Net Bowlers Become Casualties to Return of Home-and-Away Format

Chennai Super Kings have started training at Chepauk Stadium ahead of the upcoming season of IPL (Twitter/@ChennaiIPL)

Chennai Super Kings have started training at Chepauk Stadium ahead of the upcoming season of IPL (Twitter/@ChennaiIPL)

For the net bowlers, it’s not the monetary loss that hurts most but the experience and learnings which came with travel.

With IPL 2023 returning to the home-and-away format, multiple franchises are looking at cutting down on logistics cost and net bowlers are the first casualty. Unlike the previous few editions, where the tournament was held in a controlled bubble environment, teams used to have a battery of bowlers for quality net sessions and have replacements ready in case of an ill-timed injury.

This time, however, teams will be using the services of net bowlers but they won’t travel with the contingent for the away matches. A lot of young bowlers, who trained and lived with the team in preceding editions, will not get the opportunity this time around.

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Apart from the experience, there are a lot of financial implications for the aspiring cricketers as they will not be remunerated like they were. On an average, a net bowler used to make in excess of Rs 5 lakh (including DA) for a single edition and everything else like flight tickets, hotel arrangements and food was covered by the franchise.

“We will be training with the team for home matches but will not be travelling with them like previous editions,” a net bowler who trained with a leading franchise for last three editions told News18 CricketNext.

For the net bowlers, it’s not the monetary loss that hurts most but the experience and learnings which came with travel. The experience of staying with legendary cricketers like Ricky Ponting and Brendon McCullum (former KKR coach), observing current India and international cricketers and seeing how they conduct themselves off the field was second to none.

From a franchise point of view, this appears to be a justified call as, unlike a bubble-controlled ecosystem, they can summon net bowlers as per requirement and it also saves them the logistics trouble of travelling with large contingents.

“For a franchise it makes sense and it also saves the logistics trouble which comes while travelling with jumbo contingents. And with home and away format returning, there is going to be a lot of travelling this time around. We can always rope in local bowlers from the state association too when need,” says an official of a leading IPL franchise.

When net bowlers entered main squad

There have been numerous instances of net bowlers becoming part of the main squad or finding interest from other teams. The likes of Umran Malik (SRH), Mukesh Kumar (DC) were net bowlers for the teams they are now part of. Even Sri Lanka’s Matheesha Pathirathna was a sought-after commodity for the nets but it was CSK who got hold of him, kept him in the camp for a season and then finally signed him for the 2022 edition.

J&K’s Vivrant Sharma, who was signed by SRH for Rs 2.6 crore in the IPL 2023 mini-auction, was with the team in the preceding edition for his leg-spin. The all-rounder, who bats in the top-order, not only returned a better cricketer but also impressed the team management.

In the last three editions, teams used to travel with as many as 10 net bowlers and had more throw down specialists in the ranks too. The idea then was to not burn out squad players and ensure a quality hit for the batters.

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“We needed to wrap our main bowlers in cotton wool since it was a bubble environment and we didn’t want any injuries to starting XI players due to the burn out in nets. We also used to have bowlers to mirror the attack of opposition teams. Say having a chinaman to prepare for someone like Kuldeep or have a mystery bowler to prepare well for a Sunil Narine,” says an IPL team official.

Preparations underway

Most teams have commenced preparations for the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League. Punjab Kings held a camp in Mohali, Delhi Capitals have been training under the eyes of Director of Cricket Sourav Ganguly in Kolkata, Lucknow Super Giants camped at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi and KKR trained at their academy in Mumbai. While LSG camp ended a couple of weeks ago in Delhi, the team held trials for net bowlers.

Four-time IPL champions Chennai Super Kings have assembled in Chennai for the camp and most available players have been sweating it out under the guidance of former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. It’s been a closed-door camp for CSK and the likes of Shivam Dube, Ambati Rayudu have also joined in.

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