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NEW DELHI: Club vs country is not a new debate in the Indian cricket corridors, especially every time a new Indian Premier League (IPL) season is around the corner, and the interest of players tilted towards the IPL has often irked experts and former players. Joining that list of critics is ex-India swing bowler Praveen Kumar.
According to Praveen, who played six Tests, 68 ODIs and 10 T20Is, the players need to set their priorities right and ensure that playing international as well as domestic cricket is always ahead of IPL in their list.

The latest in the list of players who have found themselves in the middle of this controversy are middle-order batsman Shreyas Iyer and wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan, but with a little twist – it’s state vs club instead of country vs club.

The duo’s failure to make themselves available for their state teams for the Ranji Trophy angered the BCCI to the point that the board issued a diktat making it mandatory for all its contracted players to feature in the domestic cricket. But when Iyer and Ikshan still remained unavailable, the BCCI removed both from its latest list of contracts.

Both Iyer and Ishan featured in the ODI World Cup last year, where India lost to Australia in the final in Ahmedabad.

In Test cricket, Ishan was last part of the squad during India’s Tour of South Africa in December, and Iyer played the first two Tests of the ongoing series against England.
TimesofIndia.com caught up with Praveen and spoke about Ishan and Iyer’s exclusion from the BCCI’s contract, Rohit Sharma as captain, Rohit and Virat Kohli‘s importance in the T20 World Cup, and much more.
On Iyer and Ishan’s exclusion from BCCI contracts…
I have been saying this for long. Paisa kamao, kaun mana kar rha hai? Paisa kamane chahiye lekin aise bhi nahi hona chahiye ki aap domestic nahi khel rahe, country ko importance nahi de rahe. (Earn money, who is stopping you? But it shouldn’t be like you are not playing for the country or domestic cricket). This thing is now firmly in the mind of players. Mai ek mahine pehle rest kar lunga, fir IPL khel lunga. Ye mentally hota hai, ki mai itne paise kaise chhorun (I will rest for a month before the IPL and then play. This happens because mentally you are not willing to let go of that much money). But this is not fair at all. A player needs to balance things. Money is important, but this (giving franchise cricket the priority) is wrong.

How much IPL has changed since 2008?
IPL has given a lot of stars to Indian cricket. The youngsters have got a lot of benefits from this league as they get to share the dressing room and ground with the senior players not just from India but also from all around the world. Cricket has changed a lot. The year IPL commenced in 2008 and now, the IPL has changed, the approach has changed, the game has totally changed now. Support staff has been increased. You spend more than one and a half months with players across the globe, so there is obviously a huge learning experience.
Which current Indian pacer has impressed you the most?
Jasprit Bumrah is just exceptional. He stands out and I don’t think there are any doubts on his skills that anyone should comment on. He is a senior player now. He has learned how to take wickets at any given time. Akash Deep has impressed me a lot. Mukesh (Kumar) has done well. These two bowlers have done really well and will go a long way. They just need to keep learning new things every day.

On Hardik Pandya replacing Rohit Sharma as Mumbai Indians captain…
Rohit knows his role really well. He knows he has to go in the middle and score runs. I don’t think it (losing MI captaincy) would affect Rohit in any way because he knows his role well. It won’t matter to Rohit whether he is a captain or not. He is a mature and experienced cricketer. I am sure Mumbai Indians management must have spoken to Rohit before taking this decision (giving captaincy to Hardik). Without any conversation and talk with Rohit, MI can’t take this big decision.
On Rohit as India captain…
Rohit is a fantastic skipper. He is leading the side really well. Sourav Ganguly was the one who built the team. He created the team with a mix of youngsters and experienced players. Rohit is ‘yaaro ka yaar’ (friend of friends). He scolds the players when they make mistakes and hugs them too. He guides them and gives them all liberty on the field.

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