High price tags, Tendo bargain and freelance Fred

The Indian Premier League auction this week coincides with English cricket’s stock being at its highest since the heady days of the historic 2005 Test series triumph over Australia, and should be reflected in some of the sums bid by franchises looking to secure members of the Ashes-retaining squad. Unsurprisingly A-listers Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Stuart Broad have a reserve price of US$400,000 – putting them in the elite bracket alongside other world talents such as Brett Lee, Yuvraj Singh, Graeme Smith and Brendon McCullum – when the players go under the hammer in Bangalore. Sussex pair Michael Yardy and Luke Wright have undoubtedly played on their status as reigning world 20-over champions to take their place in the same top-level category but the biggest eye opener on the 350-strong lot list is the $300,000 minimum price it would cost a suitor to snap up Kent seamer Simon Cook, 34 next week. Just a tad optimistic perhaps when proven performers with previous IPL experience such as Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan and Owais Shah have all registered themselves with $200,000 price tags.

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If Essex’s Netherlands international Ryan ten Doeschate is picked up among the bargain IPL acquisitions – a snip at $50,000 – he will surely create some kind of Twenty20 record. The 30-year-old has already competed in four different domestic 20-over competitions in the past five months – he followed his Friends Provident t20 semi-final exit with regular employers Essex with spells for Mashonaland in Zimbabwe, Canterbury in New Zealand, where he was named the tournament’s most valuable player, and Tasmania in Australia’s Big Bash.

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Ten Doeschate’s globetrotting makes Andrew Flintoff’s pre-retirement plans as a gun for hire, operating out of Dubai, look modest in the extreme. Freelance Fred, as some of his mates dubbed him, was intent on re-joining Chennai, as well as participating in Australia and South Africa, prior to pulling the plug on an umpteenth injury comeback. Flintoff, 33, is understood to be househunting in London as he looks to expand on a post-playing television career which has so far featured two series of Sky One’s A League Of Their Own.

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Cricket-mad Premier League referee Mark Halsey drew the short straw over the Christmas period. Halsey, who returned to officiating in the top flight this season after winning his battle against throat cancer, was given the midday kick-off between Fulham and West Ham on Boxing Day, scuppering his chances of watching the opening exchanges of England’s routing of Australia in Melbourne. Any temptation of sneaking a peak before bed was removed by the fact that the capital hotel the Bolton-based ref was put up in did not have a Sky Sports feed.

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