England news January 7, 2014

Stokes and co face IPL dilemma


England players confident that they have clear permission to play in the IPL until May 13 this year could come under moral pressure to commit to Championship cricket and display a renewed resolve to atone for their failures in the Ashes series.

England's team director, Andy Flower, is already contemplating how much to press players to re-evaluate their techniques in domestic cricket rather than enter next month's auction for IPL 2014.

Most pressure could come to bear on Ben Stokes, England's one incontestable success in the Ashes, whose potential to become an indispensable and exciting allrounder in both Test and limited-overs cricket could put him in dangerously heavy demand.

That Stokes needs protection is evident. But there is also little doubt that Stokes' limited-overs game would develop more rapidly in the full glare of the IPL for a month - leaving him with some pondering to do as England try to salvage their self-respect in the coming weeks, in five ODIs and three T20s against Australia.

Kevin Pietersen, who has repeatedly been the victim of an emotional tug-of-war between his wish to play in the IPL and maintain a successful England career, is bound to assert his right to play IPL - although he will doubtless be braced for some media character assassination in the process.

Eoin Morgan, for all his assurances ahead of the Big Bash League that he still retained hopes of a Test career, would also be expected to resist any suggestion that now is the time for him to shift his emphasis and commit to Middlesex to try to prove his potential as a Test cricketer and become one of the beneficiaries of England's anticipated shake-up.

But pressure could be bought to bear on other England players who until now had imagined that the agreement in principle hammered out between the ECB and the Professional Cricketers' Association would be regarded as inviolable.

Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Matt Prior are among those who could expect to be the recipients of some persuasive chats over the next few of weeks as Flower, whose retention as England's team director after the 5-0 whitewash has already been guaranteed, draws up his strategy to get England back on an even keel.

Jos Buttler is another interesting case. Buttler has drawn enough attention to himself in England's one-day side and in the Big Bash League to make him an attractive proposition for an IPL franchise, but he also moved to Lancashire in the close season to gain more wicketkeeping opportunities in the knowledge that England see him as a potential international keeper not only in one-day cricket but also, in the longer term, in the Test format if his game matures.

There is no clause in England's new central contracts which state categorically the rights and restrictions on involvement in IPL - that is impossible due to the tournament's unpredictability.

To pin down the IPL is like pinning down fog - the dates for 2014 have yet to be announced and part of the tournament might be staged outside India because of security concerns during anticipated national elections. Until a window is agreed - whether unofficial or not - for cricket's most dominant carnival, a sane future in English cricket is virtually impossible.

What there is, though, is an agreement in principle that covers not just those with central contracts but all potential England players, to minimise clashes between England's international programme and the IPL.

That leaves a whole lot of wriggle room for the ECB, but it is precisely that commitment which saw the start of the international programme put back a week this year until May 20.

It would be naïve to imagine, however, that Flower will not bring pressure to bear where he thinks it is most needed - and arguably he would not be doing his job if he did not do so - but for this new accord to be honoured, there is a line beyond which this persuasion should not go.

The agreed May 13 deadline would give England players involved in the IPL one week to prepare for a month of one-day cricket against Sri Lanka. Indeed, the decision to begin England's summer schedule with limited-overs cricket seemingly gives the small number of England players who win IPL deals a logical case that T20 cricket provides an ideal warm-up for the international season, and that playing Championship cricket instead would be little more than a guilt trip.

But a 5-0 whitewash in the Ashes is not necessarily a time when logic will hold sway. England's eyes will be on the need to make a statement of regeneration in the first Test against Sri Lanka at Lord's on June 12 and performances in Championship cricket will be watched with more scrutiny than for many years.

As Stokes, in particular, is about to discover, achievements come hand-in-hand with problems.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ESPN on January 11, 2014, 8:22 GMT

    Decent cricket in the county championship for them as opposed to hit and giggle against 4th rate Aussies and Indians

  • John on January 8, 2014, 19:31 GMT

    Re English contracted player , they have the choice. Contracts come are given/renewed every 12 months and if the players feel it is unfair and they are better off playing IPL then no one is forcing them to sign the ECB contracts. Some are saying it's unfair but maybe the ECB see it would be unfair if their contracted players came back injured/suffering burn out or whatever. I'm not saying that would happen but ECB as the paymasters have the right to do whatever they see fit. Personally I'm not at all anti IPL. I think we overdo the resting of there are instances where it does help a player and I'm sure it could improve some of our shorter format players but by the same token you have instances like Morgan in 2012 who was benched for the whole tournament when he could have been playing cricket back in England.

