Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Symonds and Ponting high on franchise wishlist

Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds are among the must-have players of at least three IPL franchises...

Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, and Andrew Symonds, the allrounder, are on the list of top five must-have players of at least three franchises in the Indian Premier League, Cricinfo has learned, belying fears in the fallout of the Sydney Test that public sentiment would jeopardise their involvement in the big-money tournament.

The IPL commissioner, Lalit Modi, had voiced those fears, saying there would "definitely be some casualties" of the controversy.

However, one week before the players' auction, representatives of the IPL's Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi franchises - who say "public memory is short" and "everybody has moved on" from Sydney - are working their budgets around Ponting and Symonds and the other top draw, Adam Gilchrist. Each of the eight IPL teams can recruit up to eight overseas international players and field four of them in the playing XI.

"Any Australian player would figure high on our list, just for the sheer professionalism and commitment they bring to the field," says the former India international VB Chandrasekhar, now a key operations man in the Chennai franchise, owned by India Cements. "I don't think there will be any negative impact here on the Sydney incident."

"There is a different kind of passion involved here. We are looking at inter-city rivalries here, not between countries. In fact, I think having Ponting and Symonds play here will only alleviate whatever tension there might have been following the Sydney incident."

The former India fast bowler, T A Sekar, who is the vice-president of sports administration for the Delhi team, says he would be "very keen" on Symonds as he is looking out for multi-skilled players. "More than Ponting, I would go for Gilchrist and Symonds because they fit the bill. In this format, our eyes will be on multi-skilled players."

Charu Sharma, CEO-designate of the Bangalore franchise, believes public memory is short. "Once Symonds and Ponting are part of your team, and they walk out in the field, you will hear their names chanted from the stands. The backlash in India and Australia was to a particular incident, in a particular match. Everybody has moved on."

Sharma, a television commentator, explained why Symonds and Ponting were so sought after. "Cricket-wise, Symonds brings an enormous batting ability in a Twenty20 situation, gives you a bowling option and a fantastic fielding option. In Twenty20 you need a player who can change the game in two or three overs. Symonds clearly has that ability."

Ponting, he said, might take an over or two to get going. "But he can then hit the ball as hard as anybody else. He's got great eye, great feet, brings a lot of experience, and a sound cricketing background with him."

There is still some doubt over the participation of current Australian players in the inaugural IPL, given that the team is scheduled to tour Pakistan around the time the IPL begins. However, Sharma said the IPL had informed franchise owners that the status of these Australian players would be confirmed before the auction, on February 20.