Most of the Sri Lankan players including Angelo Mathews (left), Tillakaratne Dilshan (right) and Mahela Jayawardene went unsold at IPL 2014 Auction © IANS
With the coveted ICC World T20 2014 title in their bag, the absence of Sri Lankan players in the Indian Premier League 7, 2014 can hardly go unnoticed. Considering their international fixtures, the franchises’ decision to ignore wasn’t wrong either. Abhijit Banare presents both sides of the argument in which the Sri Lankan players are the losers.
At last Sri Lanka finally achieved a dream after exorcising the demons of failing at the final hurdle by lifting the ICC World Twenty20 (T20) 2014 Trophy. Their ICC World 20 win indicates just about everything that this team has done right in the shortest format. In T20s, they are in a niche group which involves only Pakistan in being consistent, where there’s a narrow margin between ‘minnows’ and the regular teams. Time and again, Sri Lanka have produced players who are good enough in the format and the senior players have adapted very well. Yet, the last thing one could imagine is their absence from a T20 league which promised to showcase the best in the business at one place. Indian Premier League (IPL) has already been robbed of some world-class players with Pakistan players being left deserted since the first edition.
Sri Lanka and Pakistan together, share between themselves the top five positions in the ICC T20I bowling rankings. In a format where meaty bats can help the ball fly to boundary boards off edges, these bowlers have been exceptional in making it an egalitarian format. If there was any tournament, where bowlers dominated consistently in the shortest format, it has to be the ICC World T20 2014 tournament. It’s not that IPL will be colourless without them, but the tournament loses its competitive edge.
Thisara Perera was the only Sri Lankan to be picked during the auction apart from Lasith Malinga who was retained by the Mumbai Indians (MI). Take a look at the options: Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Ajantha Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Nuwan Kulasekara, Kusal Perera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, all of them match-winners in the format.
Where the franchises wrong?
No. Less than three weeks into the IPL, these players will be touring Ireland (May 6), before beginning the series against England from May 20. It is a tournament, where teams focus on maintaining a winning momentum by playing a settled playing XI. With the IPL 7, 2014 split between United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India, the strategies could still differ. Under such circumstances, it would be absurd to include the Sri Lankans and further mix up the team combination, once they are unavailable from the first week of May.
Who is to be blamed for it?
It has to be Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), who have to take their fair share of the blame. Before you pounce on the writer for a debate, let’s elaborate more on this. However, autocratic or a big bully the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is, there is no denying that the way they packaged and hopped onto the commercial wagon wheel through IPL, was unparalleled. There is a simple business rule that, whoever enters the market first have the upper-hand. Among all the national boards, BCCI was the first to exploit T20 as a commercial product to rake in moolahs. The others followed. Viewership, glamour and spectators further boosted IPL’s brand value. In such a situation, rest of the boards had to ignore the IPL at their own risk, as the voice of players preferring to play in IPL kept growing louder. The Sri Lankan board may have had its compulsions while deciding on the fixtures. The players, who are already involved in a long battle over payments would have been delighted to get some recognition in the IPL, but the board itself is busy searching for opportunities to financially stabilise itself.
The board and the franchises were right in their own ways. The only one to lose out here are the Sri Lankan players. While the BCCI continues to protect its cash cow from controversies, the message is clear, the IPL is here to stay and the more popular it gets (if It stays away from controversies), the more difficult it becomes for other boards to plan their fixtures during the IPL.
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(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)