Club vs country debate: Sure a balance can be struck, says Sangakkara

Ever since its inception in 2008, the Indian Premier League has ignited the country vs club debate. This time, too, England’s top cricketers, who feature in multiple formats – including Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler – could miss the two-Test series against New Zealand in June, due to a clash with the knock-out stage of the IPL.

While the Bangladesh players are likely to return home in the third week of May, some South African players could miss out on the first part of the season due to white-ball series against Pakistan.

But keeping all these factors in mind, former Sri Lanka captain and the director of cricket operations at Rajasthan Royals, Kumar Sangakkara, believes it is important to strike a balance between the players and the home boards.

 “I am sure that there is a balance that can be struck. It can never be an ideal balance or a perfect balance, but there is an ability to balance it out so that the home boards and players benefit,” the Sri Lanka legend said.

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During Sangakkara’s playing days, Sri Lanka’s cricket board often asked players featuring in the IPL or other franchise leagues to return home for international assignments.

“It is pretty much understood that all contracts are below an international contract. An IPL contract is structured in a way where the players need a NOC from their home boards to allow them to participate. At the same time, the IPL has allowed a stage for players from all over the world to improve their shorter version skills. That can then be transferred into ODI and Test cricket. We have seen that England’s performance in the shorter version of the game has improved in the last few years. New Zealand has developed as well since the advent of IPL. Players participating in it have seen the benefits in India. In the recent past, the team that beat Australia in the final Test, you can name that benefit all down the line. In terms of preparation for a T20 World Cup, there are a lot of advantages that come with having your players play in the IPL,” Sangakkara said.

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He admits that the country versus club is a constant debate. “There has been debate in the past on whether there should be a window for the IPL in international cricket. It will be a conversation that will happen between the home boards and the IPL and within the home boards and maybe in the ICC,” he said.

“At the end of the day, all that matters is what your home board wants the players to do. It is critical to have your best international players available to play international cricket for as long as possible. We have seen that if there is a continuous confrontation between players and home boards about franchise tournaments like the IPL, players take early retirements, and that leaves international cricket lot poorer,” he added.

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