South Africa coach Ottis Gibson put in a request to withdraw “key players” from the IPL in early May to prepare for the World Cup. But Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief executive Thabang Moroe did not bring up the issue with the BCCI, ESPNcricinfo understands, worried of the consequences of doing so.
A report by TimesLIVE has suggested that the status of India’s scheduled tour to South Africa in 2021-22 may have prompted Moroe’s action – or rather inaction. A tour by India would provide a major financial boost to an organisation that has forecast losses of R 654 million over the next four years, with any change to the scheduling of such a lucrative tour likely to worsen those losses.
Captain Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Quinton de Kock and Chris Morris – who replaced the injured Anrich Nortje in South Africa’s World Cup squad earlier this week – are all still in India, with du Plessis and Tahir both part of the Chennai Super Kings squad that will play in Sunday’s final against Mumbai Indians – for whom de Kock plays – after their six-wicket win over Delhi Capitals on Friday night.
Before the tournament started, CSA had confirmed to the BCCI that its players would be available for the full duration of the IPL. Gibson, however, had requested to CSA that key South Africa players part of the World Cup squad return in the first week of May, which would have likely ruled them out of the IPL playoffs.
Kagiso Rabada was also part of Delhi Capitals’ squad until just over a week ago, when he returned to South Africa under something of an injury cloud, having complained of a stiff back and been sent for scans that prompted CSA to call him home. But it is also understood that the return of Rabada from the IPL was not a smooth process. The IPL is understood to have not thought his back issue serious enough to merit an early exit, but CSA’s medical team insisted he return to South Africa after Proteas physio Craig Govender, who happened – by chance – to be travelling through Delhi at the time, saw the scans.
For his own part, Rabada said via social media channels that his return was purely “precautionary”.
“Ipl was really fun!,” Rabada said on Instagram. “Extremely glad for the opportunity! Sad to leave but good to be home! Bittersweet. Regarding my back, I’m good – precautionary is all.”
At the time of writing, CSA had not responded to ESPNcricinfo’s request for comment on the issue of Gibson’s request to have his players back early, though TimesLive quoted a spokesperson as saying: “We are not aware of such a request made to the executive.”
“Our understanding is that, as is the case with New Zealand, the Windies, etcetera, we as CSA do our best to assist our players in maximising their IPL income,” the spokesperson added. “It is only Australia and England who can afford to pull their players out.”
The members of the England squad who had been active in the IPL – including Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Sam Billings and Jonny Bairstow – were all directed by the ECB to return to England on or before April 26. The four members of Australia’s World Cup squad who had been part of the league returned by April 30.
But, given that the IPL pays national boards a fee for each foreign player taking part in the league, and CSA’s precarious financial position, it was not in a position to risk ruffling any feathers by calling South Africa’s World Cup players back early. CSA said that “discussions” around the departure date of its players from the IPL were still happening in March, and by the middle of April, CSA told ESPNcricinfo, the plan was “for guys who make the final to join us on the 13th.”
South Africa’s pre-World Cup camp begins on Sunday, May 12, the day of the IPL final that du Plessis and Tahir will be part of. South Africa will then depart for England on May 19.