Australian players face choice with IPL set for UAE stint
With the lucrative T20 tournament filling the void left by the T20 World Cup's postponement, Australian stars now face choice of seeking to play abroad or staying at home
28 July 2020, 09:58 PM AEST
Some of Australia's best cricketers face a choice between heading abroad for the lucrative Indian Premier League or staying home for domestic cricket, with the IPL expected to get the green light this week.
The Emirates Cricket Board has confirmed it has received a 'letter of intent' from the Board of Control in Cricket in India to stage the tournament in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah between September 19 and November 8.
The Indian government is expected to rubber stamp the schedule this week, meaning the 17 Australians who hold IPL contracts now face a decision as to whether they seek No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from Cricket Australia or opt to stay and represent their state sides.
Under ICC regulations, players require a NOC from their home board before they are able to take part in a domestic competition staged overseas.
An NOC can be issued be for all or part of the tournament, and there is precedent for players leaving the tournament early for international duty, as Steve Smith and David Warner did before linking up with Australia's World Cup training camp last year.
Typically the IPL is held during Australian cricketers' annual leave period in April and May, meaning receiving NOCs is largely a formality.
But the coronavirus pandemic saw this year's IPL – the 13th season the competition has run – delayed.
Now, a clash with Australia's domestic season looms.
CA is yet to release fixtures for the domestic summer, with the Marsh One-Day Cup and Marsh Sheffield Shield competitions typically starting in September and October respectively.
How those competitions proceed in light of the health and border restrictions associated with the ongoing pandemic remains to be seen.
The timing of the IPL season is also serendipitous for Australia's internationals, with a six-match limited overs series in the UK reportedly to wind up by September 16. It is expected that three T20s will be followed by three ODIs.
Under the latest health measures in the UAE, visitors who arrive with a certificate proving a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours do not need to quarantine, with England and Australian players expected to share a chartered flight to the UAE from the UK.
The 26-man preliminary squad Australia has named includes IPL top-earner Pat Cummins, who was bought by Kolkata for A$3.16m at the auction last December, and joins Steve Smith, David Warner and Glenn Maxwell as Australians on $1m+ deals.
The 17 Australians involved in the IPL hold contracts that were worth a collective A$17.145 million at the time of the auction last December, but are now worth a touch over A$16m due to currency fluctuations.
The confirmation of the IPL schedule could also cause repercussions for Australia's international schedule, with T20 International series against West Indies and India currently slated for October, while players returning from the IPL are set to face a 14-day quarantine period on their return home – assuming current travel protocols remain in place.
The KFC BBL is currently set to open on the same December 3 date as the scheduled start for Australia's Test series with India in Brisbane, and international players featuring in the Big Bash will also need to quarantine, setting up the potential for a mass arrival of leading cricket talent in Australia after the IPL.
Before that, however, Australia has a Test match against Afghanistan scheduled to begin on November 21 in Perth.
"At the moment, we're scheduled to play Afghanistan in Perth and we'll be doing everything we can to get those opening bowlers to the top of their run and get cricket back being played," Cricket Australia's interim Chief Executive Officer Nick Hockley said last week.
"As we work through all the different scenario planning, and as we do real-time monitoring of the health situation and the restrictions, that will inform our planning.
"If there's a change to the current schedule, then we'll be making announcements in due course.
"Currently we're planning to go ahead, but there's lots to work through and a lot that can happen between now and then."
Hockley said CA was mindful of ensuring any cricketers, Australian or international, would have access to "optimal" training facilities while observing quarantine requirements, and had been learning from the ECB's set-up where matches have been played at Southampton's Ageas Bowl and Manchester's Old Trafford – both venues with hotels attached.
"It's unlikely international travel restrictions will have lifted by time India are due to come into the country, so clearly there will be testing regimes," he said.
"The reality is we will be able to test people before they get on the plane and then it's a situation of making sure we've got the quarantine arrangements in line with government and health authority protocols.
"What we're working on is making sure that, even within that quarantine environment, that players have got the absolute best training facilities so their preparation for the matches is as optimal as it can possibly be.
"Whether it's a hotel on site, or whether it's hotels in close proximity to venues, creating that environment where we're minimising the risk of infections and creating a bio-secure environment is the absolute priority.
"There's a huge amount at stake if we're unable to do that.
"Adelaide Oval has got a hotel (due for completion in September), and we're obviously in discussion with all venues, but that does provide a facility not dissimilar to Old Trafford (in Manchester) or the Ageas Bowl (Southampton) where a hotel is integrated into the venue."
India has become a global hotspot for the coronavirus pandemic, and the IPL has been forced to be held outside of the country.
The IPL was partially held in the UAE in 2014, while the entire 2009 season – the competition's second – was played in South Africa, both times to avoid clashes with the country's general elections.