JOHANNESBURG – A major part of the groundwork for many national teams’ challenge at the T20 World Cup will be laid over the next few weeks when the Indian Premier League resumes, following a four month Covid-induced hiatus.
Cricket’s most lucrative competition, had started in India in April, but after a month of play, with some teams having players test positive for Covid-19 and with India in the midst of a devastating wave, the tournament was suspended in the first week of May.
Financial demands meant it had to be completed this year and with India still in the grips of a Covid crisis, and the logistical problems created by bio secure bubbles, the tournament was moved to the United Arab Emirates. The International Cricket Council piggy-backed on that, and moved the T20 World Cup to the region as well.
As was the case when it was held in the United Arab Emirates last year, the remaining fixtures for the 2021 IPL tournament, will be split between Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. As a result, it will provide some crucial data for national teams, who will be heading to the region for the global tournament immediately afterwards.
“The fact we’ve got a lot of guys going over for the IPL as a preparation, getting a few games in those conditions, it’s going to do wonders for our batters,” Glenn Maxwell, the Australian star said this week.
“The tournament being in the UAE probably levels the playing field a little bit. Probably makes it a little bit easier for there not to be as much of a home ground advantage. For the IPL to be there, to have a lot of international players that are potentially going to be in that World Cup over there playing, I think it’s probably levelled the playing field a fair bit,” Maxwell added.
Proteas head coach Mark Boucher has instructed the South African players heading to the IPL to gather as much intelligence as possible. “The guys going to the IPL need to stay quite disciplined with how they are doing their work over there and realise that we want them to peak at the right time as a unit. There are a couple things I’ve talked to individuals that they can maybe work on, but more just about picking up any sort of information about playing in those conditions.”
Aiden Markram and Tabraiz Shamsi have been contracted by the Punjab Kings and Rajasthan Royals respectively, bringing to 12 the number of South African players participating in the tournament’s resumption. Seven of those are in the SA T20 squad for the World Cup.
Boucher wants the players to use their time wisely. “If they manage themselves well, get some good time in the nets and get used to those facilities, it will stand us in good stead. It’s a great opportunity for Aiden as well, he’s shown he’s grown a helluva lot in his game with different options he has right now.
“This will be a great experience for them, as long as they look after themselves and make sure they are peaking for us at the right time,” said Boucher.
While most of the World Cup bound Proteas are in good nick going into the IPL, Kagiso Rabada will hope the competition can help him to find some form and rhythm before the global event. The other South African player who will be closely monitored is Lungi Ngidi. He missed the Sri Lanka tour for what were described by Cricket SA as “personal reasons.” He was due to play the T20 series in Sri Lanka, but instead - with CSA’s permission - travelled straight to the UAE, to join up with the Chennai side, to build up his fitness under the watchful eye of the Proteas’ former fitness trainer, Greg King. Ideally, Boucher and Co. would like it if Ngidi got some match time under his belt.
Chennai plays the opening match of the resumption against the Mumbai Indians in Dubai on Sunday.
The IPL announced this week that a limited number of fans will be allowed into the three venues.
The final will be played on October 15. The preliminary round of the T20 World Cup starts on October 17, with the tournament proper begining on October 23, when South Africa face Australia in Abu Dhabi.
South Africans at the IPL resumption (* denotes players in T20 World Cup squad)
Rajasthan Royals: Chris Morris, David Miller*, Tabraiz Shamsi*
Punjab Kings: Aiden Markram*
Delhi Capitals: Kagiso Rabada*, Anrich Nortje*
Chennai Super Kings: Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi*
Royal Challengers Bangalore: AB de Villiers
Mumbai Indians: Quinton de Kock*, Marco Jansen