Is the IPL hurting West Indian cricket?
West Indies batsman Chris Gayle leaves the field. AP Photo/Matt Dunham
The West Indies, seventh in the ICC Test rankings, were recently locked in battle with fourth placed Australia with six of its top warriors unable to join the clash.
Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo were all thousands of miles from the Caribbean front-lines, arrayed in party attire and engaged in video game warfare for their various IPL teams.
Their absence significantly depleted the West Indies’ arsenal. Under normal circumstances, Gayle, Samuels and Narine would almost certainly have been in the starting 11; while the other three are among those who would have been first in line if the need for replacements arose.
Gayle, his long running dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board now apparently resolved, would surely have opened the batting. Capable of bewildering the opposition with his powerful stroke play he would have made considerable difference to a team currently with vulnerabilities in that position.
Coach Otis Gibson seemed to have suggested that Marlon Samuels would have been the preferred choice at #6. Despite looking out of sorts in the limited-overs games and Deonarine’s good form as the Caribbean’s leading scorer in this year’s regional competition, Gibson curiously announced that the Guyanese was on probation and would be playing only because Samuels had gone to the IPL.
Returning to the side after a two-year absence and concerns about his commitment to fitness, Deonarine, having done reasonably well in the second Test, will be hoping to make the #6 position his own.
Perhaps the most consequential absence, however, was that of Sunil Narine. After perplexing the Australians during the ODI and T20 games they were relieved when he became the concern of batsmen playing against the Kolkata Knight Riders instead.
Michael Hussey admitted as much when he said he was “pretty happy” that Narine had gone to the IPL. He added that all the Australian players found it a “huge challenge” deciphering his mysteries. Indeed, while the West Indies was struggling to take wickets in Trinidad Narine was occupied collecting five for 19 against The Kings XI Punjab.
So there can be little doubt of the harmful impact that the IPL has had on the West Indies team. And you can’t reasonably blame the players. An athletic career is not normally very enduring.
Furthermore, injury or loss of form can bring it to a sudden and unforeseen halt, and in the likely event that the many hours spent honing his craft would have left him with few to develop other marketable skills it is just plain good sense for him to seek to secure his future. Accordingly, the solution to this predicament will have to come from elsewhere.
Recently former Australian captain and current test batsman Ricky Ponting cited the Chris Gayle saga in calling for a window for the IPL.
The problem with that is that there are other T20 leagues (and more will no doubt spring up) that can similarly compromise the primacy of international cricket. A window can’t possibly be created for all of them.
The No Objection Certificates (NOC) are supposed to prevent just this kind of situation, but something has obviously gone awry, at least as far as West Indies cricket is concerned.
In any case the negotiations for NOCs is bound to trigger conflicts between the governing bodies, which would naturally want its best side on the field, and the players who might prefer to go after the much higher earnings that the IPL and other T20 leagues will provide.
And furthermore, is it reasonable to force a professional to play for his country when he would rather be employed elsewhere?
The ICC as the body responsible for international cricket has got to act to preserve its preeminence. There will have to be some streamlining of the cricket calendar to ensure that you don’t have Test matches being contested by second and third-string teams.
So far it seems that only one team is suffering. But if the West Indies can be affected today then there is no telling who else might be affected tomorrow.
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