CHENNAI: Year after year, when the Indian Premier League gets rolling, one of the cliched statements coming from Pakistan is along these lines. “There is a reason why we are doing badly in ODI cricket. It’s because our players don’t get to play in IPL.” The pressure, and the quality of competition is close to what one gets in international cricket. Apart from the big bucks, this is one of the reasons that makes the event a global attraction.
Ask England. Until 2015, they were not even a big fan of IPL, as they viewed it as a distraction and those who rebelled were not always treated sympathetically. It was in this backdrop that Eoin Morgan’s side crashed out in the league stages of the World Cup Down Under. Had any other captain arrived in India for the IPL, weeks after his team had hit rock bottom, he might have been castigated. But there was something different in England.
Morgan arrived for IPL 2015 with a plan. He knew as a captain that if his England side had to make giant strides in limited-over cricket, his players needed to play in IPL, even if it coincided with the County Championship. He approached ECB director of cricket Andrew Strauss with this plea: Open the windows for England players to play in IPL. A season later, the likes of Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan all made entries into the Indian territory seeking exposure into the world they had least explored.
Morgan, now a regular in IPL, no doubt played a huge role in revamping the way England has since approached limited-over games. “The conversation with Strauss definitely played a huge role because IPL was always going to be a great exposure to all our lads. Playing in front of huge crowds day in and day out and facing quality opposition is always a big learning curve for cricketers. That’s what happened with our England setup. Because we wanted to change the way we were playing ODIs until then, and needed players who bat with freedom and go for big hits. You get to learn them only if you play in events like IPL or Big Bash,” Morgan, playing for Kings XI Punjab, said.
For a side that barely had any flamboyant cricketer except for Kevin Pietersen, England have a striking array of attacking players now. Barring Joe Root, others are big hitters who can take any attack to the cleaners. “We are building with the 2019 World Cup in mind and you need to play a brand of cricket that attracts the people. In the last couple of years, we have made some strides in the limited overs formats and now you have plenty of IPL teams going for our players. We have the Champions Trophy coming up next and for some of us here for the IPL, it will be a perfect chance to work on our game,” Morgan added.