senior partner with a nerve wracking battle that went to the wire with a 21-19 score in the two following sets. Earlier, he partnered Buwaneka to clinch the men’s doubles with an overwhelming victory against evergreen contenders Clarence Homer and Hasitha Chanaka.
In the Women’s Open, Dilmi Dias had no major opposition clinching the women’s singles with ease against the up and coming Ranithma Liyanage before taking the women’s doubles with her partner, Kavindika de Silva. Young Ranithma just 13 years of age, though beaten in the final, is certainly making an emphatic statement in the sport. Badminton fans are sure to hear about her in the not-too-distant future.
Other top ranked players to impress were Rasindu Hendahewa and Viren Nettasinghe in the men’s category, while Panchali Adhikari and Madushika Dilrukshi were notable in the women’s category. Many others in the elite squad were not present due to on-going examinations, the likes of Lochana de Silva and Thulith de Silva and yesteryear champions Thilini Hendahewa and Kavidi Sirimanage. Sachin Dias and Hasini Ambalangoda are nursing injuries following the Nationals and are expected to return to the courts in the Southern Open, late May.
Watching their charges keenly were the National Coaches led by Pradeep Welagedera assisted by Yukthi Perera, Rajitha Dahanayake and Subash Chanaka, while Chairman of the National Pools, Palitha Hettiarachchi had a good look at the National Pool players, especially those in the Elite Squad who have undergone a very high-level training and conditioning over several months.
SLB President Rohan de Silva who is always seen among the Badminton Masters winning several medals both here and abroad was at hand to witness the performance of est players in the country and also give the Summer Season event a big boost by ensuring all arrangements were fully supported to achieve a very high level of organization amidst the stringent Covid 19 protocols.
Bangladesh-Sri Lanka ODI series to be held in Dhaka
The upcoming three-match ODI series between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will be held at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka, the BCB has announced.
The matches, part of the ICC’s ODI Super League, will be held on May 23, 25 and 28, within a bio-bubble stretching between the team hotel and the ground.
Sri Lanka will arrive in Dhaka on May 16, shortly after the Eid ul Fitr weekend, and complete a three-day quarantine. Their first practice session will be on May 19 at the National Cricket Academy ground, adjacent to the stadium. The visitors will then play a practice match at the BKSP on May 21. At the conclusion of the ODI series on May 28, the Sri Lankan team will depart on the following day.
This will be Bangladesh’s third ODI series within the ICC’s World Cup qualifying campaign. They are currently in seventh place, having beaten the West Indies 3-0 at home in January, but lost to New Zealand 3-0 in March. Sri Lanka lost to West Indies 3-0 last month, are now in 9th place.
The two teams only last week played out their final World Test Championship series, which Sri Lanka won 1-0 after a 209-run win over Bangladesh in Pallekele.
Sri Lanka will become the second international team to arrive in Bangladesh since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The BCB successfully hosted West Indies in January-February this year, in a three-ODI and two-Test series in Dhaka and Chattogram.
This will however be a different situation, since Bangladesh are in the middle of a strong second wave of Covid-19 cases. The country has been under a lockdown since April 5. The international flight suspension ended on May 1, but the country’s lockdown has been extended till May 16.
Bangladesh will be without their fast-bowling coach Ottis Gibson, with the team opting to use a local coach instead. (ESPN Cricinfo)
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