Star Aussies must not be banned from IPL

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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    Cricket Australia should be encouraging its finest players to take part in the Indian Premier League, not trying to convince them to abandon the world’s best T20 competition.

    The organisation’s patent desire to stop the country’s best cricketers from playing in the IPL is one of the controversies of the current contract dispute between CA and its players.

    CA has offered three-year contracts to several of Australia’s biggest stars on the proviso they do not play in the IPL during that contract period, according to a recent report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

    This issue has been overshadowed by threats of player strikes and of CA refusing to pay cricketers. As a quick summary of that situation, the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) recently declined a new pay offer from CA which would end the model of revenue-sharing.

    This model has been around for the best part of 20 years and sees the players get a cut of the income created by Australian cricket. CA have proposed to remove domestic players from this model, giving them fixed contracts instead, with international cricketers to share a $20 million bounty – $16 million going to the men and $4 million to the women.

    CA have stated that if the offer is not accepted then the players will receive no pay after June 30. In response, the players are threatening to strike.

    Amid all this I’m particularly fascinated, and shocked, by CA’s move to try to ban its gun players from the IPL. This is just the latest example of disrespect for Twenty20 cricket from CA, who have long treated it like a sideshow.

    While other nations were taking the format seriously, and improving steadily as a result, CA had its players miked-up while batting or bowling, engaged in inane banter with TV commentators rather than focusing solely on winning.

    CA wedged international Twenty20 series into the yearly schedule, seemingly as an afterthought, and continue to do so. Consider the fixturing debacle which occurred in the lead-up to last year’s marquee World T20 tournament.

    Just six weeks before the World T20 started, Australia hosted India for a three-match Twenty20 series. Such a series against a top opponent was crucial preparation, especially considering Australia had only played one solitary Twenty20 match in the previous 14 months.

    Think about that for a moment – CA cared so little about T20s that they allowed the national team to go more than a year while playing just a single game.

    Then they made a mockery of the series against India by scheduling an ODI series in New Zealand just three days after the Twenty20 contests. This meant that Australia had a second-string line-up for the last two of those Twenty20 matches, resulting in an embarrassing 3-0 loss to India who, by contrast, fielded their strongest possible XI in each fixture.

    To no one’s surprise, Australia promptly flopped in the World T20.

    Glenn Maxwell congratulates David Warner

    AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

    CA’s contempt for T20s is a key reason why Australia always have been an ordinary side, despite having enough talent to be a consistently elite team.

    Now CA want to hamstring the Australian team’s development further by effectively banning their best players from the IPL. The Fairfax report stated the three-year contracts with an IPL clause had been offered to national captain Steve Smith, gun opener David Warner, and quality quicks Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

    If these cricketers did not play IPL for the next three years then when, exactly, would they get to polish their T20 skills? The packed home summer schedule prevents these top cricketers taking part in the Big Bash League if they’re playing Tests and ODIs.

    Their T20 participation could be limited solely to international matches, which would leave them pretty rusty considering Australia has only played 16 T20Is in the past two-and-a-half years. Smith, Warner and Cummins have played almost that many IPL games in past six weeks.

    The IPL is crucial for the likes of Smith, Warner and Starc, who otherwise get to play very little T20 cricket. It is these superstars who can potentially lead Australia to the top of the Twenty20 rankings and to a first-ever World T20 win. So depriving them of games makes little sense.

    Given the comparatively limited physical demands of T20 cricket, none of them should be burned out by the time they finish with the IPL and return to international duty. If anything, Australia’s chances of winning next month’s Champions Trophy ODI tournament should be boosted by the fact Smith, Warner, Cummins, Glenn Maxwell, Chris Lynn, Moises Henriques and Adam Zampa have been in form ranging from good to great in the IPL.

    Those players should enter the tournament nicely warmed up, even if it is a different format. They’ll also have developed and/or honed T20-specific skills in India which will be of use when playing T20Is for Australia.

    It’s understandable the threats of player strikes and payments being ceased by CA have grabbed the headlines. But the IPL contract clause could have massive ramifications for the Australian Twenty20side as it tries to lift itself out of perennial mediocrity.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco