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News

No longer a bad rap as England hopefuls line up for IPL mega-auction

Red-ball reset limits availability of multi-format stars, but 24 names in the hat in Bengaluru

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
11-Feb-2022
Jonny Bairstow is back in the auction frame after starring for Sunrisers in recent seasons  •  BCCI

Jonny Bairstow is back in the auction frame after starring for Sunrisers in recent seasons  •  BCCI

Andrew Strauss only played 28 games of T20 cricket in his career yet nobody better personifies English cricket's changing attitudes to the IPL.
Kevin Pietersen, a long-term advocate for the competition, was the only England player involved in the IPL in 2014. Later that year, he memorably compared discussing the IPL with Strauss to "speaking to the vicar about gangsta rap".
Months later, Strauss was appointed as director of cricket at the ECB with an enlightened view. "Thirty-eight of the 44 players involved in the semi-finals of the World Cup had IPL experience; we should seek further opportunities to get our guys in there," he said.
In 2021, 16 Englishmen were under contract at some stage and for the first time, players missed Test matches as a direct result of their involvement in the IPL. Even though Jos Buttler, Sam Curran and Jonny Bairstow were back in the country after the tournament was suspended due to India's second Covid-19 wave, they were not considered for selection after 10 days in hotel-room quarantine on their return.
"We have been very clear with the BCCI that our international season starts when it starts," Tom Harrison, the ECB's chief executive said this week. "And if that means players missing out on IPL finals at the end of it, that is what happens.
"Last year, there was a caveat to that because we had that New Zealand series which came in[to the schedule] very late. And there were reasons for that. We felt that as we had an agreement in place [that players could play the full season], to renege on that agreement with players in the IPL wasn't right."
This weekend, 24 Englishmen will be up for grabs in the two-day mega-auction at the ITC Gardenia hotel in Bengaluru, with Moeen Ali (Chennai Super Kings) and Buttler (Rajasthan Royals) already retained.
While Strauss, back involved at the ECB as interim managing director of cricket, insisted that there is no "blanket approach" or policy on players' availability, fewer multi-format players have put themselves forward this year. There is another T20 World Cup looming in October but only four of the two-dozen players on the final shortlist are in England's Test squad for their tour to the Caribbean.
Bairstow and Mark Wood are the most likely to attract buyers, and should be available for the full season, though with the season's dates yet to be confirmed they could yet miss knockout fixtures in order to prepare for the first Test of the English summer against New Zealand on June 2. "They will be expected to be back at the start of June," Harrison said. "May 27 is the deadline that we traditionally create."
Ben Stokes is the most significant absentee and underlined that he sees Test cricket as "absolutely my number one priority". Sam Curran is believed to have been keen to take part but was told to focus on his rehabilitation from injury, while Joe Root and Chris Woakes did not put their names forward.
"For white-ball specialists, from an England team point of view, it's a great thing that they're playing the IPL," Strauss said. "The problem is for all-format players, and we always have to have a personal approach to our all-format players.
"[It's about] looking at what the best schedule is for them, with all the tournaments being played around the world, both red- and white-ball, and coming to some informed decisions on a year-by-year basis as to that volume of cricket and what they should and shouldn't be playing. To have big blanket decisions on this is the wrong approach."
Some fringe players are also missing. "If I'd have gone to the IPL, I probably wouldn't have played," Tom Banton said last month. "At the moment, it's the right decision for me to stay at home." Covid protocols have made franchise leagues less attractive - not least with few restrictions remaining in the UK - and with the Test team in flux, some players are keen to further their case for selection with early-season County Championship performances.
Otherwise, most of the players that are likely to attract attention - Liam Livingstone, Jason Roy and Tymal Mills, for example - are white-ball specialists. Several subplots will emerge over the weekend. Will Jofra Archer, a late entrant, find a buyer despite not being fit? Will Eoin Morgan, Kolkata Knight Riders' captain last season, earn a bid after a poor run of batting form? Could a franchise take a punt on an uncapped player, like Benny Howell or Jake Lintott?
But perhaps the most revealing aspect of the auction is the involvement of several key ECB decision-makers in the process. Nathan Leamon, England's white-ball analyst, holds the same role with Kolkata Knight Riders and Mo Bobat, the performance director, worked with Royal Challengers Bangalore over the winter consulting on strategy.
And as for Strauss himself? He remains involved as an advisor at Rajasthan Royals. The vicar, in Pietersen's estimation, has had N.W.A. on repeat.
England players in IPL auction 2022: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Mark Wood, Adil Rashid, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Alex Hales, Jofra Archer, George Garton, Tymal Mills, Reece Topley, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, James Vince, Lewis Gregory, Saqib Mahmood, Laurie Evans, Benny Howell, Jake Lintott, David Willey, Craig Overton, Samit Patel.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98