International fixtures thwart IPL ambition for England stars
Being World Twenty20 champions and beating Australia 3-1 in the Ashes has not proved a path to IPL riches for England's cricketers as their international schedule again hampered their chances of big-money deals. Paul Collingwood, who retired from Test cricket after Sydney, is the only major name available for the whole tournament and secured a US$250,000 deal with Rajasthan Royals but Kevin Pietersen took a significant pay cut in a deal with Deccan Chargers.
IPL franchises are becoming increasingly savvy as to how they spend their money and want a strong return on their investments which means players being available for long chunks. Along with Pietersen and Collingwood, Eoin Morgan (Kolkata Knight Riders, US$350,000) and Stuart Broad (Kings XI Punjab, US$400,000) are the star-name England players to earn deals but won't be available for the end of the tournament.
"The players have to be back to prepare for the Test match at the end of May so that will have affected the bids," Collingwood said. "Ideally it would be fantastic if all the players could be involved 100% on a level playing field. That's not going happen probably in the next few years because of the schedules that are coming up. It's great that there are more English players in the auction this time even if it hasn't worked out hugely for them."
Ten of the victorious Twenty20 side which beat Australia in the Barbados final, along with James Anderson, were among the English players who went into this year's auction. Pietersen, who two years ago shared the tag of the world's most expensive cricketer alongside Andrew Flintoff after being bought for US$1.55million, was worth US$650,000 to Decann Chargers.
There was a suggestion that some may have over-priced themselves, such as Michael Yardy whose base was US$400,000. However, Collingwood was confident that there wouldn't be any impact within the team because of a few that did get lucky.
"I don't think so," he said. "As we've seen a lot of the guys wanted to get involved. I don't think anyone begrudges anyone anything. Sometimes it's a bit of a lottery who gets picked. You never really know the reasons. Chris Gayle wasn't picked, either. Nobody is having a go at one else."
Anderson missed out despite his superb Ashes series and England's players have had an uneasy relationship with the IPL since being unable to take part in the inaugural event. Although there is a far larger gap than in previous years for them to compete, there remains a clash with the county season which starts in early April as well as the early summer internationals.
It's not only England's players who have been snubbed - Chris Gayle is the biggest absentee from the event after he didn't attract a bid due to West Indies hosting Pakistan in April - but it was clear from the number of England stars who put their names forward that there was major interest in taking part.
And it still remains possible that those with IPL deals may not be released to appear after Andy Flower, the England team director, made it abundantly clear that he had the final call and would demand players rest if they needed it.
Broad is probably the player with the biggest cloud over him because he is currently recovering from the stomach injury that ruled him out of the final three Ashes Tests and is battling to be fit for the World Cup. Flower may not be keen for him to race off to the IPL for six weeks ahead of another packed home season.
"I do not blame any of the players for wanting to go and play," Flower told reporters in Australia. "But it is tricky because the schedules are so heavy. Rest is sometimes as important as the hard schedules we put them through, especially for our front-line attack. They have made themselves available for the IPL but it is dangerous in terms of the risk of injury and shortening their lifespan."
However, one of the quirks of the IPL, whereby arch enemies on the field can become team-mates, was thrown up by the auction result with Collingwood now set to join forces with Shane Warne at Rajasthan. Warne hasn't always been complementary about Collingwood, especially when he was awarded an MBE for his one-Test role in the 2005 Ashes, and Collingwood offered a wry smile. "At least now we can get to know each other rather than just having battles on the field."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo