IPL pull-out disappoints Australian players
Shane Watson, Nathan Bracken and James Hopes will not contest Cricket Australia's move to stand them down from the IPL, despite being left disappointed and out of pocket by the decision. The trio had hoped to join Rajasthan Royals, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab respectively from this weekend, only to be ruled out after undergoing medical examinations by Australian team doctor, Trefor James.
Bracken and Hopes were in line to earn in excess of $100,000 in pro-rata payments for a fortnight's work, having signed deals worth $325,000 and $300,000 with their IPL franchises. Both were hopeful of receiving medical clearance to join their teams in South Africa, but were informed prior to Australia's Twenty20 match against Pakistan - a game in which they both batted and bowled - that minor knee injuries would rule them out.
"He was keen as mustard to play with Bangalore," Rob Horton, Bracken's agent, said. "He was prepared to go and get the release from Cricket Australia, but he was not granted medical clearance so couldn't go. He's disappointed, but he can also see the bigger picture here. While he did have a knee injury last year, and it has since come good and not given him much trouble, there is also a heavy schedule coming up. He understands their reasoning. Apart from the dollars at stake, he had signed an IPL contract and wanted to fulfil it.
"There is no point trying to appeal the decision. Cricket Australia has the final say. I was talking to [Bracken] last night, and he knows there is a busy schedule coming up, which also includes the Twenty20 Champions League, because NSW qualified. He understands the reasoning behind it. Moves like this can help provide longevity for his career. He's not a young chicken anymore. At the top level of the game, he probably has another four good years and he wants to get the maximum out of it."
Hopes, a regular in Australia's limited-overs squads in recent seasons, was similarly resigned to forgoing IPL earnings to ensure his fitness for the World Twenty 20. "He's certainly disappointed, because he was looking forward to playing in the IPL," Peter Rogers, Hopes' agent, said. "He's disappointed in terms of not being able to play, but he is comfortable with [Cricket Australia's] decision. He has tendonitis in his right knee and he's been playing a fair bit recently, so he knows the rest will do him good. There comes a time when the body says it needs a break."
Watson had expressed his desire to join Rajasthan, with whom he has a $125,000 contract, after Australia's limited-overs series against Pakistan, and apparently passed an initial fitness assessment. But the allrounder injured his groin while compiling 33 from 14 balls in the series finale in Dubai, and was subsequently stood down from the final stages of the IPL; a tournament he dominated in 2008.
Watson's injury is not expected to restrict his involvement in the World Twenty20, but is nonetheless unwelcome in a year that has already seen him miss successive series against South Africa on account of stress fractures of the back. He has yet to return to competitive bowling - the IPL, he felt, would have been the ideal platform - and could now head to the Centre of Excellence to continue his rehabilitation.
"I spoke to him briefly before he got on the plane from Dubai, and he was pretty philosophical about it," Dave Flaskas, Watson's agent, said. "His view was that that he would have liked to play, but now a decision has been made and he wants to make the best of it. Obviously there is a commercial downside to it. But he is running into some pretty good form now, and there are obviously some big series coming up, so he pretty pragmatic about it all. He wants to start bowling and make sure he's 100 percent fit and healthy with the Ashes coming up. There is obviously a downside in terms of the cash, but I think he realises there is more at stake here."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo