On the Front Foot: Ashes heroes sulk at IPL treatment

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The Independent Online

Since the Indian Premier League began three years ago it has been big trouble for England. It is showing scant signs of abating and may overshadow the World Cup on the sub-continent which starts in a fortnight.

Several of England's players are miffed, some because they feel they are not being paid enough of the big money on offer in the IPL, others because they have not been signed at all. There are two main causes of their displeasure.

First, many of the players cannot be available for the duration of the IPL because they have contracts with the England and Wales Cricket Board, or in some cases with counties, which they must observe. Secondly, relations between the ECB and the Board of Control for Cricket in India, which runs the IPL, continue to be extremely strained.

This meant that when the auction of overseas players was held last month, English stars were by and large overlooked. It is an issue that, more than ever, will not go away and with which the Professional Cricketers' Association may have to become yet more involved.

This year's fourth version of the IPL will start immediately after the World Cup. It is increasingly a tinpot tournament, awash with money, but where the cricket is often of low quality.

Players openly talk of playing hard in all senses of the phrase and of the party atmosphere surrounding the entity.

It is sport, if not as we know it. But slogging your way round Australia competing in perpetually high octane cricket for an admittedly lucrative £250,000 a year and then playing popcorn stuff for upwards of £500,000 over six weeks may yet breed legions of popcorn cricketers.

Stanford shame

One of the creepy ways in which England tried to avoid IPL trouble, of course, was to climb into bed with Sir Allen Stanford. The ECB signed a five year deal with the American billionaire which effectively entailed hiring out the England team. This ended when Sir Al was charged with money laundering offences for which he was recently found unfit to stand trial.

He continues to haunt the ECB mandarins, however. Lawyers for his creditors in the USA said last week that they may try to reclaim the $3.5m he paid to the ECB before the contract ended with Stanford's arrest. Doubtless the ECB would find the money because it has contingency funds.

But it merely prolongs administrators' embarrassment and recalls yet again the crassness of the welcome given to Stanford when he arrived at Lord's in a helicopter carrying $20m in notes. He was greeted as if he was cricket's pontiff.

The following day, not 100 yards from where Stanford landed with his ill-gotten money, a truly great man, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, gave the annual Spirit of Cricket Lecture. The juxtaposition should forever pray on certain minds.

Hot to Trott

Nobody can now doubt the authenticity of Jonathan Trott as an international cricketer. (Whether he should be an England international cricketer - and one warms to him increasingly - is another matter).

After 17 innings as a one-day player he has scored more runs (844) than any other batsman, ahead of Kevin Pietersen, his fellow South African Englishman (804) and Viv Richards (798). Trott has two innings to reach 1000 more quickly.

And in Tests, Trott has scored 1600 runs in his 30 innings so far, behind only Herbert Sutcliffe (1904) and Wally Hammond (1697) but ahead of another legend, now in fourth place, Jack Hobbs (1558).

Plunkett tops up air miles

Liam Plunkett seemed to take in his stride the journey which brought him to Perth to join England from St Kitts in the Caribbean where he was with the England Lions. He is a regular Atlantic commuter and he and his American girlfriend have bought a house in West Chester, Pennsylvania.