The marquee tournament T20 cricket in India — the Indian Premier League — kicked off on Friday bringing along its promise of high-voltage entertainment deftly mixed into the shortest form of international cricket for the next few weeks. That the IPL is now a much sought-after tournament for emerging and established cricketers in cricket-playing nations, franchise owners, a bevy of top advertisers, and streaming channels is now well-accepted. This year, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the overseer of the IPL, launched a successful Women’s Premier League too which recently concluded. There is no doubt that the IPL has raised the visibility of the sport and its relevance to young cricketers across the world. It has also given the Indian cricket team, or teams given that there are now multiple official teams, a host of young players whose talents were recognised in previous editions of the tournament and then honed to international level.
However, it may be the time for the BCCI to pause and reflect on the downside of packing such a high-voltage, multi-city tournament into a few weeks during which players who represent the national side may be under pressure from their franchise owners to disregard their injuries and play at their peak performance levels. The franchise owners, after all, have paid millions to ‘acquire’ these players for their teams. Considering that the Indians in the IPL have key fixtures later in the calendar — the World Test Championship in which India takes on Australia and the ODI World Cup — they could have done with some rest and recovery time. The BCCI ought to be able to bear on the franchise owners that the genuine sport of cricket at the international level is between national teams — and players need to be fit for those. The IPL is not the pinnacle in the sport. But will the BCCI, which rakes in millions through this tournament, stand up to the owners?
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