Saturday, April 12, 2008

Indian Premier League can inject fresh life into international cricket

James Hopes is positive the Indian Premier League can inject fresh life into international cricket, even if he'd struggle to find his new team on a map.

The Queensland and Australia all-rounder flew out this morning for his 44-day odyssey in the IPL, for which he will receive a sum of $324,000 or $7363 per day.

Hopes will play for the Punjab Kings, based in Mohali, linking with fellow Australians Brett Lee, Simon Katich, Luke Pomersbach and Shaun Marsh in the controversial Twenty20 feast.

Also in the sheds will be Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara, Kiwi quick Kyle Mills, Indian swing bowler Irfan Pathan and the team's captain Yuvraj Singh.

While Hopes, known as "Catfish", was upbeat about the IPL's prospects of becoming a meaningful part of the cricketing calendar, he was less certain of the exact location of his new home for the next six weeks.

"I think it is in the middle (of the country). Towards the top of the middle. It's not right up the top but it's in the top half," Hopes said.

The devil may be in the detail for the likeable Hopes, but don't tell him he's just chasing the money with his IPL jaunt.

The 29-year-old firmly believes the IPL can dramatically revamp a tired international schedule jammed with irrelevant one-day contests.

But he cautioned the cricketing public against demanding too much too soon from the cashed-up spectacle, which has divided the cricketing world and threatens to replicate football's constant squabbling over club versus country.

"It can work but I think the public are kidding themselves if they think it's all going to go flawlessly in the first couple of years," Hopes said.

"It's something that has been thrown together, in a way, and it will be good. In the first year there will be teething problems. But that's the same of any tournament. And I think you will see the benefits of this within two or three years time."

Hopes urged governing bodies to find a stand-alone slot for the tournament each year to ensure the IPL became a meaningful contributor to the game, rather than a source of friction between rival boards.

"Everyone's talking about how it could damage international cricket - I think it could bring it back. You go over, you do this then you hook up with the national team again. It's not just another one-day series," Hopes said.

"It could give international cricket a much-needed break in the schedule. You know you'll get six or eight weeks off where there is no international cricket and guys are going to be playing the Twenty20 tournament.

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