Alec Swann - The ECB miss the chance to show who’s in charge

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
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The Indian Premier League is something of a thorny issue when it comes to the England cricket team.

The timing of the tournament is one thing, especially given the fact this country is the only major cricketing nation in the northern hemisphere, in fact, it is the only thing.

It takes up a chunk of our season and therefore those who play in it it, obviously, can’t ply their trade in the country where they made their name.

So what you may think, they are professional cricketers and they should be able to earn their money wherever they can find it but this view fails to take into account the issue of contracts and the national team itself.

And if those contracts allow the players in question to put their names forward for the annual sub-continental circus then what’s the problem?

Legally there isn’t one and neither should there be as you can’t offer one thing then decide it’s not the right thing to do, and certainly not once the horse has left it’s stable and bolted for the great big dollar signs.

But, and there has to be a but given what happened in Australia so recently.

A national team in disarray, woefully sub-standard performances, a coach and captain under pressure and the unceremonious downfall of a carefully constructed dynasty of sorts should have wiped the slate completely clean.

And a clean slate should necessitate a regeneration from virtually scratch. You might think.

But you would be wrong.

In a fortnight’s time, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan will take their place in the IPL auction in the hope of picking up a significant sum for a handful of Twenty20 encounters.

If they do get selected by one of the franchises they will miss the first six weeks of the domestic season and be back in this country for a fortnight or so before the first Test against Sri Lanka.

Again, so what, the ECB deals that the players are on - certainly the centrally contracted ones - stipulate this and that should be that.

But, always a but, the drubbing handed out by the Australians has placed the England side in a state of flux with the majority of positions seemingly up for grabs.

Only Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad were consistently of an international standard down under and even they shouldn’t be made to believe their respective spots are guaranteed.

Bring out the brush, dust off the mess, and start all over again.

There are seven rounds of County Championship fixtures before the international summer gets under way and this is where the battles for Test places should be fought out, not on the arid fields of a heaving Indian stadium in a short-form thrash.

Both Stokes and Broad and Jos Buttler, the latter perhaps sensing a very real opportunity, have decided to stay in this country but the aforementioned trio, whether they want to admit it or not, have been seduced by the prospect of a nicely inflated bank balance.

Would it be asking too much of the ECB, in this instance if not permanently, to call their bluff?

To state that, if a Test match spot is what they desire then they will have to earn it and earn it in the Championship.

Morgan, who should really have his eyes set on the number six position, has made his bed in previous years and he gives the impression that he really isn’t too fussed about trying to resurrect a Test career, but the other two are missing a beat to some extent.

Both Bell and Pietersen, who will learn very little from an IPL stint, should be in the XI to face Sri Lanka at Lord’s in early June and they have enough ability to be able to switch from 20-over to five-day batting without too much difficulty, but by pandering to the players’ requests before the Ashes, the ECB have had their backsides bitten by what transpired.

And now, with the ideal situation, albeit unwittingly created, in which to emphasise the standing of the national team, their caving-in won’t allow them to do just that.

The mantra being preached should be one of ‘if you want to play then you play here’ and not ‘if you want to play then make sure you’re back in time.’

A real marker could’ve been laid down, a sign that to fall so far and so quickly isn’t acceptable.

Yet it hasn’t and that’s a pity.