Headlines in South Africa rage about the unfairness of five of the country’s best players being whisked off to the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the middle of a series against Pakistan. Headlines in India are alight with some IPL teams having to do without the South Africans in their opening fixtures because they will be playing Pakistan.
Mark Boucher doesn’t have the time, and probably not the inclination, to concern himself with duelling headlines. As South Africa’s coach, it’s his job to find a way to win despite not having Quinton de Kock, David Miller, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje around for the last three ODIs and all four T20Is his team will play in the coming days.
“We’ve known about this for quite some time, so we planned for that at our selection meeting,” Boucher said on Thursday (April 1). “The BCCI and CSA have had a long-standing agreement to release players for the IPL. It didn’t quite work out with the scheduling now because of Covid reasons.”
The players will leave South Africa after the second ODI at the Wanderers on Sunday. The IPL starts in Chennai next Friday with a match between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore. Like all foreigners travelling to India, the South Africans will have to serve seven days of quarantine on arrival before they can join their franchises. It’s an arrangement that won’t sit well with many, whether they are South Africa supporters or IPL fans.
Again, Boucher doesn’t have the luxury of picking a side in this argument. Instead, he has to look ahead to the T20 World Cup in India in October and November: “It’s not ideal for preparation going into a World Cup year. But I think you’ve got to take the positives out of it as well. These guys are going to be going to India and playing in a good competition against strong opposition. They’re also going to be getting first-hand information about the different venues that they’re playing at in India, and playing against players they will be up against in a T20 World Cup. It would be a different story if they were going on holiday. They’re not going on holiday – they’re going out there to play in a good, strong competition.”
The fact that two of the figures in this scenario are Pakistanis and Indians, who seem hardwired to take issue with each other at every opportunity, even when the opportunity doesn’t exist in any real way, won’t help calm the situation. Evidence of that was a Pakistani reporter at Thursday’s presser asking Boucher whether the players leaving early didn’t amount to the visitors being treated with “disrespect”. Boucher dealt with that like he would have a long hop during his playing days. But know that that part of this silliness is probably coming to a headline near you sooner rather than later. Try not to take it seriously.