While a packed house at D.Y. Patil Stadium, rated by Britain's The Architect's Journal as the sixth best cricket stadium in the world, is treated to some spectacular entertainment from stars like Lionel Richie, UB 40, ABBA's Bjorn and actor Deepika Padukone, the game's aficionados will have to wait till the first week of April for the contests in the Indian Premier League III to truly appeal to them.
Majority of the high-end overseas players will not be in the scene of action at the beginning because of international commitments. Australian and New Zealand stars may miss as many as seven matches because the second Test between these two nations ends only on March 31. Delhi Daredevils (DD) and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) will not even have the services of their coaches, Greg Shipperd and Tom Moody for a few matches.
Call for ‘clear window'
While the IPL Chairman and Commissioner Lalit Modi is pleased with the ‘natural window' for the event, with a unique feature of player turnover in the course of the seven week competition, a number of players including Rajasthan Royals' skipper Shane Warne have felt the need for a ‘clear window' for the multi-billion dollar event.
Ray Jennings, coach of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), is the latest to join the clear window bandwagon. He has said in the RCB website that unity can be brought about only if the team members spend a longer time together before the start of any tournament.
While there's an upsurge seeking a specific time-frame for the IPL, the ICC's 2012-2020 Future Tour Programme (FTP) is unlikely to provide it the luxury. “None” was Modi's response when asked about the possibility of the FTP giving the IPL the scope for a clear window.
At the last auction in January for IPL III, the franchises were given the option to spend a maximum sum of $750,000.
Deccan Chargers (DC), which needed a speed merchant as a replacement for Fidel Edwards, successfully bid for West Indian Kemar Roach after losing the bid for another West Indian Kieron Pollard (Mumbai Indians) and New Zealand's Shane Bond (Kolkata Knight Riders). DC was not inclined to offer more than $ 600,000 for South African Wayne Parnell.
Daredevils' Parnell will be available right through the competition but Pollard will miss the first three matches for MI just as Dwayne Bravo. DC will not have Roach for the first three matches and Ryan Harris for five.
According to KKR's Joy Bhattacharya, Chris Gayle will not be available for the first three matches, Bond for two matches and David Hussey for five because he is committed to play for Victoria Bushrangers in the final of the Sheffield Shield from March 17 to 21.
Similarly Cameron White will miss the first five matches for RCB and Andrew McDonald for Delhi Daredevils because of their commitments for Victoria.
The same is with Shipperd, coach of the Bushrangers team, and Daredevils have hired Eric Simons. According to Vivek Atray of KXIP, Patrick Farhat will substitute Moody for a short period.
Kiwis to miss start
New Zealand stars Brendon McCullum (KKR), Daniel Vettori (DD) and Ross Taylor (RCB) would miss the first seven matches. Australian Shane Watson, player of the series in IPL I, will miss the first seven matches for Rajasthan Royals, compatriot Adam Voges will join the team on March 20.
Though Shaun Marsh and James Hopes are expected to be seen in action for KXIP after missing the first two matches, Simon Katich will miss seven for the Preity Zinta-owned team.
Kiwi Scott Styris will join DC after missing two matches. Australian leg spinner and all-rounder Steven Smith, included in the two Test series against New Zealand will miss the first seven matches.
England's Paul Collingwood will miss the first five for Delhi Daredevils and Kevin Pietersen as much for RCB. Chennai Super Kings will miss Michael Hussey for the first seven matches.
The absence of overseas players is bound to affect the fortunes of the teams that depend on Australian and New Zealand players. Shane Watson, Simon Katich, Daniel Vettori and Scott Styris do not figure in the squad announced by the franchises on February 12.
The New Zealand–Australia series ends on March 31, the Bangladesh-England series on March 24 and the West Indies–Zimbabwe series on March 14. Until then the show will go on with a large group of home talents, South Africans and Sri Lankans.