The first season of the Indian Premier League is underway, and already, it has captured the imagination of the viewing public and the players alike, like no other. And with the kind of cash that has flown in, the orgy-of-cricket can only get bigger. However, there is one country, England, which is missing out on a little fun here. If one discounts Dmitri Mascarhenhas, no other English player has been signed up for the tournament, and that includes star attractions like Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen. The reason has been simple; the English cricketers have been asked by the ECB bosses, including Chairman, Mr. Giles Clarke, to focus on county cricket to be match fit for the New Zealand series. He says, "The England team is the critical part of the economics of our game and having the best players available is critical to that. The reason we have England central contracts is to enable the head coach to determine how much cricket those who were centrally contracted played."
Clarke goes on to add that the English cricketers would be needed to be totally fit, physically and mentally, before the next home Ashes series, and playing in such a tournament could take away from the rest periods between series.
The point here that Giles Clarke makes is quite fair, and in fact, pretty logical. However, the fact of the matter that remains is, a player of the stature of a Pietersen or a Flintoff, would have probably got signed up for at least an $800,000, for playing in the inaugural season. With the limiting cap clause on the player buyouts been shown the door, this could go up manifold in the years to come. This would be many times more than what their central contract would pay them through the period of the contract. This Catch-22 situation that the players find themselves in, i.e. choosing between playing for their country against participating in the IPL, has very few takers. Pietersen finds it silly and says, "You want your best players playing both for their country and for the IPL. You don't want them choosing between the two"
This would necessarily get resolved in only one of the few ways possible, either these iconic cricketers would start giving up their English caps for the IPL, or they may not want to sign central contracts with the ECB any more. The only other two options that ECB may have is to provide for a window for these cricketers to "ply their trade" at the IPL, or create an EPL of their own, that pays similar sums of amount.
The creation of window would need a sanction from the ICC, conjuring up an EPL would need money. Adam Stanford has agreed to bankroll such a tournament, only after he is convinced of it being a value proposition. This may take at least a couple of years, and still, there are question marks over its feasibility.
In the end, the ECB would need to be careful about not treading into territories where they end up losing the players of the calibre of Andrew Flintoff, Collingwood, Pietersen and the likes.
There is a nice little anecdote about Chris Gayle text messaging Kevin Pietersen asking him for the reasons for his absence from this jamboree. When Pietersen replied that he just can't, Gayle's retort was a message that had only dollar signs! Now while, Gayle and Pietersen have an on-field history attached to them, the underlying meaning is hard to miss. A hundred grand a game, over a period of six weeks is not what any of these players would want to miss out on.