Members of Australia’s World Cup squad will not be available for the final few weeks of the 2019 Indian Premier League, Cricket Australia announced today.
CA has moved to end speculation about the availability of its players for next year's IPL; the dates of the tournament are yet to be announced but it's set to start and finish earlier than normal in order for players from all countries to prepare for the World Cup in the UK.
An earlier start to the IPL means it will clash with the end of Australia's domestic season as well as their ODI series against Pakistan in late March.
And today's announcement that Australia's World Cup squad will be required for a pre-tournament camp in early May puts further restrictions on player participation in the IPL.
An IPL finish date of as early as May 19 has been reported, which would mean Australia’s World Cup players could miss the final 2-3 weeks of the IPL due to the World Cup camp.
Australian players require a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to play in the IPL, which CA say it is “committed” to providing once JLT Sheffield Shield duties are over. The start of the IPL, reported to be as early as March 23, will definitely clash with the Shield final (on March 28-April 1) and possibly the final round of the Shield on March 20-23.
Players in Australia’s ODI squad for their series against Pakistan, which is yet to be confirmed but has been penciled in for March 15-29, will also not be released for the IPL until that series in over.
CA's announcement has given some clarity to both players and IPL franchises ahead of the next player auction, which is set to be held next month, earlier than normal.
"It is a difficult period with the IPL being brought forward to accommodate the Cricket World Cup, and overlapping our domestic season,” said Cricket Australia’s Interim EGM Team Performance, Belinda Clark.
"We are committed to respecting the position of the Sheffield Shield, while ensuring Australia’s World Cup squad is well prepared for this critical world event, while also ensuring those that are fit to play have opportunity to participate in the IPL.
"While this is no easy feat, I think we have managed a reasonable balance that will enable the players to consider their options and choose what is right for them and their respective teams.
"We will, as always, assess applications on a case by case basis but it is important the players understand our position in advance, so they have the clarity they need to make personal decisions.
"It is imperative that we ensure Australia is in the best possible position as we head into the Cricket World Cup and the 2019 Ashes series. This means prioritising our focus on match readiness and the health of our players."
Australia’s leading players, especially fast bowlers, have at times been late withdrawals in previous IPL tournaments due to injury or - as was the case with Josh Hazlewood in 2015 - a desire of CA to protect their key bowlers from burn out.
Last year, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins were both purchased on big-money deals by IPL franchises but were forced to withdraw just weeks before the tournament began.
Former Australia opener Simon Katich, who was part of the coaching staff at Kolkata Knight Riders that bought Starc at the auction last year, said IPL franchises are becoming wary of signing big-name Australian bowlers.
“In the past few years, a lot of the Australian quicks haven’t gone to the IPL or pulled out late,” Katich told SEN.
“As a result, the IPL franchises are across this now they're wary (of) it. A lot of the decisions coming up in the IPL auction in December will be based around the World Cup and those guys who are available, particularly around the quicks.
“We knew it was a big risk (for KKR to buy Starc). He didn’t come … and as a result, it affected the whole dynamic of the squad."
Player agent Neil Maxwell, who manages Cummins, said this week that discussions were underway about the possibility of players like Cummins signing multi-year deals with CA in exchange for voluntarily not playing in the big-money IPL each year.
But Katich says the perception of a 'buyer-beware' tag that Australian quicks now carry with IPL franchises could damage that proposal.
“The IPL franchises will protect themselves going forward,” Katich said.
“And a lot of the Australian quicks might not have that same bargaining chip up their sleeve as they once did now that this has unfolded and Cricket Australia might be able to hold firm with that.
“It’s not like the players can go and play for another country. Unless it’s a player who potentially might go down the T20 freelance path, that’s where Cricket Australia need to make a decision about whether they want that player in our system or if they’re potentially going to lose them to leagues around the world.”
Starc revealed on Thursday that he has been released from his deal with KKR and will likely use the time to rest ahead of the World Cup and Ashes campaigns. The left-armer could go back into the player auction, but indicated he’ll remain at home to prepare for international duty.
"At the moment I'll be home in April,” he said.
"If I don't play the IPL next year, it's a good opportunity to freshen up for a massive six months of cricket in the UK."