Since MS Dhoni’s men lifted the inaugural T20I World Cup trophy in 2007, the Indian cricket team has failed to reach those heights again in the T20 format.
Indian Premier League is cricket world’s most lucrative and competitive tournament, providing Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) the monopoly to dominate cricket politics. Its influence has reached such an extent that England is even proposing to host the remainder of the IPL by reducing the 5-Test series, but that is another story.
While IPL’s brand has hit the ceiling over the past decade, the quality of the Indian international T20I team has remained stagnant.
One of the main reasons is BCCI’s reluctance to let Indian cricketers play in foreign leagues—the Hundred, CPL, BBL, BPL, PSL, Abu Dhabi T10 among others.
1. The Argument – Out of Favor Players Need an Outlet
India is sending separate squads for the England Test tour and Sri Lanka limited-overs series, an insight into the future.
Separate squads for different formats mean more international spots for domestic players. Yet, fringe players have limited opportunities. Out-of-favor players should have multiple outlets to stake a claim or regain lost spots.
Players looking to break into the Indian Test squad usually grind it out in Ranji Trophy or county cricket, but what about limited overs specialists? How about domestic stalwarts without an IPL contract but can provide value overseas? Or consider Kuldeep Yadav’s case, who has been warming the bench for two seasons.
If you rest, you rust.
Rather than wait an entire year for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and IPL, these cricketers could sharpen their skills overseas. They would improve, become financially stable, and help BCCI learn more about them.
2. Retired Players
Yuvraj Singh had to retire from cricket altogether to qualify for a T10 tournament, while Harbhajan Singh and plenty of others were denied altogether in similar cases. Not a proper way to treat legends.
In 2007, Australia’s greatest era was coming to an end with retirements of Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Shane Warne, & Glenn McGrath.
Their acquisition highlighted the early days of the IPL. Hayden was CSK’s mainstay (remember the Mongoose Bat?), Warne inspired Rajasthan Royals’ inaugural win, and Gilchrist did the same with Deccan Chargers in 2009.
Watson exemplifies these points. His Player of the Series performance in IPL 2008 reignited his flailing international career. Post-retirement, Watson regained form in PSL 2019 (Player of the Series), held prior to IPL 2019, which helped CSK in their run to the final.
3. Learn From the West Indies
West Indies just announced a blockbuster summer ahead. 4 Tests, 3 ODIs, and 15 T20Is, right in time for the T20 World Cup. The likes of Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, and Dwayne Bravo have returned. Consider this squad for a second:
- Chris Gayle, 2. Evil Lewis, 3. Nicholas Pooran, 4. Shimron Hetmyer, 5. Kieron Pollard, 6. Andre Russell, 7. Jason Holder, 8. Dwayne Bravo, 9. Oshane Thomas, 10. Sheldon Cottrell, 11. Hayden Walsh Jr.
With Lendl Simmons, Andre Fletcher, Fabian Allen, Fidel Edwards, Akeal Hosein, & Obed McCoy on the sidelines and Sunil Narine yet to make his international comeback, this team is ready to complete their World Cup hattrick.
4. Match Practice and Pressure Situations
What is the secret sauce of this Caribbean generation?
In between World Cups, players employ their trade around the various leagues, gain valuable match practice in all conditions, simulate pressure situations, and experience playing with or against world-class opposition.
One can argue that West Indians were born for T20 format, but the same cannot be said about England.
Before 2015, England were adamant against the IPL and T20 leagues, except for Kevin Pietersen. Post the 2015 ODI World Cup debacle, they changed their thinking. The result? Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, and Jofra Archer had stellar seasons, became better limited overs players as a result, and England won the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
Radical change. Rapid strides.
5. The Solution
While injuries and players undervaluing internationals for T20 obligations are genuine concerns, there is a solution—implement a maximum cap of 2-3 leagues per year. This will ensure clarity in communication and provide time to obtain No-objection certificates (NOC), which will help cricketers manage commitments without giving up international dreams.
It does not have to be an all-or-nothing, but frankly the conversation needs to start somewhere.
Safeguarding the IPL brand is hurting India internationally.
IPL helped catapult India to the 2011 Cricket World Cup, but others have caught up. It is time BCCI let their players develop internationally if they have any chance in future T20 World Cups.
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