Lankan Premier League dates finalised, highlighting a cricketing calendar full to the brim
Just a few short weeks ago, the Sri Lankan Cricket Board signalled their intention to recreate the T20 competition which they tried and failed to popularise in 2012. Now, details of the tournament’s return have been finalised, and the dates signal a conflict with various other leagues around the world. This year, the league will be called the Lankan Premier League, and will run from August 18 to September 10.
Unfortunately for the Sri Lankan Cricket Board, this calendar period is already host to two tournaments around the world. The Caribbean Premier League also starts in August and finishes in September, running for around two weeks longer than the LPL. The Natwest T20 Blast, played in England, kicks off in July and ends in mid-September, meaning it too will be running for the entirety of the LPL.
Of course, neither of these leagues are competing to be the biggest T20 tournament’s in the world. The Caribbean Premier League will obviously win the services of most of the West Indian players, while some talented Internationals - Brendon McCullum, Shane Watson, Kumar Sangakkara, and Wahab Riaz, to name a few - have also played there in the past. Someone like Sangakkara would be expected to show interest in returning home for the LPL, but the others may have their sights set on another appearance in the CPL.
Likewise, the T20 blast squads are composed largely of English players, but as in the CPL this results in a large chunk of good players being unavailable for the LPL. Last year, a number of quality internationals also played in the tournament, including Aaron Finch, Ross Taylor, Mohammed Amir and Kyle Abbott. Just how committed to the T20 blast these players are is unclear, but unless there is a compelling reason for them to alter their schedule, the LPL may struggle to lure them across.
Clearly, playing the LPL during a period where a significant chunk of international players will be unavailable is not an ideal scenario. It is, however, reflective of a T20 schedule which has become so saturated that the SCB had no choice. We have the Big Bash, which is developing such a following no one would dare to schedule a tournament at the same time, running through all of December and January. The Pakistan Super League starts soon after, and runs through February and March. Following that, the biggest T20 league in the world, the IPL, kicks off, and demands the attention of the cricketing public through April and May. After that, there is a welcome month of relief, before the aforementioned collision of various leagues kicks off with the T20 blast. This goes from July to September, clashing with the LPL, which runs through August and September, as does the CPL. In November and December we then have the developing Bangladesh Premier League, and the T20 Global League.
Why, you might ask, did the SCB not opt to utilise July, one of the only free months throughout the year and just a month earlier than the league will start regardless. Unfortunately, July sees much of Sri Lanka still consumed in the end of the monsoon season, meaning any tournament scheduled during this month would likely see plenty of washouts.
As it was, this was the best option. Yes, they will be competing with two other global T20 leagues, but at least they aren’t the IPL or the Big Bash, and there should still be plenty of quality players available to join the league. The league will also run in the dry season, meaning games will actually be able to be played - always a good thing.
The clash may not be ideal, but in the saturated T20 calendar we are faced with today, it is inevitable. With seemingly every country with a remote interest in cricket desperate to start their own T20 competition, there is a danger the same problem will arise, but surely we are nearing the stage where the calendar is complete. Too many competing leagues has the potential to dilute the talent within each individually, meaning the product will inevitably deteriorate. Hopefully, the calendar is beginning to settle.