Whisper it quietly but the Indian Premier League might not be such a bad thing, it has been vilified by the ECB for many years now with England staunch in their position that the competition is nothing more than an irrelevance and continue to arrange series during the IPL window. The latest knock-back has come from from Director of English Cricket, Andrew Strauss.
In a recent interview he stated he wished to prioritise One-Day cricket but stopped short of endorsing the IPL stating “I can’t foresee any circumstances in which we would weaken our Test team in order to allow a player to play in the IPL or any other franchise-based competition.” Instead he suggested that “greater seperation” between the test and limited overs sides is desirable. As an England fan and an advocate of the IPL it disappoints me to hear this naive view. Surely a player of such quality and with a good knowledge of the game should know that your best players tend to be your best players across all 3 formats, if Strauss follows through on this plan we can almost certainly give up hope on seeing England’s star performers Joe Root, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes taking to the field in India anytime soon.
Strauss of all people should understand England’s need to move with the times, he was drafted into the managing director role after the removal of Paul Downton following a disastrous world cup which ended at the group stage after England’s slow and considered approach was ruthlessly exposed time and time again. Finally ending with an embarrassing 15 run defeat to Bangladesh.
He was tasked with emulating the ultra attacking brand of cricket which prevailed at the World Cup in which bat completely dominated ball . Who can forget Martin Guptill’s world record 237*? The batting exploits also saw the ‘magic 300’ passed a whopping 28 times with 3 of them converted into 400+ scores. In contrast England were left watching the likes of AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell ‘the big show’ in awe. Their mastery and innovation leave me dumbfounded but saddened at the same time, for I know England don’t have a player able to do the same. They can regularly be seen showcasing such shots in the colours of the Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab respectively.
Potential benefits of the IPL include:
- Exposure to subcontinent conditions and in particular spin bowling which has been the achilles heel of England time and time again in the sub continent, most recently naive batting against the spin of Shoaib Malik and Yasir Shah sparked a collapse which saw England lose 6 wickets for just 25 runs to hand Pakistan the 4th test and a 2-1 series victory.
- A chance to play with and learn from the very best T20 players in the world such as MS Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine and Chris Gayle, and many more.
- A chance to work with experience coaches, the Mumbai Indians for example have put together a star-studded coaching line up containing the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble to name just a few.
Neither Andrew Strauss nor captain Eoin Morgan deny these benfits, Morgan went so far to describe it as “a crucial part of the global cricket season.” Strauss would just rather not see the test side weakened. The question is with global audiences for tests falling but with T20’s booming, is England’s positioning of themselves as the ‘Defenders of Test Cricket’ wise?
England have already fallen so far behind the rest there is only a small pool of English players franchises would consider among the world’s best and worthy to fill their 4 overseas places. With Broad and Anderson’s seeming relegation to test match only bowlers only Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Alex Hales would likely interest franchises. With the exception of Morgan afor mentioned players are involved in the test side, which would mean if at all they would only be available for half of the season.
When competing against the world’s best for just four starting places can England afford to be making players almost un-selectable? It is clear that players who can’t commit to the full season are less attractive prospects and less likely to earn big money contracts. This means English involvement could be limited to Sunrisers Hyderabad trio Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara, although with all due respect the development of Ravi Bopara and Kevin Pietersen seem to no longer interest the ECB.
While no-one can deny the promising signs shown from the likes of Jason Roy and David Willey, they are not yet ready to be considered among the world’s best. With these young guns unlikely to attract franchises and the established stars possibly going to be overlooked, where is English cricket going to find itself?
With the World T20 fast approaching this summer spurning valuable chances to challenge our players to think about the game in a whole new way and experience sub-continent playing conditions and atmospheres doesn’t seem like the a good idea. In any big tournament you are looking for your best players to stand up and be counted, having the IPL experience in their belts as something they can pass on to the younger players is something you can’t put a price on.
The appointment of 2-time IPL winning coach Trevor Bayliss was a step in the right direction. I urge Andrew Strauss and the ECB continue down this path, a path that finally embraces the IPL and all of its benefits. For too long England’s draconian thinking about the game has dragged the team down. Let the players loose on the IPL, let them learn new things about their game and maybe just maybe that dream of winning the 2019 World Cup won’t seem so far away.