The 10th Indian Premier League (IPL) season has been dominated by uncapped Indian youngsters, more precisely the batsmen. They have also made up for the loss of top overseas as well as Indian players through injury.
Almost all the squads for the Champions Trophy next month have been picked. Only the injuries to some of their key players are the worrying part for the India's national selectors when they sit down to pick the squad..
The selectors surely cannot be carried away by the scores in the Twenty20 format while picking the team for the 50-over Champions Trophy in England next month. It is not to say that some of the youngsters who showed promise are all fire and brimstone without class. Some of them can surely be short-listed for the immediate future unless a couple of them are forced into the squad because of the injuries to the established players.
A majority of international players have picked up injuries while on national duty, towards the end of a long season. Some carried on playing international matches with injuries and decided to skip the IPL to undergo treatment and rehabilitation.
More than the spectators, the franchises were hit hard by the injury absenteeism. The biggest casualty list is that of the Indians who had to play 13 Tests at home during the season. And the franchise that suffered the most is the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) who could not field their full strength team in any of the matches. Then they had the problem of accommodating four overseas players.
Other international teams like South Africa, Australia, Sri Lanka and Bangaldesh also suffered injuries. For the first time, handful of English players received clearance from their board to skip the early part of the county season to play in the IPL.
RCB and India captain Virat Khli's shoulder injury prevented him from playing in the first couple of weeks and their star batsman AB De Villiers is still not fully fit, a bad back inviting trolling from Brendun McCullum who politely inquired whether RCB would have to get their coach and his compatriot Daniel Vettori to get on to the field as their dependable opener Lokesh Rahul is also out on a long lay-off following a shoulder surgery.
New Zealander McCullum feels his former captain with his left-arm spin could still eturn figures of two for 18 in his four overs. The tweets were all good-natured banter. Luckily for RCB, just as the fans started getting disappointed with the poor form of Chris Gayle, the hard-hitting West Indian got back into action.
The other Indians to miss the entire IPL are Kings XI Punjab captain Murali Vijay, Pune Rising Supregiant all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja of Gujarat Lions partially. Two players who went unsold in the auction, Ishant Sharma and Imran Tahir, got back into the league, replacing injured players.
The IPL Governing Council will have to take into consideration the international calendar which is preventing players from the West Indies, England, Sri Lanka and now even Bangladesh from releasing players for the full season.
This year, South African, Sri Lankan and New Zealand players had to come straight after finishing their international commitments to play in the IPL, some of them missing the first week of the tournament. All of them will also be leaving early to train for the Champions Trophy.
Players arriving late and leaving in the middle of the tournament will upset the balance of the teams. For instance, Kolkata Knight Riders will be without all-rounder Shaki Al Hasan and Sunrisers Hyderabad will miss their young medium pacer Mustafizur Rahman. And so will the South Africans and the Englishmen who will all be leaving to join their countries' Champions Trophy squads.
England and Australia will be hoping that their main players playing in the IPL return home in one piece. Almost the entire Australian squad is playing here, including their captain Steven Smith and his deputy David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Moises Henriques, Chris Lynn, Marcus Stoinis, Travis Head, and Adam Zampa, and so are England's top players, including limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan and the dependable Jos Butler.
Things are likely to get more and more difficult with internationbal cricket getting expanded, particularly the limited-overs format with quite a few new teams getting into the fray.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)