LONDON: The 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) remains in doubt because of the coronavirus pandemic but England’s star pair of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler are taking nothing for granted.
The two players, who are among the biggest names in world cricket, said on Thursday that they are training as though the IPL will start in the second half of April, despite both suggesting that a further delay to the tournament’s start date is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 13, the BCCI had postponed the IPL until April 15 although it was understood the tournament itself would not start before April 20. However, even that prospect looks remote now with the Indian government imposing a nationwide 21-day lockdown until April 14.
The pandemic, which has infected close to half a million people worldwide, has brought cricket to a standstill, and was the reason England aborted their Sri Lanka tour recently, days before the two-Test series was due to commence.
Nonetheless, both Stokes and Buttler said they were continuing with their normal training routines to be mentally ready in case the IPL does take place. “At the moment my next competitive cricket is going to be the IPL, because that hasn’t changed yet,” Stokes told BBC Radio 5live on Wednesday. “So I have to think that I’m going to be playing cricket on April 20.
“I have to get my head around that I am playing, even though in the back of my mind I know I’m probably not. I still have to build up and get myself physically in a position that if it does happen, I’m good to go, because I can’t just take three weeks off and expect everything body-wise to get going again for April 20. It doesn’t work like that.”
When asked if he would be willing to travel to the tournament in time for the mooted start date, Stokes said: “I don’t know. There would be a lot of advice thrown around and given to us if it was an option to go, and I would have to make the sensible [choice]. “But as I say, taken everything else aside, I just have to think that I’m playing cricket on April 20 because it potentially might happen, and if it does, I don’t want to be behind.”
Buttler, who has been posting videos of pilates sessions with his wife Louise, told a Sky Sports podcast that it was hard to see how the tournament could start on time, but that he hoped a shortened season would be a possibility.
“We saw that initially it was going to be postponed until April 15, but I think at the moment everything seems very indefinite, doesn’t it?” Buttler said. “It’s very hard to see this [situation] changing in the immediate future, so I don’t see that as a possibility at the moment. But as we know, things can hopefully change for the positive quickly as well.
“That’s such a massive tournament for world cricket, so hopefully it becomes a situation where some of it [can be played] or it can become a shortened tournament, or something can go ahead.”
Buttler also suggested that while the circumstances were “unfortunate”, it was refreshing to spend time at home after a hectic year in which opportunities to rest have been minimal. “Throughout the calendar, it’s always so busy and you’re looking for times when you can get a bit of a break. But actually trying to use the time as a positive - of course, it’s really unfortunate circumstances and it’s tough for everyone - but it’s very rare that in your professional career you get the chance to have a proper break, and an enforced break for everyone at the moment.
“Although lots of people will be different, for me I’m just trying to make the most of this time and give myself a bit of a mental break and have a bit of time at home.” It remains unclear whether both players would be available to play in the IPL if the season was delayed further. England’s home season is scheduled to begin on June 4 against West Indies - though that Test series is in doubt - and the ECB would likely insist that any international fixtures should take priority.