Shane Warne yesterday retired from county cricket to spend more time with his family. But he will fulfil his contract in the billion-dollar Indian Premier League where he will earn more than £200,000 in six weeks.
It was further confirmation of the hold that the IPL is likely to exert, at least on players, in the years to come and anybody who still doubts that a cricket revolution is at hand ought quickly to revise their opinion, or be left behind floundering in the old world awaiting their P45.
Nobody would doubt Warne's desire to see more of his three young children, something precluded by spending five months in England leading Hampshire, which he had been expected to do again this summer. Six weeks in India as coach and captain of the Rajasthan Royals in 14 Twenty20 matches, however, is a different proposition, especially when allied to the rewards – he was signed for an annual salary of $450,000 (£224,000). Not easy money exactly but more than cricketers, even of Warne's exotic vintage, have ever been paid.
Warne's decision was the third announcement of the day to illustrate the profound influence of the IPL before a ball has been bowled. Five New Zealand cricketers were given permission to miss the start of their country's tour of England so they can play in the first few IPL matches.
And Lalit Modi, the IPL's commissioner and master of the mischievous soundbite, said he would be prepared to move the IPL season forward to give English players the opportunity to take part. This offer, though no names were mentioned, was met with a pretty stern rebuke by Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, who said: "We are not interested in people playing in the IPL."
The Kiwi quintet comprises the team's captain, Daniel Vettori, who was signed by the Delhi Daredevils last month for an annual salary of $625,000 (£312,000) in addition to his initial fee.
He will be joined on a late plane to England by Brendon McCullum (Kolkata Knight Riders, $700,000), Jacob Oram (Madras Super Kings, $675,000), Kyle Mills (Punjab Kings, $150,000), and Ross Taylor (Bangalore Royal Challengers, $100,000).
They will miss the tour's traditional curtain-raiser at Arundel Castle, against MCC, a setting and occasion which might as well be on a different planet from the activities running concurrently in India. They will also be absent from the first of three three-day games before the First Test, against Kent at Canterbury, but will arrive in time for the other two.
As they will be able to play only three or four of their sides' IPL fixtures their pay will be adjusted accordingly but that still means six-figure sums in sterling for three of them. Justin Vaughan, the chief executive of the New Zealand Cricket and himself a former international player, spoke eminent sense when he talked of the compromise, agreed not least because the IPL was not in existence when the tour itinerary was agreed.
"The IPL has the ability to retain players in the international game and has our full support," Vaughan said. "The global cricket landscape is changing rapidly and we must be flexible enough to change with it – while protecting the integrity of the international game."
It could be argued, of course, that allowing your captain not to show up at the start of the tour when the team both bed down and meets their hosts for the first time is indeed disrupting the integrity. But Vaughan obviously saw the sums involved and worked out both that the New Zealand board could never begin to match them and therefore that two warm-up games were enough for the five players, all of whom will play in the first Test at Lord's starting on 15 May. If any of them are injured playing in the IPL, who knows what might be said.
Whatever the logic of Vaughan's assessment, it is difficult to think that his namesake, Michael, would be allowed as England captain to miss the start of an England tour to play in the IPL or any other foreign competition. Indeed, Clarke virtually said as much, in comments that were probably (one hopes) not meant to be as intransigent as they looked in print.
Clarke told the BBC that no England player would want to go the IPL and that the ECB would certainly not change the domestic calendar to suit the it.
"We're not getting any pressure from anyone to play in the IPL," Clarke said. "I don't think the rewards being talked about are particularly ones the England players would be interested in. Should any player give up his English contract – which is not an insignificant amount of money, let alone all the extra methods of earning money that go along with that – he would, of course, risk losing his England place. We play international cricket during the time the IPL is on and most players don't want to lose their international place."
Modi said that he would like to see lots of English players in the IPL but was clearly not in antagonistic mood. He recognises that the IPL could not exist without stars created in international cricket (though where it will leave Test cricket is the question to which the potential answer worries everybody).
"I know a lot of them are interested but we don't want to conflict with the English season. If that means we have to move our matches a few weeks in advance, we would be happy to do that to accommodate the top English players."
Despite the razzmatazz, there is no guarantee that the IPL will be a success, although not for the lack of effort. In the Chepauk Stadium in Madras this week a Test match is taking place between India and West Indies. It has been pretty well attended but the only cricket being advertised is the advent on 23 April of the Super Kings – complete with M S Dhoni and Muttiah Muralitharan.
Five Kiwis to snub England
Daniel Vettori Left-arm spinner and best Twenty20 bowler on the planet – as he showed at world event in South Africa. A shoo-in for Delhi.
Brendon McCullum First pick in any one-day side anywhere, a two-for-one cricketer and a blasting improviser with 121 Twenty20 strike rate.
Jacob Oram All-rounder with devastating run rate, who will also bowl reliably and field smartly, which explains the high £340,000 fee.
Ross Taylor Growing into international cricket, not a big hitter but range of shots, favouring leg, will serve him well. Reserve.
Kyle Mills Line, length and bounce makes him worthy recruit after overcoming long injury absence. Reserve.
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