x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Flak on players' priorities as Harbhajan takes field for walking wounded

Mumbai Indians a depleted lot as former greats lambast those who ignore fitness and break down playing excessive cricket.

The third Champions League Twenty20 tournament gets under way in Bangalore today with the competition struggling to carve a niche for itself and experts blaming the short format of the game for increased injuries.

The 19-day tournament, featuring top domestic Twenty20 teams from around the world, comes immediately after India's disastrous tour of England, adding to the challenge for organisers hoping to popularise the tournament.

Organisers were left looking for a replacement title sponsorship as India went from the high of a World Cup victory to the low of an England tour on which it failed to win a single game.

In between, India organised the six-week Indian Premier League (IPL) that has been blamed for fatigue and injury to its players.

"The amount of cricket India are playing, they just cannot survive," Michael Holding, the West Indian great, wrote in a column in The Asian Age newspaper this week, adding his opinion that players had their priorities wrong.

"Look at Harbhajan Singh, he was not fit to play the Test and ODI series against England, but is fit to play club cricket and I would suggest that his return to full fitness was not a recent occurrence."

Last month, Arjuna Ranatunga, the former Sri Lanka captain, said the Indian cricket board have "got carried away with their IPL".

"Some of [the India players] even delayed surgery after the World Cup not wanting to miss the cash-rich IPL, and after arriving in England half-fit broke down," he said.

Though Harbhajan will be seen in action in tournament, his Mumbai Indians teammates Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Rohit Sharma and Munaf Patel, among nine to suffer injuries during the England tour, are not fit.

Because of the injuries, the Mumbai team has been given permission to field five foreign players instead of four.

As for the composition of teams, the IPL teams have managed to lure players who qualified for more than one team in the 10-team Champions League.

So, Australians Brett Lee and Brad Haddin are playing for Kolkata rather than for New South Wales, the West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard is turning out for Mumbai instead of South Australia or Somerset, while Sri Lanka's Suraj Randiv is in the Chennai squad rather than of Ruhuna, which played in the qualifiers.