  • John on January 8, 2014, 19:31 GMT

    We seem to go around in circles with these IPL debates. I think the main debate is should ECB let their players play a full IPL and the problem is that the English summer (when we get a summer) is so short that we often have to arrange test series which clashes with IPL. Of course we could cram all the tests close together but then there would be implications (such as increased risk of injury and burn out) and may I ask if any other nation would jeopardise the fitness of their players by cramming in a number of tests into such a small window? Also Aus players have played half IPLs when it has clashed with a test series and does anyone think SA would let Steyn or AB play IPL instead of playing for SA?

  • anton on January 8, 2014, 17:01 GMT

    Playing in T20s just before test matches can be dangerous. Look at Warner. After Adelaide or Perth he went to play for Sidney in the big Bash and from there on, looked muddled. Luckily for England they only have Sri Lanka series, which shouldn't be too difficult in early summer conditions.

  • Peter on January 8, 2014, 16:16 GMT

    England players get paid enough not to bother with the IPL. The only thing Stokes needs to concern himself with is becoming the best all rounder he can be and I think he would be better off playing 4 day county cricket for that rather than hit and giggle in the IPL. There's lots of time later on in a player's career for 20/20 cricket when he can no longer last 5 days

  • Dummy4 on January 8, 2014, 12:19 GMT

    This issue is being made much more complicated than it needs to be. The only principle which needs applying is this: success should be rewarded, failure should be punished. Losing a series 5-0 to a not particularly great opposition should be punished. Do that by announcing no central contracts will be awarded for the 2014 English season. Anyone who wants to play for England should be required to play all matches for their counties prior to the start of the next international series with Sri Lanka. Anybody who doesn't do this or uses it as an opportunity to play in foreign leagues like the IPL will be deemed to have made themselves unavailable for selection for England during the 2014 season. That way, anyone like Pietersen will be left with a clear choice, prove you want to play for England. No one will be stopped from going to the IPL but if you do you won't be picked for England. We can return to a cosier arrangement in 2015 if the side are more successful in 2014 & 14-15.

  • sri on January 8, 2014, 12:11 GMT

    I am not sure whether IPL improves players skills but i saw some gains. Watson acknowledged that IPL helped him in resurrecting his ODI career in 2009-10. Kallis acknowledged it gave him the freedom to express himself. Albie Morkel got central contract after his stint with IPL. Mitch benefited ( to some extent) with the break he got in IPL. Eng could benefit from IPL in a sense that they get a chance to play some fearless cricket against some top players( unlike the Ashes where players buckled down due to the pressure) Besides IPL played its part in reducing the tensions between opposition players.

  • rohit on January 8, 2014, 9:05 GMT

    incredible dilemma for these english cricketers really. but imo there is no harm playing ipl for these people. KP, stokes, butler, carberry, bairstow would only gain confidence in ipl heading to play SL and Ind in tests(better than first class matches in county).

  • Srivathsan on January 8, 2014, 8:02 GMT

    It will be very disappointing if the English players not allowed to play in IPL particularly KP. See how Johnson has transformed himself after he playing in IPL. In someways IPL is benefiting the players. Johnson contracted to Mumbai and he had the oppurtunity of interacting with its coaching staff like John wright(One of the best coach), Jonty Rhodes, Ponting and Kumble. IPL will serve as an oppurtunity for the players to take guidance from the best coaches available in the world. This year Gary Kirsten has been contracted to Delhi team.

  • Indian on January 8, 2014, 7:41 GMT

    I don't think any IPL team will want one of these heavily scarred players anyway! However if given a chance they really need to play in the IPL. One thing I noticed was the inhibited batting display and no free stroke play. Note that the Aussies (many of who play IPL/BBL) managed a healthy run rate during the Ashes while England could not. Both teams could bat only for a day or 3 sessions, but Aussies managed to make many more runs. T20 improves certain aspects of Test/ODI's!