The Ashes series is about to commence, and there is no doubt that if England are to be extremely competitive, their batsman will need to score runs against one of the best bowling attacks in the world.
Aussie captain Aaron Finch says it would be “hard to justify” players returning for phase two of the IPL, but the league could provide Australia’s best preparation for World Cup success.
Club-versus-country debates have emerged in recent weeks after news that the IPL’s postponed 2021 season will resume just prior to the World Cup in October.
Cricket’s premier franchise tournament is in normal times afforded the April-May window to schedule games, with international fixtures largely put to a halt.
In 2021, however, things are different.
After India’s devastating COVID outbreak earlier this year the tournament was halted halfway through, and now the restart will collide with World Cup preparation.
Reports suggest IPL phase two will run from approximately 19 September to 15 October, with the World Cup starting mere days after that.
Both tournaments will be hosted in the UAE.
Unsurprisingly the Australian captain none-too-subtly discouraged his players from returning to their IPL teams, as it would render them unavailable for World Cup warm-up games.
“This is only my personal opinion: I think they would find it hard to justify going back and playing that second half of the IPL purely based on the workload coming up with a T20 World Cup then a huge home summer,” Finch said on SEN radio.
Chief selector Trevor Hohns has said he “hoped” players would forego the IPL, but they “haven’t looked at that yet”.
But from a preparation perspective Finch should be pushing players towards an IPL return, not discouraging them.
Phase two of the tournament is set to take place on the same Gulf grounds that will host the World Cup just days after the IPL’s conclusion.
Strong performances in the back end of the IPL will give the likes of David Warner, Glenn Maxwell and Pat Cummins – should they opt to return to their franchises – huge confidence. Far more so in fact than games against an undermanned Afghanistan and West Indies side, which remains the current plan.
Analysis shows the standard of cricket in the IPL is higher than the average T20 international.
As such, it could serve as better preparation for the World Cup.
While the narrative will likely be pushed that Australians returning to the IPL are merely money hungry, it may actually be true that they’re benefitting themselves and their country.
Of course there’s a downside to this approach. Australia’s best XI might not play together until the opening game of the World Cup.
But the question is this: is Australia’s chance of lifting the trophy greater with Warner, Maxwell, Cummins et al fresh from an IPL campaign? Or having played the Windies sans Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard and Nicholas Pooran and Afghanistan sans Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi?
For mine, it’s the former.
Australia’s World Cup success hinges on big individual performances.
Justin Langer’s side don’t boast the depth of England or India and will rely on execution from top-tier players to get through crunch games.
One could argue that without a firing Warner, Maxwell and Cummins, Australia’s chances plunge dramatically.
World Cup success for Finch’s side will rely on his own stars firing, and the best chance they have of getting in tip-top shape prior to the tournament is via the world’s best T20 league.
While it’s disappointing the league will significantly disrupt every nation’s preparation, the Aussies should use it to their advantage.
It’s the preparation that could determine whether they’ll lift the T20 World Cup for the first time.