WTC 2021: England Players’ Participation In IPL May Mean Advantage New Zealand in WTC Final
The world has truly become global and so has the sport of cricket, especially during these unprecedented times of Covid-19. What happens in one corner of the world positively or adversely affects a country thousands of miles away in a different time zone and continent. India might be at a disadvantage in the WTC Final against New Zealand starting in Southampton in June due to the participation of England players in the Indian Premier League in April and May.
Perplexed? Let us explain the inter-connection.
England Not To Rush IPL-Returned Players Against New Zealand
England clash with New Zealand in a Two-Test series starting on the 2nd of June at Lord’s in London. Some of the members of their Test contingent were a part of the IPL 2021 in India – these included the likes of Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow. These England stars undertook a mandatory 10-day quarantine in the United Kingdom which was over this weekend – a good fortnight before the series opener in London.
But reports suggest that the ECB is not in a rush to include the IPL-returned England players into the mix for the New Zealand Tests. The players have moved from one bubble to the other over the last few months and need more time to recuperate before they get to top-notch international cricket – especially Test cricket – whose rigour and challenges require immense physical and mental fitness.
England also play a lot of international cricket this year which ends with the Ashes in Australia and with teams expected to be moving in and out of bio-secure bubbles, they realise they need a larger squad to play across the three formats. This is another reason they will not hurry the IPL-returned players and may rest them for the two-Test series against New Zealand. It will also give them an opportunity to test out several new players in the New Zealand series for the rest of the home summer which includes the marquee clash against India and the Ashes later in the year.
The Injury Woes
There is also another serious matter of injuries to several England players. Ben Stokes – the premier all-rounder in world cricket and the hero of the previous Ashes series in 2019, is ruled-out of the New Zealand series with a broken index finger. Stokes suffered the injury while diving to take a catch against the Punjab Kings – that is another England player lost for international duty courtesy the IPL! And in this case their biggest one!
Dom Sibley has just about recovered also from a broken finger while Olly Stone has been suffering from an infection in his big toe.
To add to their injury woes, pace ace Jofra Archer who picked 22 wickets in the Ashes in 2019, has been ruled out of the New Zealand series due to the re-emergence of an injury in the right elbow.
Yet another reason why England will not rush back some of their big players is that the series against New Zealand is not part of the World Test Championship and hence as such does not hold the same significance as it would have otherwise.
New Zealand’s Good Form in Test Cricket
New Zealand gave a good account of themselves when they toured the Old Blighty last time around in 2015 coming back from behind to win at Leeds to draw level at 1-1. They also beat England in the last two home series in 2018 and 2019 and are currently ranked at number 2 in the ICC Test Rankings with a big margin over third-placed England.
Conditions in England in early June could be damp and overcast with a lot of movement off the pitch and in the air – very similar to back home in New Zealand. All these factors suggest that the visitors might actually have the advantage going into the two-Test series against the hosts in their own backyard.
New Zealand Will Have Advantage Over India in WTC Final
If New Zealand are to win the series against a depleted, almost second-grade England XI, it will give them a massive advantage going into the final of the World Test Championship against India in Southampton starting 18th June. They already have the psychological advantage and the momentum going into the mega final – New Zealand beat India 2-0 in the last Test series played between the two nations in 2020 in conditions that will be quite similar to the early summer in England.
They also upset favourites India in the semi-final of the 2019 World Cup again in England memories of which are still afresh not only in the minds and hearys of the millions of Indian cricket fans but also the current members of the playing XI.
India, on the other hand, will be under a strict quarantine in England after spending 8 days in isolation in India. A physically drained, mentally tired and emotionally worn out Indian contingent with lack of match practice will lock horns with a fully charged up and in all likelihood fresh from a series win New Zealand unit.
If only the England players weren’t allowed to take part in the IPL!