Alec Stewart, Surrey’s director of cricket, has lent his weight to calls for the ECB to consider a cut-off date for future call-ups to the IPL, after his team’s early-season plans were thrown “out of the window” due to the last-minute departure of Tom Curran to Kolkata Knight Riders.
Though Curran went unsold at his base price of USD156,000 during the IPL auction in February, his stock as a limited-overs allrounder rose considerably during England’s subsequent ODI series win in New Zealand.
And, when Mitchell Starc was ruled out of this year’s campaign due to a shin injury, KKR swooped for Curran in a USD253,000 deal. Barely a week later, he made his debut against Chennai Super Kings at Chepauk, and has impressed his new employers with three wickets in two appearances to date.
While Stewart did not begrudge his player either the pay packet or the high-pressure experience that he accepts will help mould Curran into a better player, he bridled at the timing of his departure, just days before the start of a County Championship campaign in which he had been expected to be a pivotal player.
Curran’s departure was one of three high-profile call-ups from the county circuit this month, preceding Yorkshire’s twin losses of David Willey and Liam Plunkett to Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Daredevils respectively, and the subject was the hot topic of discussion at last week’s crisis meeting of county coaches at Edgbaston.
“It’s far from ideal losing Tom so late,” Stewart said. “I hope in time this will be looked at. The IPL is not going anywhere – I fully understand players wanting to be part of it because, one, it’s a good competition and, second, it helps your bank balance.
“The problem is when you get the phone calls I got for Tom, and Martyn Moxon [Yorkshire’s director of cricket] got for Willey and Plunkett. Your planning goes out of the window.”
“Tom will come back a better player so I don’t have a real issue with it, but the issue is who controls the players – are they our players or are they IPL players?”
Alec Stewart, Surrey director of cricket
The fact that the IPL overlaps with the start of the county season has long been a bone of contention for the ECB, who were resistant to allowing their players to take part in the tournament for most of the first decade of its existence.
But now, having relaxed their attitude towards English involvement, an alternative problem is rearing its head – given that the players’ efforts to get ready for the English season make them obvious oven-ready replacements for IPL franchises seeking to replace injured players.
“All I think needs to be looked at is a cut-off, ideally a month before the championship starts,” Stewart said. “If you get picked up in the auction, that’s fine – it’s at the end of February, so that’s six or seven weeks before the start of the season.
“Then everyone knows that, even if you don’t get picked up in the auction, there’s a three- or four-week window, but once that has gone, you can’t then go and play.”
Stewart believes that the matter has been complicated by blurred lines of communication between the players, the counties, the ECB and the franchises, and says that a redrafting of the No Objection Certificate is the only way to prevent the situation being presented to the counties as a fait accompli.
“How it should work is that IPL phone the ECB to ask about a player, and the ECB talk to the county. That’s how it is meant to work – but it doesn’t, though, because the franchise will ring the player or agent direct to see if they are interested and, once they are told the money, they always are – so you have to let them go.”
“That needs to go on the No Objection Certificate, so that the IPL know and the franchises know that’s the deal and the players understand as well. Otherwise it leaves us in a bit of a mess.
“Tom will come back a better player so I don’t have a real issue with it, but the issue is who controls the players – are they our players or are they IPL players? They are under contract [to the counties] for 12 months, so I would argue they are ours. We should have more control than just saying ‘I guess you are going then’.”
A further complication stems from what Stewart believes is insufficient compensation to those counties who lose out when their star players are snapped up by the IPL – an issue that came to light when Plunkett, who is on an ECB white-ball contract, was approached by Delhi earlier this month.
“We have discovered that the ECB have been receiving 10% of the overall contract a player gets from IPL for a number of years and this year it is 20%,” he said. “I hope that it will now be looked at – now that we are aware that this has been happening, which we weren’t before.
“Should the ECB be keeping that? Or should that money come back to the county, who are the ones who miss out? I personally believe all that money should come back to the county if you are not an ECB contracted player because of the money that has been invested.”