County news January 24, 2014

Northants confirm three for IPL auction

ESPNcricinfo staff

This year's IPL auction takes on increased significance for English cricket and Northamptonshire are the latest county to confirm they will have a vested interest on February 12.

The ECB has opened up a bigger window for their centrally contracted players and many counties have also relaxed their stance on IPL participation, despite the prospect of losing players for nearly half of the County Championship season.

Northamptonshire have given their full blessing to Azharullah, Steven Crook and their overseas player Jackson Bird to seek IPL deals but losing all three would seriously hamper their chances of retaining a place in Division One of the County Championship for 2015.

Crook was a key member of the Northants' squad that won promotion last season. He took 43 wickets at 26.48 and also averaged 40.16 with the bat. Azharullah did not break into the Championship side until halfway through the campaign but added 25 wickets at 28.68. He also starred with the ball as Northants claimed a fairytale Friends Life t20 triumph, finishing the competition as top wicket-taker with 27 scalps.

Losing Bird, who Northants signed for ten Championship and seven T20 games, would rob them of a bowler who has played three Tests for Australia. An IPL clause was included in his contract.

But the county can breathe easy over David Willey, the very promising allrounder, who was also the subject of strong interest from several IPL franchises. He has withdrawn from the auction to focus on his fitness ahead of the new county season having suffered with a lower-back injury while in Australia with the England Performance Programme.

"We as a club recognise the opportunities offered by the IPL," the Northamptonshire chief executive, David Smith, said. "We will not stand in the way of the players wanting to take part in the competition, due to the development and financial benefits on offer."

Head coach, David Ripley, added: "The IPL is firmly established in the international cricket calendar and we fully understand the desire for players to be a part of it. We wish the lads well if selected, and if they are, it will give opportunities for others to start the season well for us."

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