New Delhi: Indian Premier League hurt Indians more than the Australians. Australia coach Justin Langer’s suggestion on Wednesday that the 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL) held just before the big-ticket India-Australia series may have been responsible for the soft tissue injuries to players, maybe true more for the Indians than the Aussies.
This is the first time an Indian team touring overseas immediately after the IPL has suffered so many injuries since the 2011 IPL when quite a few players — Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, and Virender Sehwag — were laid low before the tour of England that immediately followed the T20 league.
But even in 2011, India’s pace bowling attack wasn’t completely wiped off the team sheet as is the case this time. While speedsters Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma didn’t make it to Australia as they succumbed to injuries during the IPL, fast bowler Umesh Yadav suffered a calf strain in the second Test and was ruled out of the rest of the tour. Mohammed Shami though suffered a freak injury, fracturing his forearm after being hit by Pat Cummins in the first Test.
Going into the fourth and final Test, beginning on Friday in Brisbane, there are serious doubts over the availability of Jasprit Bumrah, who has an abdominal strain whereas off-spinner R Ashwin has a tweaked back and wouldn’t be 100 percent fit even if he plays.
The Covid-19 situation has made things difficult for the Indians as they can’t seek replacements. It has forced them to rely on the net bowlers who they thankfully carried considering that they had a very long tour inside a bio-bubble.
“I can’t help but think that the IPL this year probably wasn’t ideal timing for anyone, certainly for such a big series like this,” said Langer on Wednesday.
While Langer agonisingly witnessed David Warner miss the first two Tests due to a groin injury as the Aussie batting struggled, somehow his squad has managed the workload much better than the Indians have. That is why they still have first-choice players available towards the end of the long, arduous tour.
As many as 10 members out of the Australian squad of 18 for the white ball series had played the IPL 2020, with six of those players making the playoffs. Among those in the playoffs, only a couple — Delhi Capitals’ (DC) Marcus Stoinis and SunRisers Hyderabad skipper David Warner — had played all 14 games for their franchises in the league phase.
In comparison, most of India’s players, barring the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Hanuma Vihari, were part of IPL with most of them being an integral part of their teams.
Importantly, while India’s frontline bowling attack was involved heavily in the IPL — Bumrah (15 matches for Mumbai), Shami (14 for Punjab), Ashwin (15 for Delhi), Umesh (although just 2 for Bangalore), Australia’s front-line blowers didn’t play much.
Only Pat Cummins among the Aussie front-line bowlers played as many as 14 IPL games for Kolkata while Josh Hazlewood featured in just three matches for Chennai. Left-arm quick Mitchell Starc skipped the IPL whereas off-spinner Nathan Lyon doesn’t feature in IPL at all.
Importantly, for all the players who didn’t make the play-offs, Cricket Australia sent members of support staff to ensure the players whose teams were out of the tournament before play-offs got enough training and rest. Those players were Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Hazlewood, and Cummins.
Coaches Andrew McDonald (Mumbai Indians), Ricky Ponting (Delhi Capitals), and Simon Katich (Royal Challengers Bangalore) were also tasked to look after the workload of the Aussie players during the IPL.