Proteas

IPL working in Proteas' favour ... this time

2017-04-20 12:18
Chris Morris (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The IPL is in its 10th year, and there are many cricket purists who maintain that it does more harm than good for the overall global game. 

Every year we are subjected to the over-the-top commentary of Danny Morrison and co, the cringe-worthiness of the dancing cheerleaders, the monotony of stadium announcers bellowing the same lines over and over again and a gazillion 'tournament sixes' that we simply must keep count of. 

Of course, if you don't like it, you don't have to watch, but the star power on offer makes it difficult not to. 

The Royal Challengers Bangalore, for example, can boast a top three of Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers while the Kings XI Punjab have a top order including Hashim Amla, Glenn Maxwell, Eoin Morgan and David Miller. 

There are superstars everywhere, all capable of doing special things on a cricket field. 

That the format has taken over cricket is no longer an argument. T20 cricket is the present and the future, and while fighting that fight may be noble, it is also futile.

Where the IPL does still hurt the game is in the way it impacts on international cricket - across all formats. 

For South Africans, we have had to come to the realisation that AB de Villiers is shaping his entire cricketing schedule around this tournament. 

He will not play for the Proteas when they are in England on Test duty later this year because he wants to manage his workload, but he has no problem playing in the IPL. 

That the financial security that comes with the IPL is prioritised over representing one’s country is a truth that has been very hard to digest for romantic cricket lovers. 

If we’ve had it bad with AB, spare a thought for the West Indians who have watched Gayle blasting his way across the international T20 circuit for years. 

The other obvious concern that comes with the IPL is workload. 

The tournament runs for over six weeks and sees each side play at least 14 matches in that time. 

The workloads of international cricketers are already demanding, and when one considers that the ICC Champions Trophy will be played in June this year, this year's IPL would have raised concerns with a number of international coaches. 

When Kagiso Rabada was snapped up by the Delhi Daredevils ahead of this year's tournament, Proteas management would have taken a deep breath. 

The last thing they need now is for their premier quick to pick up an injury just before the Champions Trophy and the England Test series. 

Rabada has bowled more overs than any other South African fast bowler in the last year across all three formats and will be a major player for years to come in the national set-up. 

But, Rabada has not played once since being in India - a blessing in disguise from a Proteas perspective. 

In fact, a glance across the South African participation in India this year suggests that there is more benefit than harm from a Proteas perspective. 

De Villiers missed a lot of international cricket for South Africa last year, coming back at the beginning of 2017 where he guided the Proteas to series wins against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. 

His form throughout both of those series was good, but it was probably important that he played as much cricket as possible before England after missing so much in the second half of 2016. 

The IPL this year has given him an opportunity to bat in high pressure situations and on the biggest stage. That De Villiers has looked as devastating as ever in the competition so far can only be good news for South Africa as they look to win a rare piece of ICC silverware. 

He has scored 137 runs in three innings at a strike rate of 141.23 and he has played just half of RCB's matches - a good sign that the franchise is not playing him into the ground as they manage his never-ending back problems. 

Another South African, Chris Morris, is also flourishing at the tournament and he will no doubt be gaining a lot of confidence. 

Morris has been superb with bat and ball. He is bowling fast, has taken 12 wickets at an average of 9.91 and an economy rate of 6.61 and his 38* off just 9 balls against the Supergiants was something special. 

A player who has been in and out of the national set-up in all formats, Morris is using this IPL to seriously put his hand up as the Proteas' answer to the 'finisher' conundrum that has plagued their lower order for so long now – a serious comfort going into another major tournament.

Hashim Amla is another benefiting from some time out in the middle. 

He may be in need of a break - he has also had a long international run - but Amla has not been in the form we have become so accustomed to. 

In truth, it hasn't been much better at the IPL. Amla has carded one 50 in five knocks, but the more he bats the closer he will surely get to rediscovering the best version of himself before it counts the most: rather have Amla struggling now than in England. 

The same can be said of David Miller. 

The clean-hitting left-hander will be a massive player for the Proteas in the Champions Trophy. His ODI form has been superb in recent months, and keeping him in touch is important. 

Miller is also struggling somewhat in the IPL, and more time in the middle cannot be a bad thing for him right now. 

Imran Tahir, though, is the one guy who we perhaps don't need playing in the IPL. 

He is 38, the number one ranked bowler in ODI and T20I cricket and absolutely crucial to South Africa's Champions Trophy cause. 

There can simply be no benefit to the Proteas in him playing in this tournament. He will bowl more overs than he needs to, travel more than he needs to and give opposition batsmen a chance to face him in match situations.

It's not ideal from a South African perspective, but you can't win them all. 

As long as they all stay fit, De Villiers, Morris, Amla and Miller might all seriously benefit from their time in India. 

And if those four players are firing by the time they throw away their shiny IPL kits for the green and gold of the Proteas, then things will be looking up for the South African charge. 

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