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January 29, 2014
'Bell, Pietersen only England Test regulars involved'
Ian Bell has risked the displeasure of England's team director Andy Flower by joining Kevin Pietersen as the only regular England Test players to put their names forward for the auction for this season's IPL.
Pietersen's Test career is held to be in doubt with both Flower, the team director, and Alastair Cook failing to pronounce that he is a part of England's "new era" - and the usual mutterings have been heard in some quarters about his passion for playing IPL.
That can hardly be held against him, however, when Bell, often presented as a model of professionalism, has also entered the auction - at a tempting price of only $160,000.
Bell, who was England's most successful batsman against Australia last summer, clearly feels that he can get his Test game into shape without the benefit of early season Championship matches. As England's season starts with limited-overs cricket against Sri Lanka, it is hard to fault his logic. It is also pertinent to note that he shares the same agents, Mission Sports, with Pietersen.
During negotiations about England's new central contracts, it was agreed in principle that the ECB would be supportive where possible of England players' ambitions to play IPL, which legitimises the ambitions of Bell and others to play in the tournament.
That has not stopped England from having meaningful discussions with their best younger players about where their responsibilities should lie. That has resulted in the absence of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler from the IPL hopefuls.
Both players would have been good IPL acquisitions but Stokes is at the start of what promises to be a successful and gruelling England career in all three formats and Buttler, whose T20 talents are already known, has ambitions to prove himself in the longer format of the game with strong Championship form with Lancashire.
Stuart Broad, England's T20 captain is another absentee, while Graeme Swann's brief mental dalliance with a season in IPL during his retirement media conference has not translated into action; his retirement now seems confirmed for good, with a media career lying in wait.
Arguably the two most aggrieved players in England's list could turn out to be Samit Patel and Alex Hales. The Nottinghamshire pair were released by their county as long as they earned a minimum of $400,000 - an attempt to measure their argument that they could not financially afford to ignore the tournament.
That figure has turned out to be high and has been cut to the auction ceiling of $320,000, but that still leaves Patel, in particular, seeming overpriced. Hales, one of the leading T20 batsmen in the world, should surely sell at that level.
Eleven England-qualified players are in the list, with Eoin Morgan and Luke Wright looking certain to pick up deals.
England players in IPL auction: Ian Bell (Warks), Ravi Bopara (Essex), Jade Dernbach (Surrey), Alex Hales (Notts), Craig Kieswetter (Somerset), Azhar Mahmood, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Eoin Morgan (Middx), Samit Patel (Notts), Kevin Pietersen (Surrey), Luke Wright (Sussex)
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