IPL distracts Indian players, say Media

Published: Sunday, April 6, 2008, 12:36 [IST]
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New Delhi: The distraction of the upcoming cash-rich Indian Premier League was to blame for India's worst Test defeat at home in almost 50 years, local media said Sunday.

Angry reactions poured in after Anil Kumble's men succumbed by an innings and 90 runs to South Africa in Ahmedabad on Saturday, India's worst defeat at home since losing to Australia by an innings and 127 runs in New Delhi in 1959.

The embarrassing loss gave South Africa a 1-0 advantage going into the third and final Test in Kanpur from Friday, a match that ends just three days before the IPL opens on April 18.

The media and former cricketers attributed the loss to Indian players shooting commercials and attending IPL functions in between matches, instead of training for the ongoing series.

Ex-Test wicketkeper Kiran More said the players looked jaded during the Ahmedabad Test, and questioned their commitment to the team's cause.

"How many turned up for the net practice session before the match tells the story," said More. "The players were already too tired by attending various IPL functions."

Media reports were even more scathing of the IPL, the multi-million dollar Twenty20 extravaganza which has signed on the world's top players for the 44-day competition between eight city teams.

The mass-selling Hindustan Times said the build-up to the Test series was so low-key that many were unaware before the start that India and South Africa would be locked in a three-match series.

"With the way the IPL is being advertised, one would think that from April 18 India is going to host the World Cup and not an inter-club T20 tournament in which international and Indian stars are going to play," the paper said.

"Since so much money is riding on the IPL, the investors are bound to project this as the greatest show on earth so that they can lure people to watch it.

"But one is disappointed with the attitude of the Indian cricket board, which does not seem to care that the players have to focus on the Test series right now and not on the IPL.

"After the drawn first Test in Chennai, which was played in energy sapping conditions, the players needed rest so that their minds remained focused on the series.

"Instead, we found that players spent the short rest period before the second Test advertising for their IPL teams.

"In contrast, the South Africans - who are going to play in the IPL circus as well - said no to these shoots. For them, winning the Test series was clearly more important," the paper concluded.

The Times of India said expensive player auctions and billion-dollar media rights did not guarantee the IPL would be a hit.

"The IPL has taken the event through the roof by overpricing virtually everything," the paper said.

"Teams have been bought for millions of dollars and television rights for a billion too. But it is impossible to predict if it will all be worth it.

"Unlike football (which thrives on club competition) and tennis or golf (which are individual sports), cricket is a game between countries.

"When Mohali's Brett Lee bowls to Bangalore's Rahul Dravid, will it be the same as Australia's Lee bowling to India's Dravid?

"The matches will be played every evening for 44 days. Can a tournament of this nature keep the excitement alive for so long?"

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