The resumption of the Indian Premier League (IPL) does not seem to be a resumption at all. It doesn’t feel like the second half of a two (forced) half tournament. But like an entirely different tournament, the pre-quel‌ is an un-hyped sequel, a relevant but different product, without the narrative curves of the aforementioned catharsis and escapeism.

The memory of the first part being blurred made these five months look even more distant when filled with sports. During this period, India lost the World Test Championship final at once, reset and won the nail-biting Test series in England, and, if you stay away from cricket, won the Olympic gold medal for the first time in athletics. The duration of 144 days appears to be longer than that.

Unlike the points table and statistics board that serve as reminders of the past, it is practically and fundamentally the latest tournament. The venues are different, some teams wear different forms, they all have to start anew, to reintroduce themselves to the mood and tempo of the most challenging franchise-T20 tournament. Some players fly straight after tough Test matches, some from The Hundred Tournament in England, and some from dormancy. And before they warmed up to IPL-2021, version 2.0, it was almost over-30 games stalled for 27 days.

The IPL viewing lens has not changed anything. The lens of the World Cup. What they see, or want to see through the mirrors, is different. Back in the summer, it was auditioning for the World Cup. Teams and tactics are semi-formed, there are spots for grabs, and there is an extensive pool to see, evaluate and analyze players. It’s a platform for a new star to explode, a way for veterans outside to regain their touch, and not to mention gaining some acquaintance with the situation (India may be very different in May and October). In the April-May installment, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) encouraged its T20 regulars to participate in the IPL, even though the tourists lost games against New Zealand or part of the series ahead of the T20 World Cup. Every team wanted every one of their IPL-contracted players to be in India.

Changed conditions

Five months later, with all the teams filtering their team, the IPL assumes the purpose of a dress rehearsal or extended, competitive warm-up. Like a pit stop to check the fuel and gear of an ATP tournament or race car before the Grand Slam.

Players going to the World Cup gather local expertise on pitches, weather and conditions, depending on the situation, see how well they are tuned, evaluate what works and what doesn’t work Strokes can get maximum rewards and study their prospective opponents. They are familiar with venues where they can play most of their matches, giving players and teams a clear lead at the World Cup.

It helps teams play at least two games at each venue, so most players will have the experience of playing on many surfaces when it comes to the World Cup. Although the pitches for a particular game are different, the difference is not too big. Sharjah has the best pitch and the smallest boundaries, not randomly the highest scoring venue of all. Therefore, batsmen here prefer the air route over others. The back end of the Abu Dhabi tournaments is slow and has the largest ground dimensions. This is where spinners are most dangerous and fast bowlers have some breeze to work with. The lowest and highest point of the surfaces in the Dubai Emirates, the groundmen leave a little grass, which facilitates movement with the new ball. Therefore, the fast bowlers (relatively) enjoyed bowling on this ground more than the other two.

South Africa coach Mark Boucher has the opportunity to gain knowledge for the first time. “They gather some information about playing in conditions where they are really preparing for a big tournament and if they manage themselves well, spend some time on the net and get used to the facilities, it’s nice to have us stand out,” he said recently.

Since the Emirates has previously hosted the league, some believe it will even level the field. So Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell thinks: “It makes it a little easier not to have much of a home ground advantage. If the IPL is to be there, if there are to be a lot of international players who have a chance to play in that World Cup, I think it will probably level the field a bit.

Indian edge

But even if there is no housing benefit, India feels beneficial. First, all of their team players are expected to start each match. Not to mention others, some of whom, although inseparable for their country, are able to deliver for their franchise and often lose at the juggling of foreign players. For example, Jason Holder of Sunrisers Hyderabad, or Shimran Hetmire and Steve Smith of Delhi Capitals. Moreover, the roles of Indian staff for franchisees are almost identical to that of the country. KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma are the openers for their country and club, while Jaspreet Bumra is the death-bowler for both India and Mumbai Indians. When Hardik Pandya shone late, Ravindra Jadeja launched the middle over chowk. Their actions for the country are an extension of their franchise role.

This may be the case for most foreign players – some of their roles vary. For example, Delhi Capitals expects Smith to be more explosive than Australia, for him he is a big hitter like stabilizer (via T20 matrix) David Warner and Glenn Maxwell. Holder started bowling for the West Indies, looking for early wickets, for the Sunrisers, he provided the Stock Bowler Act. Character-introduction in this format, for most lineage athletes, is often overstated, but even the power of subtle factors cannot be underestimated.
However, many national coaches and players are delighted to see world players locking their players in a competitive tournament on the same ground. By the time they assemble for the World Cup tilt, they already have a core in the groove, are aware and accustomed to the conditions, are match-fit and match-ready. Six-seven games do not cause much emotional or physical damage to fast bowlers, so getting out too quickly is not a fear. It will pave the way towards the open, intense and high-quality World Cup.

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