The dust has barely settled on the successful staging of the Indian Premier League 2020. However, the former Australian captain is raising a few eyebrows with his decision to not participate in the homegrown Big Bash League.
Can players sustain a lengthy time in the bubble? No, if Steve Smith is to be believed. He has cited mental health reasons for why he will not play in the Big Bash League at home after the conclusion of India’s tour of Australia. While the pandemic has raised real issues of mental health and consideration for players, it boils down to then becoming a problem of choice. Did Smith pick the IPL and not the BBL as part of his career strategy?
The Big Bash League has made no bones about the fact that it has aspired to achieve success parallel to that of the IPL. To that end, it has tried quite a few permutations and combinations. Yet no ingredient has quite the pull around the world than when twenty20 tournaments have local heroes, particularly those who have made it big on the international stage.
David Warner had already raised doubts about his participation in the Big Bash League even before showing up for the IPL 2020, rescheduled in the UAE. Now with Smith stating outright that while he is available for Australia’s international commitments, he is not ready to take part in the Big Bash League owing to the restrictive bubble environments mandated because of the coronavirus pandemic, there is concern that the domestic tournament is not compelling enough, particularly financially to be a draw enough for these cricketers to sacrifice their freedom.
After all, the IPL saw the cricketers sequestered virtually a month before the tournament began in the UAE, as part of the mandatory quarantine rules as well as the preparations while staying in a biosecure environment. The Australian cricketers on national duty arrived to the UAE after time in the bubble in England for the limited-overs series and therefore, spent just much time virtually as those in the bubble for the IPL.
Given the whole scenario where mental health has become a more prominent concern, it would be hard for any cricket board to censure their cricketers for choosing to opt-out of playing while staying in a biosecure bubble. That said, there is a lot of money riding on these tournaments – some even a matter of survival which is why some tours have been arranged at great personal costs by the board such as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) – the boards do need their star players to turn up in full force to add that extra punch to the tournament.
It has been one of the reasons why the IPL 2020 was able to pull off the incredible, having a virtual full team strength across the franchisees. Cricket Australia though might be in a bit of a bind given that they need their cricketers fully geared up for the challenge of having India over and it will be their primary focus given the hundreds of millions that the board is banking on. It might be why the cricket board might think twice to censure some of their cricketers, currently on their payroll, from showing up for tournaments such as the IPL but bailing out of home events such as the BBL.