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Exactly a week after the climax of the IPL, one-day cricket will face its first trial during the Kitply Cup in Bangladesh
June 7, 2008
The success of the inaugural Indian Premier League, a phenomenon that held audiences in rapt attention for 45 days, raised questions about the 50-over format's ability to hold its own against the adrenalin rushes experienced by both players and fans during a Twenty20 match. And now, exactly a week after the climax of the IPL, one-day cricket will face its first trial during the Kitply Cup in Bangladesh.
Fans, especially in India, have spent the evenings between April 18 and June 1 watching batsmen plunder runs at above eight an over, bowlers taking ten wickets in 20 overs, all of it tightly packed into three-and-a-half hours. The tri-series in Bangladesh will be a test of patience. Spectators will have to appreciate the building of an innings as they sit through the pedestrian run-rate of one-day cricket, and watch as overs are bowled without a six being hit or a wicket falling. For the Indian and Pakistani players involved with the IPL, the challenge will be to readjust their batting styles to the longer format: not to go for broke from the onset, think about keeping wickets in hand, and to give a few overs to the bowler if he's in the middle of a dangerous spell.
The tournament's format - three league matches - is such that it allows no room for error. India and Pakistan have the most to lose. One slip-up and it will be down to net run-rate to qualify for the final. The irony is that if there's an India-Pakistan final, it is more likely to fade from public memory as most one-day matches eventually do. The tournament needs Bangladesh to produce a remarkable performance for it to be memorable. And apart from the team's cause, Bangladesh's players will be motivated by their lack of demand at the IPL.
None of their players, barring Abdur Razzak, who bowled two overs in his solitary appearance for the Bangalore Royal Challengers, were bought by the franchises during the auction, or even after as replacements. The slam-bang batting styles of Mohammad Ashraful, Tamim Iqbal and Aftab Ahmed might have had more impact than Jacques Kallis or Wasim Jaffer but poor performances since the World Cup in 2007 left them with no buyers. Bangladesh sprung two surprises in the Caribbean - beating India and South Africa - but they haven't won against major opposition since. They've only got three matches against Ireland to show for their successes and their most recent assignment in Pakistan ended in a 5-0 defeat.
"I was not picked for the IPL because I had not performed well," Ashraful, the Bangladesh captain, said. "If I perform well this season, maybe I will get a call for next year's tournament." It could have been any of his talented team-mates speaking.
Pakistan, on the other hand, had plenty of representation in the IPL but only Sohail Tanvir, out of ten players, had a tournament to boast about. As a team they've been in hot form on paper, winning 11 ODIs on the trot, but ten of those victories came at home against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, two series hastily arranged after Australia postponed their visit. They've been starved of quality opposition and this tournament will provide the build-up for their Asia Cup campaign and the Champions Trophy in September.
The favourites are India, who haven't even arrived in Dhaka as yet. Their year began with a victory against Australia in the finals of the CB Series and although the excitement created by that achievement was huge, the hype and attention the cash-rich IPL got was unparalleled. All the players in the Indian squad were part of the IPL and the three newest faces - Yusuf Pathan, Pragyan Ojha and Manpreet Gony - performed impressively during the event.
The flip side was that India lost Sachin Tendulkar to a recurring groin injury that he initially sustained during the tour of Australia. He missed the first half of the IPL but featured in seven games of the Mumbai Indians' campaign before pulling out of this trip and the Asia Cup. Sreesanth too picked up a side strain during the IPL. There's also concern over captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who didn't keep in the later stages of the tournament due to a finger injury.
The Kitply Cup marks the restart of a hectic international calendar. It may not be the most eye-catching tournament but nevertheless, India and Pakistan won't want this series to be remembered for their inability to make the final.
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