World Cup 2019: What The Faf du Plessis!

South Africa's Kagiso Rabada (L) celebrates with South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis after taking the wicket of India's Shikhar Dhawan during the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between South Africa and India at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, on June 5, 2019. (Photo by DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Blaming the IPL is the new Thing. If superstars rake in the moolah, it is the fault of the League. If average players become T20 superstars, the IPL is responsible. When reports of players partying into the night emerge, blame it on the IPL. And if some develop niggles or experience a decline in potency, there’s always the Indian Premier League to take the rap.

The blame game is so overwhelming that none cares to remember that IPL takes up just sixty days from the cricketing calendar and respective governing bodies can still plan out the schedule of their players. And, in those sixty days, bowlers are required to deliver just four overs in about 90 minutes and the best that any batsmen can do is play 20 overs.

So, when South African skipper Faf du Plessis blames the IPL for making Kagiso Rabada ineffective in the ongoing World Cup, he’s clutching at straws. A simple fact is not lost on Proteas fans– their team has always found crazy ways of losing World Cups games , none more bizarre than Allan Donald’s run-out that probably cost them the Cup in 1999.

After losing to Pakistan and exiting the tournament, the Proteas skipper said his strike bowler had bowled the maximum overs in international cricket since the start of 2018 (only Australian Nathan Lyon has bowled more) and that it would have been best if Rabada hadn’t played the IPL (for Delhi Capitals) and worked on rehab and recovery instead.

A valid point. However, nobody forces anybody to play the IPL, do they? The same Rabada had pulled out from the 2018 edition of the League citing injury. His colleague Lungi Ngidi did the same this time round and left his franchise CSK in the lurch. Others like Mitchell Starc of Australia too kept away and several international players left early to be with their teams.

Du Plessis suggested that Rabada’s pace was down in the World Cup (he has taken just six wickets at an average of over 50 thus far) and reiterated that there was no way his strike bowler could be rested for other international series– because for doing so South Africa requires a second line of bowlers.

And there’s the rub! While it may be true that Rabada has been largely off-color in the tournament, the fact also remains that others like Jasprit Bumrah have been holding forth at the same time. Also, it does not explain why the Proteas are without the services of the legendary Dale Steyn and tearaway quick Anrich Nortje, the latter having to pull out from the World Cup squad due to an injury. Steyn played a couple of IPL matches and Nortje, none!

Also, how would du Plessis have responded if the South African Board of Cricket had managed to kickstart their own version of league cricket in 2019? Would he have gotten the authorities to forcibly keep Rabada out?

It is true that fast bowlers need to be preserved in cotton wool, given the wear and tear that their bodies experience over the years. Be it Simon Jones of England or Shane Bond of New Zealand, instances of fast bowlers breaking down and giving up the game earlier than expected is an unquestionable reality of the cricketing world.

And the above mentioned didn’t even play IPL. The challenge that South Africa faces more than any other international team today is that of lucrative contracts that English counties offer their cricketers under the Kolpak deal. Some may remember that even Faf du Plessis had taken the Kolpak offer and returned to play for South Africa only in 2011.

Over the last two years, South Africa lost bowlers Kyle Abott, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell and Duanne Olivier, not to mention hard-hitting batsmen David Wiese and Rilee Rossouw. Given that the cricket set-up in the country doesn’t encourage good remuneration across domestic levels, players hope to cash in on offers that come their way.

What stops Kagiso Rabada or Lungi Ngidi to take the Kolpak deal in the coming years in case their careers feel threatened?

There’s a good chance that it would be the IPL that might just hold them back. So du Plessis should just stop faffing about the IPL and accept that post-1992, his team was probably the least prepared to play the World Cup.

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