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By Gulu Ezekiel
The biggest dilemma facing the national selectors when they sat down to pick the Indian team for the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies next month must have been the fitness of the players.
With the IPL not even at the halfway stage and the world event beginning just five days after the end of the cricket carnival, theirs was an unenviable task.
Captain MS Dhoni and openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir as well as pace bowler Ashish Nehra all have been forced to skip matches for their franchises with injuries of varying seriousness.
Other national sides, notably South Africa are also having jitters over the availability of some of their top players, victims of the IPL.
Dhoni is back behind the stumps for CSK, but it has always been my contention that the team owners pressurize their star players to return even when they are not fully fit.
This view was endorsed by cricket commentator Charu Sharma on a recent TV discussion. As an insider he should know. Remember, he was CEO for the Bangalore franchise before being sacked by the star-owner weeks into the inaugural event when the side had made a disastrous start.
It was also in 2008 when Sachin Tendulkar missed the first half of the first IPL due to a groin injury. He came back to captain Mumbai Indians but was a pale shadow of himself and shortly after the tournament ended had to skip two ODI tournaments as he was unfit.
There were murmurs back then that he was forced to rush his return due to pressure from the IPL bigwigs who could not reconcile with having the world’s most famous cricketer miss the first season on home soil.
The IPL’s cheerleaders (by which I mean the clothed variety) had condemned national coach Gary Kirsten last year when he cited the IPL for causing fatigue and injuries to his players so close to the World T-20 in England in which India fared disastrously.
Kirsten had pleaded for more time between the IPL and major world tournaments to give players enough breathing space to recover from niggles and strains that are part and parcel of top-level sport. But obviously no-one in the BCCI was listening. Instead, a gag-order was placed on the coach who was ordered not to make any more negative comments about the IPL in public.
Talking about jitters, the entry of Sahara into the IPL mix has the rival owners nervously looking over their shoulders.
Sahara boss Subrata Roy has let it be down that several star India players have expressed their interest in joining his Pune franchise next year.
Mr. Roy says it is “emotion” that is behind this interest. But behind the scenes all that emotion is being translated into massive salaries to lure away some of the biggest names in the league.
The next player auction in September should really set the cat among the pigeons.
--This column was originally published on butjazz.com