IPL obsession bad for Proteas
Sport24 columnist Craig Matthews (File)
Cape Town - A clear indication of the influence and impact of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on world cricket is the fact the league has received more media coverage and general interest from the cricketing world than the New Zealand v Australia and Bangladesh v England Test series' currently being played in Bangladesh and New Zealand respectively.
It is not surprising that the latter has received limited interest from the cricketing public, but in the past, series' between New Zealand and Australia in the land of the long white cloud have been closely fought affairs which have attracted plenty of interest in the cricketing world.
However, this is a new cricket order today, where the influence of the enormous financial clout of Indian Cricket in general, and the IPL, in particular, is having an ever increasing impact on world cricket.
But, is this necessarily good for world cricket, and more specifically, South African cricket?
An issue which must be of concern to the South African selectors is the fact that one of their top order batsman in all three forms of the game, JP Duminy, has yet to get a hit for his IPL franchise, the Mumbai Indians.
Although Duminy has had a distinctly ordinary season, he has been included in the Proteas squad's for all three forms of the game for the upcoming ICC World Twenty20 and the SA tour of the West Indies (ODIs and Tests), so sitting on the sidelines during the lead up to the tour is hardly perfect preparation for the challenges that lie ahead.
Previous Proteas coach, Mickey Arthur, had pencilled Duminy in to be the number four in both the shortened versions of the game and, although the hierarchy of SA cricket coaching has changed, Duminy, it would seem still has a vital part to play in SA cricket in the next few years.
Anybody who has the ability to score a big hundred at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with the team’s backs against the wall, will eventually come good, as the feat requires not only a high level of skill, but also a certain mental toughness and resilience which is rare in players so young and short in experience.
I am not sure that playing in the IPL and averaging 25 at a strike rate of 125 would constitute a return to form for the highly skilled player from the Cobras, but possibly playing in two pressured matches in the SuperSport Series as the Cobras chase the domestic title for the first time in a number of years, would constitute much better preparation than watching the dancing girls celebrating another Tendulkar boundary.
Added to this, the Mumbai Indians are near the top of the log after five rounds, suggesting that changes to their starting line-up will be kept to a minimum, thereby further reducing Duminy’s chances of playing any time soon.
When one starts investigating the matter more deeply, it gets more complex as one considers the implications of the vast amounts of money being shelled out by the IPL franchises for the players concerned.
Duminy earns close on $1m for each edition of the IPL and it would take an extremely brave administrator or coach in South Africa to deny the 25-year-old the chance to start building his nest egg at such a young age.
Furthermore, considering the closeness of the relationship between Cricket South Africa and the Board for Control of Cricket in India, it would seem very unlikely that CSA would make a decision which would be seen to negatively prejudice any of the teams in any way.
Therefore, we might have to get used to the fact that the Indian Premier League might, on occasion, prevent our international players from the preferred preparation for an upcoming Test or ODI series, or even worse, a World Cup.
Surely CSA should follow the lead of Cricket Australia whose top players seem to have little interest in the IPL because the honour of wearing the “Baggy Green” remains so much more important than the money which could be made by turning out for one of the IPL franchises.
If CSA are serious about the retention and development of the Protea brand, they need to manage their greatest asset, the players, for the benefit of South African cricket, sometimes in conflict with the personal interests of some of those players.
Craig Matthews played 18 Tests and 56 one-day internationals as a seam bowler for South Africa between 1991 and 1997, and until recently served as a national selector.
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