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Cricket news - Chatter: Why is IPL 2019 different?

Another title win would mean CSK pulling off the very difficult task of defending their title for the second time

Breathe. For you are at the start point of sixty matches and a thrillingly assorted bag of cricketing drama packed into a little over 50 days. The IPL has rolled back into town for its latest instalment - 12th, if you've now lost count and have begun to suffix the year for the edition.

Here's all that you need to know as this season gets underway

1. Why does this IPL feel different?

It is different. Things invariably vary season to season and the tone and texture of this year's edition is naturally defined by what's coming after it... you know, the World Cup. National teams have one eye on the showpiece event and "player workload" is the seemingly overarching theme building up into the tournament.

Remember, when Kevin Pietersen, in his Aussie-baiting ways remarked: "You have world-class players sitting in England wanting to play the IPL when you've got some second-rate Australian getting gigs here."? Times have changed, those world-class English players will be allowed to make a dash to the IPL before the World Cup but their Australian counterparts (the Maxwells, the Starcs) have been held back following an impassioned country-before-club plea by CA.

Off the field too, things are different. For starters, there will be no traditional season-opening ceremony at the home of the defending champions. It's also general election year in India, so there have been uncertainties over the scheduling, with the traditional home-away format only confirmed four days before go-time and Vizag waiting as a stand-by venue. The assumption is, once the tournament starts, everything'll begin to feel same once again with everyone sucked into the T20 jamboree.

2. Who stands to be most affected by the scourge of the World Cup?

Rajasthan Royals. Their worst-case scenario will be going into playoffs with just Liam Livingstone and Ish Sodhi as foreign players in the squad. With the World Cup coming up, ECB might not show the leniency they did in 2017 when they allowed the England players miss Ireland ODIs in favour of playing in the IPL. Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and even Jofra Archer could even be called-up for the one-off ODI in Dublin on May 3, followed by a full series (one-off T20I and five ODIs) against Pakistan at home, which will be England's last attempt at fine-tuning before the big event at home. If Australia believe Steve Smith is worthy of a World Cup spot, he will be gone from the end of April too.

Sunrisers Hyderabad will also feel the pinch as David Warner (most likely), Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan will depart for national camps before the World Cup, while Jonny Bairstow too departs for the same series that the Royals' trio will play in.

Royal Challengers Bangalore will see holes in their squad towards the end of April. And unfortunately for them, it will be in an aspect of the game which they've struggled to come to grips with. Marcus Stoinis and Nathan Coulter-Nile - two of their better death-bowling options - will be gone, as will all-rounder Moeen Ali.

3. How are India placed in this regard?

They've have been in this dilemma (IPL before ICC event) a couple of times before and have varied experiences to draw from. In 2009 and 2010, when they crashed out of successive T20 WCs, the IPL was blamed for wearing their players down. "We never got ourselves to the required intensity for the standard and quality of the international game, which is higher than IPL," then coach Gary Kirsten said in 2009.

But Virat Kohli certainly believes his players have learnt from those experiences and have a better understanding of their bodies and workloads. This is evidenced by how India went from gruelling IPL campaigns to making the finals (winning one) of the Champions Trophy in 2013 and 2017. In 2016-17 too, India had a 13-Test season before the IPL, but given that was a home season, it was the spinners that had bowled the bulk of the overs. India's biggest concern, now, after a series of overseas tours, would be to figure out how best to keep Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya and Mohammed Shami niggle-free heading into England. '

Patrick Farhart, the Indian team's physio, will stay in touch with each player and will receive details of their training and match on a daily basis. This he will use to prescribe rest during specific portions of the IPL.

4. What are the major team-specific narratives for IPL2019?

For all the fanfare of CSK's comeback, it lasted just one game in 2018. So, CSK fans will tell you it is yet another homecoming for them. Beyond that, it will be about whether CSK can once again defy the logic that clubs - with younger and fitter players - stand a better chance of achieving success. Another win will also mean they'd have pulled off the very difficult task of defending their title for the SECOND time, when no other team has been able to even do it once.

As fellow-stalwarts in the tournament's brief history, Mumbai Indians will hope to pour ice-cold water over such aspirations. And while they're at it, they'll probably love to keep up their success rate in alternate seasons going (title wins in 2013, 2015 and 2017).

Only slightly behind these two, is the wafer-thin squad of Kolkata Knight Riders. They suffer the least as far as World Cup exodus is concerned, and might just get the chance to use that for a joint podium spot for titles accumulated with CSK and MI.

At the other end of the spectrum, of course, is the enigma that is Royal Challengers Bangalore. Their slogan from last year fell flat, and even received criticism from Virat Kohli, but the hope, the eternal hope of the inauguration of their trophy cabinet, lives on in the hearts of RCB loyalists. This year? Maybe.

5. What's on the wishlist for the season?

- Mid-season transfers

Why not? It gives teams the chance to dip into a trading window to mend their flaws and the opportunity for fringe players rotting on a bench to maybe get off it and play a few matches. Even if the drama of January Transfer Window a la football is not achieved immediately, whatever transpires with an exchange of players is likely to pique the interest among those keeping a keen eye on proceedings.

- Strict punishments for overrate offences

IPL games cannot be breaching the four-hour mark and the captain (and the team) escaping scot-free. The stipulated closing time for games (inclusive of four time-outs) is 11.20 PM. In the first-half of the 2018 season, only KKRvDD game ended on time. This lack of adherence to playing timelines when combined with rain trouble has seen games go on till 2AM, rightly termed "ridiculous" by Nathan Coulter-Nile. Players, fans, journalists, production crew could all do with some relief even if all of them vouch for thrillers.

- Better standards of umpiring and DRS consistency

The last two seasons of the tournament have been witness to several umpiring blunders, including a seven-ball over and an incorrect no-ball call (remember, Tom Curran?) putting BCCI in a fix about the standard of umpiring in the tournament. This despite a special umpiring workshop convened by Paul Reiffel in Visakhapatnam late in 2017. The DRS, the HawkEye in particular, too have been unreliable of late for its need for human intervention in plotting impact points at the pad. Better, and consistent, standards in both the factors will go a long way in making the tournament controversy-proof.

- A new winner

For all the talk of IPL being the most competitive league, eight of the 11 titles belong to just three teams. A final between two out of Kings XI Punjab, Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore, will give the tournament the shake-up and freshness it deserves.

What do you think about the timing of IPL 2019? What would you like to see this season? Write to us at [email protected] and feature on the site.

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Shikhar Kedia

Indian Premier League (IPL), the biggest franchise cricket tournament, is round the corner. A tournament that makes careers, a tournament that is a festival in India. But there is a different aspect to it this time around. There is a World Cup just after it and being the most prized event in cricket, it has to take the centre stage. Thus IPL has to take a back seat. IPL will be celebrated no doubt but not at the cost of World Cup.

Since World cup is being conducted in May this year and to go with pending general elections in India, shouldn't IPL be delayed this year and conducted in September? There would have been no fear of injury and exhaustion of players.

Now that the IPL is starting, it's important that players and franchise team managements need to be wise in managing workloads of players. No world cup team can afford injury to any of their world cup bound players. It would be a big setback. And even after how much care is taken, there will be injuries. All we can hope is it doesn't cost a world cup team.

Ideally IPL should have been delayed this year giving importance to World Cup.

Devansh Agarwal

Keeping the World Cup exodus in mind, I'm looking forward to the prospect of fringe players in each squad having to play important roles at the business end of the tournament. Often in the past, the appearance of uncapped Indians and backup overseas players has been restricted to dead rubbers or one-off experiments, but this year, they could find themselves in the thick of the action during high-intensity Playoff matches. For example, Rashid Khan may lead SRH to the playoffs but when he leaves, his overs in the middle phase will be bowled by either Shahbaz Nadeem or Abhishek Sharma. Similarly, Chris Gayle's current form could translate into KXIP clearing the league stage, but on his departure, the likes of Nicholas Pooran and Prabhsimran Singh may have to take over his role during the playoffs.

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