Can BCCI ask IPL franchise to under-utilise Team India regulars?

Is the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on a collision course with the Indian Premier League franchises with regards to the workload management of targeted Indian players for the 2023 World Cup?

At the end of a review meeting on Sunday, for the first time the BCCI revealed officially that the National Cricket Academy (NCA) will work in tandem with the IPL franchises to monitor the pool of 20 players who will be in the frame for the 50-over World Cup which is less than 10 months away.

For the record, Cricket Australia and England and Wales Cricket Board have similar agreements with players who feature in the IPL and the franchises stick to it.

Over the last couple of seasons where T20 World Cups were held in successive years, the word going around was that the BCCI was keeping tabs on workloads of players in the IPL. While franchises refused the BCCI and NCA teams the right to manage the players directly, they shared reports from time to time.

But for the first time, the BCCI has made it official that it would “monitor the targeted Indian players participating in the IPL 2023.” However, the words quoted above from the press release didn’t give full clarity as to whether the performances will be monitored or the workload.

When asked for broad contours of the same, a senior BCCI official refused to elaborate.

If it is about workload, it would be interesting to see how the BCCI goes about it. While CA and ECB ask the franchises to share data with them on a regular basis, some of their fast bowlers and all-rounders even arrive in the IPL with a limit on how many overs they can deliver during their stint and it includes both the net session and the match. It is included when these member boards hand their players NOCs, which is mandatory for their participation.

Whether a similar system could work with regards to the Indian players is a huge question because in the past, franchises have not been welcoming to the idea of BCCI monitoring the players’ workload. During the 2020 IPL held in the UAE, just hours after then BCCI president Sourav Ganguly revealed that Rohit Sharma has a hamstring injury and was not considered for the tour of Australia, the opener took the field for Mumbai Indians against Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Franchises not open to sharing data

And according to reliable sources in the know, there have been instances where at least a couple of big franchises have refused to share data with the NCA in the past. And if one assumes that the NCA will indeed monitor the workload, it would be interesting to see how they go about it.

“The BCCI cannot ask the franchises to rest a player for any IPL game. They can of course monitor the workload and ask for any data to be shared, but they cannot fix a cap and say a certain player can play only X number of matches or can bowl only X number of overs,” a franchise official said.

While the key recommendations do look strong on paper, only time will tell how far the BCCI will be able to push the franchises. Technically, during the tournament window, the players are in contract with the franchises and not the BCCI and unlike CA and ECB, this reality will forbid the BCCI from passing any diktats with regards to workload management. So there are some loose ends for the BCCI to tie up if this program has to work, which is no doubt taken in the best interest of Indian cricket.

In the lead up to the T20 World Cup last year, at different stages, India’s key players were either rested or had requested for a break. It meant, until the Asia Cup in September, the team management didn’t get an opportunity to take the field with the regulars and went into the T20 World Cup as rank outsiders making an exit in the semi-finals stage.

That none of the players asked for rest or a break during the IPL became a talking point with former India captain Sunil Gavaskar questioning their decision to skip national commitments instead.

With the 50-over World Cup taking precedence and India still a long way from putting together a unit that will deliver the expectations on home soil, the BCCI has set in motion a roadmap for the next year. In a season packed with a long IPL followed closely by the all important World Cup at home, the board and franchises will need to be on the same page regarding preserving players, if India has to repeat the 2011 feat.

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