England news May 2, 2015

Beginning to see merits of England players in IPL - Butcher

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Should more England players be part of the IPL?

Former England batsman Mark Butcher believes people are beginning to "see the merits" of ensuring more England players are involved in future editions of the IPL. Butcher, who is India on assignment with British broadcaster Sky Sports, told ESPNcricinfo that watching games from the grounds has been like "nothing else I've ever seen at cricket grounds around the world." 

"It's quite remarkable, the fervour for the game and the atmosphere and the skill level," he said. "When the IPL first began, it was more about what was happening off the field; giving the older players a bit of a pay day. In the last three-four years, though, the standard of cricket and the way that the game is being taken a lot more seriously and the way that the skills have been elevated to a new level has made it a wonderful combination. I have no doubt whatsoever that any players - whether they being young or old - will only improve by experiencing it and playing it."

Butcher is convinced that young England players, especially those identified as key to their limited-overs plans in the years ahead, such as Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Chris Woakes and the likes, will benefit immensely from playing in the IPL. However, he said, they can only hope to attract interest from franchises if they are available to participate in the entire season and not for a short period, as is the case currently. 

"At the moment, because English players initially couldn't stay for the entire duration of the tournament which meant that their price was not worth paying, people are not even looking at English players to play in the competition," he said. "So, that's going to change. I have no doubt about that. It will take us a little while because it always takes us a little while to catch up with things but people are now beginning to see the merits."

England's shocking early exit from the World Cup has led to considerable churn in the country about how to bridge the gap with other countries in the limited-overs formats. Butcher believes that outcome has put "more pressure" to try and find ways to get more English players involved in the IPL. 

"If you play all your domestic cricket in one country, you do not know how cricketers do it in other countries like Bangladesh or India or South Africa," he said. "Everybody has their own different things that they bring to the table. What we're seeing with these players is that with them being exposed to more leagues around the world, it is no longer difficult for a New Zealander to come out and play brilliantly on slow Indian pitches. They know how to do it. That's the learning curve you get by being here for six weeks."

While Butcher didn't think it was possible to tweak the county season to allow English players to play the IPL, he advocated considering what he described as a "short-term loss" over "long-term gain".

"I think what the ECB and the counties have to look at is how much we gain in the long run by exposing some of our brightest and the best to competitions like the IPL," he said. "You might lose out a little bit in the short term by missing your best players but what you will gain in the long term is the knowledge of playing under pressure when they come back which will pay dividends later on in the long run. So, you have to speculate a little bit to accumulate."

Former England batsman and coach David Lloyd, who also had his first first-hand experience of the IPL as a commentator this season, was equally enthused after his stint. Writing in his blog on Skysports.com, Lloyd conceded that while cricket won't enjoy the same following in the UK as India, a template similar to the Big Bash League in Australia should be considered by the ECB.

"We can certainly stage something very similar to the Big Bash. That would be our template - have eight teams, who play everybody twice," Lloyd wrote. "If we could find a three-to-four-week window and block it off - that's what all the players want but you've got to sell that idea to 18 counties so there's got to be a will to do it that way. You'd have to play it alongside Test-match cricket - as they do in Australia - to fit it into the schedule and you'd have to try to attract the best players in the world and make it a real event."

Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75

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