Tamil Diplomat

England clear players to put IPL one-day experience ahead of Test cricket

Andrew Strauss, the director of England cricket, says players will be allowed to skip future Test series to play in the Indian Premier League and to keep them fresh for limited-overs cricket. Strauss also urged a greater separation between the longer and shorter formats, in the strongest indication yet that the primacy of Test cricket within the English game is well and truly over.

With a number of IPL franchises already circling around top England players such as Joe Root, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, Strauss said that “hard decisions” would have to be made to keep players fresh while also giving them the maximum experience of white-ball cricket.

However, he appeared to close the door on recalling Kevin Pietersen for next year’s World Twenty20, despite his outstanding form in the South African domestic T20 competition.

With England 1-0 down in the four-match ODI series against Pakistangoing in Friday’s second game, one-day ills continue to top Strauss’s agenda. A 4-0 defeat could mean England are overtaken by Bangladesh in the world rankings.

“We won’t get better by treating one-day cricket as the poor relation,” Strauss said. “We always make our sacrifices in one-day cricket rather than Test cricket, but we need to have far more balance between the two formats. Our best way to prioritise both is by having more separation and more specialists in each team.”

This suggests that the Test aspirations of players such as Eoin Morgan and David Willey would appear to be on hold for the moment. Likewise, James Anderson and Stuart Broad’s absence from limited-overs cricket is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

But where this leaves the majority of players – nine of England’s 15-man ODI squad were also in the Test party, for example – is unclear. In future, Strauss said, England would enforce a stricter delineation between “red-ball specialists” and “white-ball specialists”, which would occasionally mean forcing certain players to choose between formats.

“I don’t think you are saying that for the rest of your career you will be viewed only as a white-ball specialist,” Strauss said. “What you’re saying is, ‘we see you playing a very full role in white-ball cricket, and at the moment, you’re not one of those guys that is fundamental to both forms of the game. Therefore, focus on getting better in white-ball cricket’.

“We all know how hard the international schedule is for people who play all forms of the game. It is unbelievably difficult, and at times they are going to need resting. If someone is a white-ball specialist and his focus is on white ball cricket, then it is an easy decision to make. If someone is in the Test team or very close, that’s a harder decision. But let’s be honest: we’re not going to make massive strides in white-ball cricket without making some hard decisions along the way.”

One potentially hard decision, however, appears to have been kicked into the long grass. Pietersen’s back-to-back centuries in the South African Ram Slam tournament last week pushed his case for a return to the England T20 side, a clamour that will grow in volume should England struggle in the forthcoming T20 series against Pakistan.

But Strauss said: “We’ve pretty much identified the group of players we want to work with in the short term. It’s important give them opportunities to develop. It would be wrong to be searching in very different directions right now Of course, that doesn’t mean it is a closed shop long-term.”

Yet Strauss again extolled the virtues of T20 franchise leagues, with the world T20 in India just four months away. Willey has already been allowed to miss an England Lions tour to play in the Australian Big Bash, and Strauss said further exemptions would follow.

“The great thing about going to those tournaments is that you go as an overseas player, so you’re under pressure to perform and win games of cricket. That’s exactly what we want our players to do. 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.”

At the same time, though, Strauss insisted that Test cricket retained its importance, and expressed concern about the swathes of empty seats at recent Tests in Brisbane, Sharjah and Mohali. “I don’t think that looks good for the game,” Strauss said.

“We can never be arrogant and just assume that Test cricket will stay forever. We all have a responsibility to try to help the game of cricket grow. The people that are focused and in charge of that are the ICC, and they have to make sure they give Test cricket the best possible chance.” (Telegraph, UK)