February 25, 2014

A perfect warm-up for the IPL

Gareth V Kidd
What better way to prepare for the world's premier cricketing event than a World Twenty20?

To belt the ball on a flat pitch, prepare by belting the ball on a flat pitch © AFP

As the tenth or 11th season of the IPL approaches encroaches, BCCI spokesman Likka Damoneh has come out to say that the World Twenty20, in Bangladesh, will be the perfect lead-up event to the IPL, cricket's premier event. The three-week tournament will be a great testing ground for IPL-bound players, and will get them in good stead for the 300-odd games neatly slotted into a six-week period.

"It's great that we can have an international, albeit lesser, event in the World Twenty20 just before the IPL kicks off," stated Damoneh. "It's important that players whose techniques have been hampered by Test cricket get the opportunity to free their arms and practise their scoop shots, ramps shots, reverse sweeps, reverse paddles, lap shots, switch hits, and any other stroke with the term 'hoick' in it."

There's also focus on the bowlers to make sure they are bowling the wicket-taking deliveries required in IPL conditions, such as the knee-high full tosses, and the half-trackers outside off. Spinners are expected to start practising their flat-trajectory deliveries that make the T20 middle overs the perfect time to get a cup of tea, or down a full bottle of wine.

However, some IPL franchises have stated concerns about having such a frivolous event so close to the tournament. The general consensus among team owners is that the World Twenty20 is merely another event for their marquee signings to injure themselves in, whilst gallivanting around in national colours.

The players generally seem upbeat, looking forward to the lustre and prestige that comes with an IPL contract. George Bailey appears comfortable with regards to his preparation for the tournament. "Well, yeah, the T20 internationals are a really good place to start your practice for the IPL. But I got in early and started my T20 practice in the Ashes series. I made sure I wasn't thinking 'cover drive' or 'forward defence' during the Test series. You don't get paid six figures for a high elbow and good technique, you get paid for whacking deliveries over long-on. Speaking of which, who is Jimmy Anderson playing for in the IPL?"

New sensation Corey Anderson couldn't be more thrilled to have come good at the right time and will relish the experience on the Bangladesh pitches, prior to heading to India. He said his record-breaking century against West Indies was his IPL audition. "The World Cup will be a great opportunity to get used to the pitches. Without it, I would have had to have Southee and Boult bowl to me on the highway outside my apartment."

Yet the World Cup may be one team short. With most of Sri Lanka's players overlooked in the auction, their T20 captain, Dinesh Chandimal, said his side may pull out. "Well, what's the point," he said during a press conference. "Myself, Angie and Mahela, we've been building for the IPL season, and if we're not even in the teams, the warm-up event seems a little obsolete." Sri Lankan officials have said that without the IPL, or an ODI series against India, their players may actually play red-ball cricket, which would negatively affect their hold on the No. 1 T20 ranking.

Still, the BCCI is excited about the warm-up tournament, so much so that they wish to implement similar events for future IPL practice. "We're drafting a proposal for the ICC to have next year's 50-over World Cup reduced to the T20 format and also approached Cricket Australia to make sure their pitches don't have any of that pace or movement," Damoneh revealed. "We don't want to confuse players."

So it may be without all the glitz, glamour and product placement you would expect from an MC Hammer interview, but the World Twenty20 will allow players, officials, fans and betting organisations to warm up for the marathon six weeks that is the IPL.