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Lanka Premier League

All the crazy things that have happened before LPL 2020 has even started

LPL Shahid Afridi
by Sankalp Srivastava 3 minute read

After weeks of confusion that involved missed flights and last-minute replacements, the inaugural edition of the Lanka Premier League [ LPL 2020 ] is all set to begin on Thursday, November 26 with the Colombo Kings taking on Kandy Tuskers.

While we hope that the tournament pans out smoothly from here on, there have been a list of bizarre things that have occured in the lead up to the competition.

Andre Russell – yes, no, maybe?

Andre Russell will line up for the Colombo Kings, who, on paper, looks to be one of the strongest sides in the competition. However, there was considerable confusion in the lead up to LPL 2020: West Indies start their T20I series against New Zealand in Auckland on November 27 without him – arguably their best T20 player.

Head coach Phil Simmons wasn’t even sure of Russell’s whereabouts when asked about the reason behind his absence from the Windies squad. “Is he [in Sri Lanka]?” Simmons said during a press conference ahead of the New Zealand T20I series.

“That’s news to me. I haven’t spoken to him since we came down here [to New Zealand]. He was at the IPL and I haven’t spoken to him since then. I didn’t know he was in Sri Lanka. I can’t answer your question about that until I know what the whole situation is.”

Russell had initially pulled out of the LPL on grounds of fitness, but was declared available for the tournament soon after. The all-rounder had sustained a hamstring injury while playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL 2020.

Gibbs’s journey from commentator to coach

Herschelle Gibbs’s case is a curious one. The former South Africa batsman was first named in a six-member strong commentary panel for the tournament, but surprised everyone when he responded to a Twitter post naming him as one of the commentators saying “this is news to me”. It was then pointed out by a Sri Lankan journalist that Gibbs had, in fact, affirmatively reacted to posts saying that he was one of the commentators.

Later, Gibbs himself confirmed his involvement as a commentator for the tournament.

It doesn’t end there. Days later, Gibbs was named head coach of Colombo Kings, who had previously appointed Dav Whatmore for the role, before replacing him with Kabir Ali, who couldn’t travel to Sri Lanka after testing positive for Covid-19.

Captain Afridi missed his flight

Sarfaraz Ahmed was initially named as Galle Gladiators captain but his selection for the New Zealand tour forced him to withdraw, with Lasith Malinga being named the captain.

But Malinga himself pulled out from the tournament just a week before its commencement, citing lack of preparation as the reason, and was hurriedly replaced by Shahid Afridi. But what further complicated the situation was when Afridi, a veteran of 319 T20s, missed his flight to Colombo.

Afridi did manage to catch a flight to Colombo a day later, but is now set to miss the franchise’s first two matches at least. Bhanuka Rajapaksa, originally named vice-captain, will lead the team in his absence.

Big names pull out last minute

The LPL 2020 draft saw some big names being roped in by the five franchises, but as the tournament neared its start, one player after another started pulling out, leaving the teams scrambling for replacements.

Chris Gayle, Lasith Malinga, Faf du Plessis, David Miller, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Wahab Riaz, Ravi Bopara, Sarfaraz Ahmed (quite a line-up in itself) – all withdrew from the tournament for various reasons. Andre Russell had also initially withdrawn, only to be later declared available for LPL 2020.

Dambulla Vikings or Viikings or Viiking or Hawks or Lions?

The Dambulla franchise went through a range of name changes before zeroing in on ‘Viikings’ (yes, with two i’s). They started off as Dambulla Hawks, before becoming Dambulla Lions after a change in ownership. Subsequently, they were named Dambulla Viikings after Indian Bollywood actor and businessman, Sachin Joshi, owner of the Viiking Group, bought the franchise. There is still some confusion whether it’s ‘Viiking’ or ‘Viikings’: as per their logo and an unverified Twitter account (which is being followed by Sri Lanka Cricket’s official account), it’s still the former. Let’s just call them Dambulla, shall we?

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