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News

Heavy fixture list threatens IPL warm-up plans

The lack of breathing space between the Deodhar Trophy and the IPL has left some teams worried that their Indian players may not be available for the pre-season training camp

Nagraj Gollapudi
01-Mar-2010
Kolkata have a new coach, but will Dav Whatmore have sufficient time to get to know his players better?  •  Associated Press

Kolkata have a new coach, but will Dav Whatmore have sufficient time to get to know his players better?  •  Associated Press

While IPL officials and the franchise owners are working overtime on security issues surrounding the tournament, the players and support staff are dealing with another hurdle: The lack of breathing space between the Deodhar Trophy, the inter-zonal one-day tournament, and the IPL has left some teams worried that their Indian players may not be available for the pre-season training camp and will be denied sufficient mental and physical rest.
The Deodhar Trophy runs from March 6-9 and the IPL starts three days later.
"It is unfortunate. We are particularly hard-hit because we are playing the first game (on March 12) unlike other teams who have at least two more days before starting their campaign," Joy Bhattacharjya, director of operations of Kolkata Knight Riders told Cricinfo. His concerns are understandable: ten of the 16 Indians in his 23-man squad will be featuring in the five-zone Deodhar Trophy, to be played in Vadodara.
Before that, on March 2, the Bengal state side play the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy against Tamil Nadu. The next day, the KKR squad is due to start its training camp in Cuttack and it will reach Mumbai on March 8, with the entire squad assembling two days later.
Kolkata have been busy after a season in which they finished last; first, they replaced one World Cup-winning coach, John Buchanan, with another in Dav Whatmore. Locals like batsman Manoj Tiwary were bought during the trading window as Whatmore put the new structure in place. But Whatmore may not have enough time to work with his players.
"Most of the other teams have set combinations with stable line-ups. People like us who haven't been successful have to work hard," Bhattacharjya said. "Also when and where will our coach get to have a look at first-timers like Manoj Tiwari and Harshad Khadiwale? Our line-up has four or five first XI changes. Even Cheteshwar Pujara, a consistent performer on the domestic circuit, hasn't played a lot for Kolkata, so he will need to be present at the training camps to understand the team planning. But that won't be happening."
The BCCI cannot be blamed for the scheduling clash. In fact, the Deodhar Trophy, the annual zonal one-day tournament, originally played on a league basis, was converted into a knockout tournament this year exclusively to make sure the IPL schedule (March 12-April 25) would not be disrupted. The IPL itself had to be advanced by a month in order to avoid any clash with the ICC World Twenty20, to be played in May this year in the Caribbean. All this had a domino effect on the Indian domestic schedule and the BCCI had no option but to come up with a crammed calendar, despite concerns from coaches and players, whose major concern was exhaustion and absence of any time for recovery.
Some other teams, though, see the positives in the tournament schedule. Darren Lehmann, team director of Deccan Chargers, said he would be happy for his players to participate in the domestic event. "We are more than happy if our players take part in any domestic event. That will not impact our plans in any way," Lehmann said. But Deccan had worked hard to work out winning strategies that allowed them to bounce back from being the eighth-ranked team after the first IPL to the title last year.
Delhi's stance is similar. Amrit Mathur, Delhi's chief operating officer, felt that playing the Deodhar Trophy can be seen as match practice though he acknowledged that some could use a rest. "It actually goes player by player," Mathur said. "For example, Rajat Bhatia is in the Deodhar squad and that is good as he is playing in a competitive match whereas Dinesh Karthik, who has just finished playing the ODI series against South Africa, after playing in the better half of the domestic season, might've have done with some rest."
Some like Chennai are more blunt and say teams have to accept the fact that the international calendar is crammed already and the domestic calendar gets extended as a result. "You maintain your form by playing matches. More than preparatory camps if they are playing the right form of cricket. If they were playing four or five-day games it might have affected the team's plans," a Chennai source said.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo