The Indian Premier League 2020 will not just be entertainment and excitement, but the 53-day competition in the UAE will also be an education for the thousands of cricketers aspiring to resume action after the COVID-19 threat eases out.
Former international batsman and one of India’s highly-skilled coaches Pravin Amre firmly believes that the IPL 2020 will be the right template for all the cricketers – first-class and club level – to follow for a smooth return to action.
The IPL players are starting competitive cricket after four months. They will effectively have only two weeks to regain their peak competitive levels. They will all be starting afresh literally, except for some West Indian, English and Australia players, who have played competitive international series in England, and several others who will be arriving fresh from the Caribbean Premier League.
“How these players will train over the next two weeks and perform for nearly two months thereafter will be an education for all other cricketers,” Amre told SportzFront. “Players or even coaches have never encountered such a scenario. The worst part is that no one knows when is it (the competitive cricket) going to start. The lockdown happened in March. We are in August and nothing has started significantly at domestic, junior, or at club levels. It’s really challenging.
“The IPL will motivate others to get back to action. It will be an education to see how these professional cricketers are going to handle this transition. There are quarantine times before hitting the ground and then to get match-fit in a fortnight will inspire other cricketers to regain their rhythm fast.”
The Board of Control for Cricket in India hasn’t even finalised the revised schedule for the IPL Season 13, which will start precisely in a fortnight from now. With the rapid spur in COVID-19 cases in India, even the BCCI won’t be sure about how and when it would be in a position to resumed first-calls and international competition in the country.
No competitive cricket has been played in the country ever since South Africa were compelled to end their tour abruptly without a ball being bowled. The first One Day International in Dharamshala was fully washed out and the next two games were called off in wake of the novel coronavirus spread.
Amre believes it might not be very difficult to resume international or first-class competitions once the COVID-19 pandemic relents. The real challenge will lie for the club cricketers or those aspiring to appear for State-level selection trials.
“The higher you go, the better facilities you will get. Challenges for restart will be bigger at the club, junior or academy levels. There is adequate or extra support staff available at the top level. But for the maidan cricket, there would only be one roller or just one ground staff. Obviously, there will be a bigger challenge. Time management will be very crucial. Good planning will be needed at all levels for the resumption of cricket even at clubs,” said the veteran coach.
Another major challenge for the clubs and academies will be to follow the strict COVID-19 prevention protocols. “It might be easy to read guidelines being followed by ICC or national cricket boards. To follow or implement those protocols will be challenging. The management will have an important role to play.
“You have to maintain social distancing even during the practice. You can monitor during the practice, but it is equally important to educate players about safety norms they need to follow before or after the practice or on way to the academy or back home,” adds Amre.
A purist, Amre firmly believes unlike digital education applications or portals, virtual coaching cannot be a solution for competitive cricket. “Virtual or digital coaching can be productive only for analysis. Skill development is not possible without hitting the ground and hitting the ball. Players’ mind has never been there for e-education,” he asserts. “Ground coaching is the sole solution. Tech can only be extended support.”
He also insists that the players should use this period well to recoup their energies. “Some ten years ago we would hardly get any cricket in Mumbai between May and September due to rains. There was Kanga League but most of the matches used to get washed out. So, we would allow our body and mind to recoup.
“It is important not to expect too much from yourself. The players should not immediately start comparing their performance with their abilities four months back. Match-fitness, or mind-body coordination, won’t be that difficult for the batsmen. But the bowlers need to give themselves some time,” opines Amre.
Amre, a veteran of 48 internationals for India, as a highly-skilled coach has worked for various top teams across the world, including IPL franchisees, and now imparts personalised training to apprising cricketers at the Shivaji Park Gymkhana in Mumbai. It was the same ground where Amre started playing cricket under Dronacharya Ramakant Achrekar as a 10-year-old.