Misfortune hit the Indian Premier League suddenly. The 10th edition of the enormously popular tournament is off to a wobbly start. Several wickets, so to speak, have fallen before a single ball has been bowled what with key players pulling out because of injury or fatigue.
Among those who will not play at all include Ravichandran Ashwin, Murali Vijay and K.L. Rahul who need either extended rest or surgery for injuries they have been carrying for some while.
Others who will not be starting immediately include Virat Kohli, who has been nursing a shoulder injury from the second Test against Australia, apart from Ravindra Jadeja and Umesh Yadav who have been given time off after a grueling home season.
All these are not just key players for their teams, but form the crème de la crème of Indian cricket and are big crowd pullers. Franchise owners, the BCCI — indeed all stakeholders — will be hit one way or the other by their absence, however brief.
While it might seem that there has been some kind of domino effect among Indian players what with so many of them missing in action, the problems are more widespread.
Overseas stars players Mitchel Starc, Dale Steyn, Mitchell Marsh, J.P. Duminy and Quinton de Kock are also giving the IPL a skip. Inevitably, there will be players who are injured in the course of the league as happens every year.
The Indian players, of course, are financially protected because their non-participation in the IPL is insured. The premium for the insurance is divided between the BCCI and the franchise in a pre-defined ratio.
A contracted player who gets injured and misses the league completely is reimbursed his entire fee. So Ashwin, Rahul and Murali Vijay would suffer no monetary loss at all.
If a player is injured outside of the IPL and has to miss out on a few matches, he gets paid on a pro rata basis for those matches. Say if Kohli, Umesh and Jadeja miss five matches each, they will still be paid for those matches through the insurance scheme.
The insurance scheme was put in place by N. Srinivasan when he was BCCI secretary before the 2011 World Cup to scuttle criticism that players put the IPL over playing for India, and not give it their all when wearing the blue jersey.
It was a sagacious move for Indian cricket had to be priority, and Indian players have performed uncompromisingly. But recent developments must compel attention of the not just BCCI administration but also other boards about the workload on players and how it affects the IPL.
India’s players, for instance, have had a hectic itinerary, what with 13 Tests and a spate of limited overs matches: apart from travel, pre-series camps and other ingredients than go into the making of an international series. It’s not been very different for players from other countries.
There can be no direct comparison between international matches and the IPL which, all told, is a domestic tournament. Yet, it is an extremely important tournament for its appeal and the humungous financial rewards it bestows on the BCCI.
Indeed, the IPL is an eco-system in itself where it is imperative that the interests of all stakeholders apart from the BCCI itself — players, fans, franchise owners, broadcasters, sponsors and other constituents — are catered to diligently and zealously safe-guarded.
Absence of the game’s best practitioners, and especially those from the home country, robs the league of sheen, apart from possibly causing financial/emotional sufferance to the stakeholders. In the long run, that can be counter-productive. It could be that this season is an aberration. It could also be that the cumulative effect of nine seasons juxtaposed with increased commitments elsewhere is beginning to tell on players from all over the world. The authorities need to be chastened. P.S: With so many Indian players missing, I am surprised and dismayed that Cheteshwar Pujara, should still languish for an IPL call-up. A top class, in-form batsman anyone?