A week ago or so, as the ECB mulled over changes to the county championship format among other things, I wrote that cricket was in danger of going crazy. Too late. It already has. With a Twenty20 Champions League brewing, the IPL have issued a rather bizarre edict that players connected with the rival ICL will not be able to represent their domestic teams should they qualify.
So, more bad luck for Chris Read, who must count as the unluckiest wicketkeeper/batsman to have played the game. No additional financial incentive for him to lead Nottinghamshire, English finalists in 2006, to glory at the Rose Bowl in July. In all, 24 players signed to English counties risk having to stand on the sidelines while their team-mates share in the £2.5 million pot of gold.
Should Hampshire qualify, Shane Bond, already callously and hypocritically disregarded by his national team to the detriment of two England v New Zeland Test series this year, will continue to pay a heavy price for choosing the wrong Indian league to get involved with – and there’s no European Commission to help him out here.
In addition, players contracted to an IPL side will have to play for them rather than their domestic team; Michael Hussey will therefore represent Chennai against his home state Western Australia should that outcome arise. It might not affect English counties this year, but can you imagine Andrew FLintoff, one of the IPL’s main targets next year, and Preston born and bred competing against Lancashire in the 2009 tournament? It just doesn’t seem right.
This arrangement really has the potential to split loyalties: pressure must be put on the organisers not only to allow ICL players to compete, but international players to represent their domestic sides. The IPL franchises are not exactly short of talent, are they?