“Forty percent of India’s domestic cricketers don’t play the IPL (Indian Premier League). Their income is dependent on playing first-class cricket,” Robin Uthappa tells The Quint as he talks about the importance of focusing on the return on the Ranji Trophy, along with the IPL this season.
Cricket has been at a standstill in India since COVID-19 forced the country to go into lockdown in March. The home series against South Africa that was underway was suspended and since then, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has cancelled all upcoming series with even the English team’s visit in September now looking unlikely. All these moves point in just one direction – the IPL kickstarting cricket in India come September.
While there has been no official confirmation, 26 September to 8 November are the tentative dates that are being floated around, and Rajasthan Royals’ Robin Uthappa, too, is confident IPL season 13 will happen in 2020, with a few precautions.
“If I see the IPL happening, I see it happening behind closed doors. I see a similar protocol (like England’s WI series) of having two venues close to each other and having the whole tournament within those venues. And also, making sure that the international players come in and go into quarantine. It will be a big task but I think the BCCI are capable of it because we’ve done it in the past as well,” he says.
Indian Players Counting on Domestic Cricket
While the BCCI is likely to make a formal announcement about the T20 league in the next month, cricketers in India are also focused on their efforts on the return of domestic cricket in India – the real Indian cricket leagues. According to Robin, 40 percent of India’s domestic cricketers play the longest format – the Ranji Trophy – and not so much the T20 format and thus lose out on IPL contracts.
“I think the domestic season will happen as well. It will be a curtailed domestic season. Because a lot of players who play Ranji Trophy and first-class cricket don’t necessarily play all three versions of the game. There’s about 40 percent of our domestic circuit players who don’t end up playing in the IPL. So their earnings are dependent on playing first-class cricket,” explains Uthappa while adding that he’s confident the board is cognisant of the situation and will make sure the domestic season happens as well.
Returning to Match Fitness
While the talks of the return of cricket are still on, players across the country have started training only a few weeks back after their respective states lifted the lockdowns due to coronavirus.
Cooped up in their homes for almost three months, their bodies will need to return to match-fitness slowly but the process that they need to follow, and the timespans each player needs, will be different, based on their skill sets.
“I think it depends from skill to skill of each player,” explains Robin.
“For a batsman it may take somewhere between three weeks to a month, maybe five weeks. A fast bowler will take much longer because the pressure a pacer puts their body through, is a whole lot more than a batsman or a spinner. So a fast bowler will take at least six to nine weeks to be completely match-ready because it’s a very, very demanding skill,” he said.
A part-time wicket-keeper himself, Robin adds that fast bowlers and wicket-keepers in this regard have a “very unthankful skills.”
“Wicket-keepers will take five to six weeks as they have to focus on two skills – batting and wicket-keeping. Practising for a four-day match or a Test match, it will be very different. If they have to squat 90 overs in a day, they have to squat a minimum of 560-580 times so to build your body to that level, will take a little bit of time,” he adds.
Also Read: How Robin Uthappa Braved Clinical Depression
Turning Up for the Royals
Back in the gym himself, Robin is preparing for the IPL this time with a new franchise – the Rajasthan Royals. Following six successful seasons with the Kolkata Knight Riders, he returned back to the auction kitty after IPL 2019 and was picked up by the Jaipur-based franchise for Rs 3 crore after they beat Kings XI Punjab in a bidding war.
“The way I have been received by RR and the way they have treated me and the freedom they have given me... the wonderful thing is they came straight after me and they had this conversation with me. Which is what I truly appreciate. They were straightforward with me and said, ‘listen, do everything you want to do.’ And that makes me feel wonderful and accepted,” says the 34-year-old.
“All of us are very active on our group, on WhatsApp. There’s a lot of fun, a lot of banter,” he adds while talking about his new teammates – some of whom he has already trained with, having been part of two RR camps before the lockdown was announced in March.
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