IPL the centrepiece of international calendar

The Indian Premier League has become an immovable iceberg around which the rest of the international schedule is now fashioned, such is the worth and importance of the tournament.

With its new $3.2 billion broadcast deal, and record salary caps totalling roughly $16 million, more money will be spent on purchasing players this weekend than ever before.

Almost every international cricketer has nominated for the auction, barring those from Pakistan who are not allowed to play in the competition, and those who have opted to play county cricket in England to work on their longer-form cricket.

International cricket is still governed by the ICC playing schedule, but while Australia's Big Bash is affected by the Test and ODI summer, the IPL has no such problem.

This season begins on April 7, four days after the final Test match between Australia and South Africa is due to finish. That gives Australian players enough time to fly from South Africa to India in time for round one of the competition.

During the tournament, a one-off Test will be played between Pakistan and Ireland - hardly an occasion worth shifting to avoid an IPL clash.

On May 24, England play the first of their two-Test series against Pakistan, meaning there could be a potential clash for any English players due to play finals.

Otherwise, every player goes into the IPL unencumbered by international commitments.

"The cricket calendar has built its year around it," the Sydney Sixers' West Indian star, Carlos Brathwaite, said. "As a cricketer obviously you've got to maximise your earnings over the short span of your career and the IPL is the gateway to that.

"Not only financially, there's also reward for your hard work over the last 12 months or so. For every cricketer that's playing franchise cricket or international cricket when you are selected for an IPL franchise, it's almost like you're now seen as a good T20 player. It's a reward and I guess now I can speak for most people it's kind of a goal."

Brathwaite is a T20 specialist who makes most of his money playing in the various franchise-based competitions offered by the game's shortest form.

In August last year, he opted to forego his New Zealand contract to concentrate purely on T20 leagues around the world, just a few months after he was the IPL's leading international wicket taker last season.

He will next feature in the Pakistan Super League, and has played T20 cricket in the Caribbean and England as well.

"[The IPL] probably is the pinnacle at the minute outside of World Cups," McClenaghan said. "If you're not playing Test cricket for Australia or England or India and I'd probably throw South Africa in that boat, there doesn't seem to be that many series that are pinnacle events.

"Being involved in a tournament like that which gets a collection of the best players from all around the world into one place for an eight-week period, something about that's pretty special.

"You get to work with the best coaches, Ricky [Ponting] and the like in the past and guys that have been exceptional captains at international level, the amount you learn, it's almost like an eight-week training camp. You go over there, you soak it all in, you learn and you become a better cricketer."

This story IPL the centrepiece of international calendar first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.