A majority of players who will turn out for their national teams in the ICC Champions Trophy have been playing in the Indian Premier League, so they will need to make a few rapid changes in terms of both adjustment and attitude as they switch from the 20-over format to the 50-over one.
There are a couple of things that will be different in England and Wales from the IPL. One is, of course, the heat, and going from India to the UK will be a bit of a relief! The other, obviously, is time on the feet – from an hour-and-a-half to three-and-a-half hours. All the players have been training and are in good shape physically, so this adjustment shouldn’t be particularly demanding, but the issue of bowling workloads is another matter altogether.
Because of the condensed schedules in the IPL, and the heat and the travel, the bowlers haven’t been bowling a lot in the nets. Going into the ICC Champions Trophy, where the top bowlers will be expected to bowl their quota of 10 overs, will pose a unique kind of challenge in terms of the bowlers not having had enough of a workload. It is important that it is not just your skills that are up to speed, you need to have had miles in the legs as well.
The Australia players have been in India for a long time. They played the Test series in February-March, followed immediately by the IPL. They will desire a mental break of a couple of weeks going into the ICC Champions Trophy, just like the India players will, but that is not possible because there isn’t much time. And it becomes particularly challenging for the players that make it to the 21 May final, because the turnaround between then and the start of the ICC Champions Trophy is reasonably tight.
The one thing I can vouch for from Mumbai Indians’ perspective is that we have given the batsmen plenty of time to train in terms of hitting the gym, running, and having sufficient net bowlers. That’s why I believe the challenge going from 20-over cricket to 50-over cricket is more for the bowler. There are a couple of Kiwis in our franchise – Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan – who are in the ICC Champions Trophy squad. Mitch has been a regular feature in our playing XI, but Tim hasn’t had as many games. The challenge for both Tim and Mitch is not bowling 5-6 over spells that they most likely will in England.
Pakistan has just completed a Test series in the West Indies, so the bowlers who will be going to England are in a good space in terms of value. But it is what the players out of the Test squad are doing that will be crucial.
New Zealand has sent a lot of other players – I wouldn’t say a second-string squad – for the triangular series in Ireland, which in some respects is good because it helps you develop depth to compensate for any injuries. They will be ready to go if they get a late call-up.
There will be the odd challenge in terms of changes of roles for certain batsmen.
Rohit Sharma has been batting in the middle-order for us and Aaron Finch for Gujarat Lions, and both of them will need to re-adjust to playing the new ball, in English conditions, when they open the batting for their respective countries. Both have been around for a long time, and in any case, the mindset is pretty much the same in both formats, look to hit the ball hard, score quickly
There will be a couple of subtle differences, and I am sure these experienced guys are equipped enough to cope with those requirements.
England and Wales is a great place to be playing cricket. There is no flying, most of the travel is by bus which is wonderful for team spirit.
The ICC Champions Trophy is a great tournament, where there are no easy games, where all games are competitive and all teams are evenly matched. For those that need to slip back to 50-over mode, there are the practice games ahead of the tournament. One of the challenges in the warm-up games is striking the balance between giving everyone a go and picking the strongest team because continuity is important.
Several teams will operate under the philosophy of ‘win the two games and carry that momentum forward’; that might not be the worst option, given how crucial it is to win the first match if you are not to play catch-up in the group stages.