While Kevin Pietersen has a point when he says the lucrative £1.4m Indian Premier League (IPL) contract handed to Twenty20 specialist Tymal Mills this week is a slap in the face for Test cricket, I believe it’s predominantly positive for the game.
Some domestic players work hard day in, day out for their counties, striving to reach the next level, yet go their whole careers without earning as much as pace bowler Mills will during six weeks at the IPL.
There are dangers of Test cricket fading and the headlines we’ve seen in the last few days do threaten that format further, highlighting the need for cricket authorities to find ways of making it more appealing.
But what has happened to Mills and Ben Stokes, who became the highest paid overseas player in IPL history, promotes the game and shows youngsters that life-changing amounts of money are not the preserve of football.
We also have to accept that cricket has changed and this is a natural progression. The Big Bash League in Australia is another domestic league which is immensely popular and often attracts bigger crowds than international games. Twenty20 cricket is growing and its advance has to be embraced.
I’m pleased for Mills personally. A spinal injury pushed him close to retirement not so long ago and he has worked hard to get himself back on the pitch, although he can only play T20 these days.
The 24-year-old probably doesn’t earn a huge amount at Sussex but has now got his reward. It’s also pleasing to see a bowler, and not just batsmen, go for big money.
Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Jason Roy, Sam Billings and Chris Jordan will also feature in the IPL this year, which goes to showss just how far English one-day cricket has progressed in recent years. In the not so distant past, it was only really Pietersen and Morgan who were consistently being picked by the franchises.
I also applaud the attitude of the England and Wales Cricket Board in encouraging players to go and play in these overseas competitions, and also for permitting Stokes, Buttler and Woakes to miss the one-day series with Ireland in May – a good call.
Playing in alien conditions in the IPL, under the maximum amount of pressure, will be far more beneficial than playing for their counties or against Ireland, and better preparation for June’s Champions Trophy.
Such attitudes are a few years too late. Pietersen used to scream that players should be allowed to play in the IPL. It’s happened now and we’re seeing how much it is aiding the international side in white-ball cricket.
Another factor to consider in this is that swollen bank accounts can have knock-on effects. When Pietersen was picked up for £1m by the Bangalore Royal Challengers during the 2009 IPL auction, there probably was a bit of jealously in the England dressing room.
Even though other members of the squad were making good money themselves, earning a massive pay packet over a six-week period allows you to live a completely different lifestyle to someone on £100,000 or £200,000 a year.
There might be a bit of jealousy with Stokes after his £1.7m deal to join the Rising Pune Supergiants but I think it will be channelled in the right way by what looks a very content English dressing room.
He might buy a couple of nice cars or houses, whatever he wants, but it should act as motivation. He’s shown his talent and been offered a life-changing deal; it could happen to others.