The one-off Twenty20 match between South Africa and India, to be played in Johannesburg on March 30, has left the majority of nine IPL franchises aggrieved. To get their preparations in place, team officials say they require a window of at least a week before the league begins.
Even before the announcement of the Twenty20 fixture, IPL franchises considered their hands tied already, a packed international schedule also coinciding with the end of the domestic seasons in India and South Africa.
The match, which Cricket South Africa announced would be an annual fixture, could leave a bunch of players exhausted as it comes at the back of long seasons for India and South Africa. The Twenty20 game to be played at the Wanderers comes three days after South Africa finish their tour of New Zealand with three back-to-back Tests, a week after the Asia Cup, and four days before the start of the IPL in Chennai on April 4. The match also comes close on the heels of the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament (ending on March 27) and the MiWAY Cup (final on April 1), the domestic Twenty20 tournaments for India and South Africa respectively.
MS Dhoni will lead a 15-member Indian squad for the one-off Twenty20 International, while at least ten South Africans belonging to the various IPL franchises are expected to take part. The South African squad is yet to be announced.
In terms of numbers, the teams that would bear the maximum brunt from the Twenty20 are Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders; as many as five players from each of those two teams could feature in the India v South Africa game. Next are Pune Warriors, who have four of their players travelling for the match along with the coaching pair of Allan Donald and Paddy Upton. In fact, each of the nine franchises has at least one player in the match.
"It disrupts the team schedule," a franchise official told ESPNcricinfo. "You are going to be travelling for two days to go there and come back. Some of the players might be jet-lagged by the time they start playing." Compounding the problem for some players would be the captains' need to travel to Chennai on April 3 to sign the spirit of cricket document.
Gautam Gambhir, the Knight Riders captain, would travel to Johannesburg on March 29, return to India on March 31. He is likely to rush to Kolkata, practice for a day or two, fulfil franchise promotion activities, and then slip in and out of Chennai on April 3 for the captains meet. On April 5, he will walk out for the toss in the Knight Riders' season-opener against Delhi Daredevils at Eden Gardens.
"You want to get the players at least a week before the tournament, otherwise it becomes difficult as your planning goes haywire. Ideally you would like to start the camp two weeks before the tournament. But with the Syed Mushtaq Ali Twenty20 finishing only on Mach 27, it becomes an issue," another franchise official said.
An official from another franchise said a big hurdle during the previous four IPL seasons was that it took time for a diverse bunch of players to come together and understand each other. "You are trying to get 30 players from different parts of the world to group, but it becomes very difficult to get them together and ask them to gel in a matter of a few days."
Considering the Twenty20 is going to be an annual fixture, the consensus among the franchises is there should be a clear window of at least a week, if not two, for the players to join the camp. "If you have 10-day camp you can make some plans at least, play some practice matches to devise a few strategies and understand player strengths and weaknesses. But with this match, that is not possible entirely," a franchise official said.
The shortage of time also means that the problems regarding acclimatisation for overseas players only gets more difficult. "It is also about conditions. There are players who are coming from New Zealand and South Africa where the pitches are all bouncy and suddenly they find themselves on flatter tracks," another franchise official said.
There seems to be no solution, with various franchise officials saying their hands are tied and they would have to make do by working with the remaining players. "We cannot help it. What can we do? You can't play the match after the IPL as the conditions are not favourable in South Africa. The only option is players will rush in and there will be too many things that would need to be done quickly."
PLAYERS ON THE RUN
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Albie Morkel
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir, Yusuf Pathan, Manoj Tiwary, Jacques Kallis, Marchant de Lange
Pune Warriors: Robin Uthappa, Ashok Dinda, Rahul Sharma, Wayne Parnell, Allan Donald (bowling coach), Paddy Upton (mental conditioning coach)
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma, Richard Levy, Robin Peterson
Delhi Daredevils: Irfan Pathan, Morne Morkel
Kings XI Punjab: Praveen Kumar
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli, Vinay Kumar, AB de Villiers
Deccan Chargers: Dale Steyn, JP Duminy, Rusty Theron
Rajasthan Royals: Johan Botha.