It’s THAT time again – when the cricketing world’s sights are on India – and in particular the IPL. The competition now in its 12th year has seen the good, the bad and ugly. There have been thrills and excitement galore and the presence of film stars being owners of some of the franchises have given it more than a touch of glamour. It has also been marred by controversies and scandals but has emerged as the Teflon event. Its popularity has remained undiminished. One simple fact will underscore this.

Over 12,000 spectators turned up at the MAC stadium in Chennai to watch the Chennai Super Kings play a practice match. Yes, a practice game between its own players. Perhaps it was because of the fact that CSK are playing in their home town after three years (they were banned for two years and played only one game last year before the matches were shifted out of Chennai because of the Cauvery waters issue). But one can somehow sense the same kind of excitement around other franchisees going by what has one seen over the years.

Starting March 23 with the opener between CSK and Royal Challengers, Bangalore at the MAC stadium the IPL will be the centre of attraction. Discussion in homes and bars, at work places and on the road will be only about various aspects of the IPL. One would like to think that even talk about the general elections will take second place.

This time however there is one important point to be considered and this is the fact that the IPL is being conducted just before the World Cup. In both 2011 and 2015 the event was conducted after the World Cup. So it will be a bit tricky for the players to manage the injury and fatigue equations. Certainly the World Cup is the more important event and the players would want to be available for it and give off their best on the biggest stage of all. At the same time they would not want to be seen as compromising on their playing standards for their franchises.

It is this problem that Virat Kohli tackled head on at the press conference the other day. Asked whether the IPL franchises have been asked to “manage’’ the workloads of the India players who are likely to be part of the World Cup squad the Indian skipper said no such instructions had been issued to cap the number of games a player would take part in. As he rightly said each player’s body is different and the workload they can handle varies from cricketer to cricketer.

“If I am able to play 12 or 15 games it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other guy can only play that many. My body might demand I play a certain number of of games and I need to be smart about this. Someone else might be more capable so it is an individual thing. But everyone wants to play the World Cup so they will be smart about it because you don’t want to miss out on such a big event,’’ emphasizing that the responsibility for managing workloads and fitness levels lay with the players themselves.

It will be interesting to see how the players manage this during the IPL.

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