England’s stellar Ashes cast might find that good things do indeed come to those that wait, with their names likely to be among the most coveted in the auction for the fourth season of the Indian Premier League. Twelve months ago Stuart Broad and James Anderson were high-profile pull-outs ahead of the 2010 bidding, opting instead for time off to rest with this winter’s tour of Australia in mind. Even taking into account Broad’s recent series-ending injury, it certainly looks like a smart move as things stand, and retaining the urn Down Under will only add to their market value when players go under the hammer in the new year.
Although Broad is sidelined until the World Cup, he is bound to stir similar levels of interest to that which his 2009 Ashes performances created while Kevin Pietersen’s rediscovery of his richest form, allied to his ICC World Twenty20 displays earlier this year, could see him being the biggest lot of all once more – alongside Andrew Flintoff he became the joint-costliest individual in IPL’s short history in 2009 with his $1.55million Royal Challengers Bangalore deal.
Circumstances have also been unusually kind to the English contingent this winter. Despite their seemingly non-stop schedule, which incorporates a one-day series against Australia and the World Cup after Christmas, there are no England commitments during IPL 4, which runs from April 8 to May 22. That, along with new directives on availability in central contracts, means that players will be able to engage in much longer stints than in previous years. Precluded from participation in the inaugural competition, annual three-week windows were subsequently opened by the England and Wales Cricket Board two years ago. However, this time members of the current world champion 20-over team will be available for anything up to six weeks, making them even more attractive propositions to franchises desperate for better value following frivolous spends of the past. The only flash of negativity: it is anticipated that greater caution will drive price tags down by around a third this year.
Duncan Fletcher’s brief coaching consultancy stint with New Zealand for their one-day series in India was curious given his extremely poor limited-overs record while in charge of England. Few would quibble with the positive effect he had on the Test team, yet as England head coach Fletcher won only 75 of 159 completed ODIs – his overall figures massaged by virtue of 19 of those coming against Zimbabwe, eight against Bangladesh and other notable scalps including the Netherlands, Kenya, Namibia, Canada, Scotland and Ireland – during his seven-and-a-half year reign. In contrast, England have won 23 of their 39 ODIs to date under Andy Flower.
Further evidence emerging from the pipe smoke at Headingley that the county are desperate to dispel stereotype and embrace modern life. Yorkshire this week became the most followed county on Twitter when their official feed surpassed Surrey and was just two dozen short of the 2500 mark. Safe to say that Azeem Rafiq – whose foul-fingered rant at England elite player development manager John Abrahams probably first brought the social networking site to their attention, and resulted in a ban last season – will not be at the hub of their tweets.