The country vs club controversy often raises its head in the game of football when leading clubs of the world were seen reluctant over releasing players for national duty. But this has now become a topic of discussion in cricket too. Many top-class cricketers skip playing for their countries when the Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) organises its domestic Twenty20 franchise-based tournament — the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Almost all cricketers around the world look forward to playing in the lucrative money-spinning league in India. And that in some cases makes the cricket boards of the countries not see eye to eye with their players.
Just a week before the tournament returns to India after being staged in the UAE last time, the issue has hit the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) as top England players like Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes are in danger of missing the first Test against New Zealand if their respective IPL sides make it to the play-offs.
A total of 13 England players will take part in IPL 2021. England’s first Test against New Zealand starts on June 2 while the IPL is scheduled to get over on May 30. However, the series against the Black Caps was planned after the No-Objection Certificates (NOC) for IPL was granted to the players.
While ECB had earlier made it clear that all of their players will be available for the entire duration of IPL, ECB director of cricket Ashley Giles said he didn’t want the England players’ love to represent their country to turn into a ‘kiss of death’ by forcing them to skip parts of IPL. “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. 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,” he added.
But this logic did not go well with former England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott who slammed the English players for prioritising IPL over national duty. “Players seem to forget the IPL would not come calling for them if they had not performed for England first. So they owe a debt of gratitude and loyalty to put England first. I would never stop them from earning that but not by missing games for England to do it,” Boycott wrote in one of his columns recently.
A furious Boycott suggested penalty and money be docked for players who take a break to go home between national duty and also urged the board to not pick players who can’t play a full series.
“I bet you will not see any of our players leaving the IPL because they miss their wife, girlfriend or kids. If players want to go home for a break from England duty, dock their money. Better still don’t select them unless they can agree to be available for a whole series. It is a barmy way to run English cricket, they should all be ashamed and embarrassed,” Boycott wrote.
However, another former England cricketer came in support of the players. Former England captain Kevin Pietersen opined that no international game should be scheduled during the course of the T20 event.
“Cricket boards need to realise that the @IPL is the biggest show in town. DO NOT schedule ANY international games whilst it’s on. V v v simple!” Pietersen tweeted.
The issue raised a storm in the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) too when the BCB cricket operations committee chairman Akram Khan stated that the board may reconsider the NOC issued to Shakib Al Hasan after the star all-rounder accused the board of misinterpreting his letter to BCB seeking permission to skip Sri Lanka Tests in April in order to play in IPL. Bangladesh were to travel to Sri Lanka for a two-match Test series, which is also part of ICC World Test Championship, from April 21 to May. However, things were settled when BCB director Ismail Haider stated that Shakib’s “NOC will remain as it is and he can go and take part in IPL.”
Cricket South Africa (CSA) meanwhile has decided to allow its IPL-bound players, who are also the part of Proteas squad for the Pakistan series, to leave for India after the second ODI on April 4.
Pakistan will play three World Cup Super League matches from April 2-7 and four T20Is from April 10-16 but the South African cricketers featuring in IPL will fly out to India after the second game.
A number of South African players — Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje (both Delhi Capitals) hard hitter David Miller (Rajasthan Royals), pacer Lungi Ngidi (Chennai Super Kings), and wicket-keeper batsman Quinton de Kock (Mumbai Indians) — are thus expected to join their respective franchises ahead of IPL.