Missing stars leave IPL cold
The cash-rich Indian Premier League has lost much of its sheen before it has started as foreign stars are being forced to drop out due to injuries and Test commitments.
Team owners will save millions of dollars in player fees since Australians and New Zealanders will only make a two-week appearance in the 44-day, 59-match multi-billion dollar Twenty20 extravaganza starting on April 18.
The West Indians will be absent for the last stage, including the final on June 1, and only a bit of arm-twisting from worried hosts prevented Pakistanis and Sri Lankans from missing a share of the pie.
The tournament created a frenzy after corporate bosses and movie stars, who own eight city teams, signed the world's best players for massive sums at an unprecedented auction in February.
But the International Cricket Council's refusal to create a window for the IPL in the overcrowded calendar has left players short-changed and fans disappointed.
IPL rules stipulate cricketers will be paid only for the matches they play, which means Australian Andrew Symonds will earn a fraction of the
$1,35-million (around R10-million) bid on him by the Hyderabad team.
Symonds and his Test colleagues - captain Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Simon Katich and Brett Lee - are needed back home by May 1 for a training camp ahead of the West Indies tour.
It makes them available for only four of the teams' 14 league matches each, hitting their fees badly.
Lee was bought by film actress Preity Zinta's Mohali team for $900 000, while Ponting, Hussey and Katich were in the $200 000-400 000 range.
The Australians would have missed the entire first season of the IPL if their scheduled Test and one-day tour of Pakistan had not been postponed for security reasons.
Five New Zealanders - captain Daniel Vettori, Brendon McCullum, Jacob Oram, Ross Taylor and Kyle Mills - are lucky they are playing even four matches.
New Zealand Cricket allowed the five to miss their team's opening two first-class matches of their upcoming England tour so they could take part in the IPL until May 1.
McCullum, the dashing wicketkeeper-batsman, stood to lose the most among his team-mates after being signed for $700 000 by movie star Shahrukh Khan's Kolkata franchise.
He can now hope to pick up $8 500 at the most.
Three West Indians, skipper Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, must get home ahead of the first Test against Australia in Jamaica from May 22.
Left-hander Gayle, who has a $800 000 contract with Khan's Kolkata, said last week he was yet to decide about taking part in the Australia series.
Sri Lankan and Pakistani players must have said a silent prayer after their proposed one-day series in April-end was put off indefinitely, reportedly at the behest of the Indian cricket board.
Australian Nathan Bracken and Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka, who had no Test commitments during the IPL, may miss the entire tournament due to knee injuries.
Any meaningful foreign participation in what is essentially an Indian domestic competition will be confined to 11 Pakistanis, as many Sri Lankans, eight South Africans and one player each from England and Zimbabwe.