Sunil Narine’s decision to represent Kolkata Knight Riders ahead of playing for the West Indies in the three-Test series against New Zealand has reopened ‘the country versus club’ debate.

“Country comes first. Refusing to play for the country is the last thing you must expect from a cricketer. Irrespective of the monetary aspect, this is something beyond my imagination,” Erapalli Prasanna, the great Indian off-spinner, told The Hindu.

There are others who defend the move. Former India batsman Aunshuman Gaekwad felt, “The preparatory camp for the West Indian cricketers began on June 1. And KKR’s final against Kings XI was on the same day. I think the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) could have been more flexible. After all, Narine was playing in an ICC-recognised tournament and was match fit. The first Test in the Caribbean will begin only on June 8.”

But then, Richard Pybus, West Indies’ Director of Cricket, had said in a statement outlining Narine’s omission, “The onus of WICB is to protect the integrity of international cricket at all times. International cricket, specifically Test cricket, is priority and requires dedicated preparation, which is integral to team success.

“The WICB policy requires players to commit to sufficient preparation leading in to a series as part of a culture of excellence.”

Pybus might have a point. Chris Gayle was excluded from joining the touring West Indies team early in England in 2010, keeping in mind his IPL matches for Royal Challengers Bangalore. To make matters worse, Gayle was the captain of the West Indies team.

The consequences were disastrous when the series got underway in the first week of May. Gayle joined the side late and his contributions in the first Test at Lord’s were a mere 28 and 0. England romped home by 10 wickets in three days.

Other instances

There have been other instances as well. Sri Lankan superstars Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara missed much of the pre-series preparations in 2011 ahead of the campaign in England.

The duo joined the side after completing their IPL assignments and floundered in the first Test at Cardiff. Jayawardene made four and 15, and Sangakkara 11 and 14. England won by an innings and 14 runs.

The Indian cricketers, despite their season not clashing with the IPL, have come under scrutiny. Would Virender Sehwag have served Indian cricket better had he decided to undergo shoulder surgery ahead of the IPL in 2011? Consequently, Sehwag missed the West Indies tour and joined the Indian team only in time for the last two Tests in England. The marauding opener was clearly out of touch.

Similarly maestro Sachin Tendulkar’s decision to play the 2011 IPL and skip the consequent tour of the West Indies was a contentious one. Perhaps, senior seamer Zaheer Khan’s fitness could have been better managed had he not risked his injury-prone body in the IPL when there was a crying need for him to fire for India. In none of these cases, success in the event of these cricketers not playing the IPL could have been guaranteed. However, it might have made a difference.

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