Strauss insists Broad rests while Stokes roars in at IPL
Andrew Strauss, the director of England Cricket, has defended the decision to refuse Nottinghamshire's request to adjust Stuart Broad's centrally-enforced rest schedule to allow him to play in the Specsavers Championship against Durham at Chester-le-Street on Friday.
Broad himself, supported by Nottinghamshire's coach Peter Moores, asked for his schedule to be changed after Nottinghamshire dispensed with Leicestershire before lunch on the third day with Broad bowling a modest 21 overs in the match.
But Strauss proved to be intransigent - even though the first Test against South Africa does not begin until July 6, and there are no indications that Broad will feature before then in England's Champions Trophy squad.
"We have to recognise the demands of the International programme over the next 12 months, with seven Tests in 10 weeks from July followed by another seven in Australia and New Zealand over the winter," Strauss said.
"A plan for availability for the early-season fixtures has been put together in consultation with the players, and counties were made aware of the likely schedule back in January.
Broad presented his wish to play in diplomatic fashion. He is not automatically the hot-head that his on-field personal might imply. "It is a tricky one", he said. "Straussy won't mind me saying that I spoke to him and wanted to play. I had a decent week at Grace Road, felt in really good rhythm and wanted to carry that on. But sometimes as a player you get in that short-term mindset of saying I want to play now. The ECB control workloads throughout the year. They are going to want their bowlers fit come Boxing Day in Melbourne and the Sydney Test in the new year."
Nevertheless, several counties are seething about the double standards which allows players who compete for England in all three formats, such as Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes, to play in IPL while others such as Broad or Jonny Bairstow - who has played only three England ODIs this year - are severely restricted in how often they can represent their counties.
The prevailing ECB wisdom is that IPL offers England players valuable experience in T20, as well as financial rewards that cannot be fairly ignored, but that the Championship offers them fewer benefits professionally or financially and so will have to muddle on as best it can while players take regular rest periods for the international contests ahead.
The upshot of that is that Bairstow, bored at the thought of yet more inactivity, took himself off to the US Masters in Augusta, while Broad will spend part of Easter in the nets because he feels he needs more bowling to get into early-season rhythm.
Strauss suggested that it was sensible to stick to the original plan devised for Broad and his fellow England fast bowler James Anderson, even though Anderson sent down twice the overs during Lancashire's draw against Essex at Chelmsford.
"Stuart bowled 21 overs for Nottinghamshire at Leicestershire, and Jimmy bowled 42 for Lancashire at Essex, so it makes sense for us to stick to the original plan of them taking a week's break before returning for the third round of Championship fixtures," he said. "They will also be available for further Championship matches as well as the early stages of the Royal London One-Day Cup."
Against all the odds, the Championship continues to attract more interest than is often assumed to be the case. BBC Radio were thrilled last week by figures which showed 1.1m unique users followed the commentaries during first round of Championship matches.
Advance sales for the NatWest Blast are also booming, although the ECB is unlikely to make much play of that until their plan for a new eight-team T20 tournament is approved.
Updated at 0855 BST on April 13 with Broad's comments
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps