Indian Premier League set to start early in 2019

The Indian Premier League is set to be moved forward a couple of weeks in 2019 at the request of Indian captain Virat Kohl and coach Ravi Shastri. The request comes as a result of the desire for a rest period prior to the commencement of the World Cup, which kicks off on the 30th of May.

The IPL, which has typically started in early April and run through until the end of May, is now expected to start on March 23, ensuring at least a couple of weeks break between its conclusion and the start of the World Cup. According to Kohl and Shastri, this need for rest is predominantly for their fast bowlers. 

Initially it is believed that Kohli asked if fast bowlers could skip the IPL tournament all together, allowing them to be ‘fresh and fit’ for the World Cup. Of course, this is unlikely to please many stakeholders in the tournament, in particular the franchises, who it’s believed have a major say in the outcome of this request.

The Committee of Administrators (CoA), to whom India’s team management made the requests, have been told by IPL management that the consent of the franchises is required in order for them to be considered. Presumably it will be difficult for these franchises to be convinced that marquee fast bowlers should sit out the tournament so that they can be fresh for a later event, though the prospect of moving the IPL forward a couple of weeks certainly seems more feasible.

Though it was India’s team management who raised the proposal, it appears to be something that would be supported by most, if not all, other national sides who will be competing in the World Cup. The World Cup is indisputably the most sought after trophy in world cricket, particularly in the absence of a Test cricket championship - though, of course, this will change in 2019 - and teams generally have an eye to their performance at the event for much of the four years that lead up to it. As a result, having fast bowlers place significant strain on their body for two months prior to the World Cup, and potentially be below their best or playing under injury clouds, is unlikely to please any nation set to play in the tournament.

In the increasingly congested cricketing calendar, a conflict of interests like this was bound to happen sooner or later. Not only are teams playing as much international cricket as ever, but the constantly increasing number of competitive domestic T20 leagues around the world, and the vast sums of money that players can earn by committing just a few weeks of their time to them, means that players are playing more cricket overall than ever before. Of course, international representation takes precedence, but for the biggest domestic T20 leagues in the world - of which IPL is at the forefront - international cricket is generally put on hold to allow the best players to take part. 

In 2019, while this will again be the case, it just so happens that the largest international competition in the world will immediately follow the largest domestic competition in the world, and as a result a conflict of interest between two heavyweights has emerged. 

National teams will, of course, be hoping and expecting that their players prioritise the World Cup, and there’s no doubt that the majority will do this given the prestige surrounding the event. The vast amounts of money handed out in the IPL though, as well as its enormous fanbase, international interest and increasing credibility held by the shortest form of the game, means that many will also be putting their best foot forward in the T20 event. 

For most players, this is perfectly feasible, and playing a world class T20 competition followed immediately by a world class 50-over competition won’t be a major problem. As Kohli and Shastri alluded to though, it is predominantly the fast bowlers who will likely be affected by the short turnaround. 

Presumably the IPL management will be happy to accomodate the request to have the tournament moved forward a couple of weeks, as it appears to have significant benefits for most stakeholders and very few drawbacks. As for the desire to have players sit out part or the entirety of the tournament - that will likely remain a desire, and nothing more.