The Indian Premier League starts just as the Specsavers County Championship ushers in the new summer season, begging the age-old question, is there too much cricket?
For the past few years the BBC have provided to live ball-by-ball radio coverage of every Championship match and along with Sky Sport’s coverage of the IPL we, as consumers of sport, have never had so much choice.
For the English cricket fan, IPL 10 has more homegrown interest than previous years. Many will watch with interest to see how the aggression, the passion and the celebrity will affect newbies Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Tymal Mills.
Their stars will take on further significance as two of the tournament’s biggest names have suffered injuries in the build up. India captain, and the ultimate Indian Premier League celebrity, Virat Kohli damaged his shoulder in the final Test against Australia, ruling him out of the first week of IPL duty. His Royal Challengers Bangalore teammate, AB de Villiers is suffering with a back injury and will be a notable absence from the tournament.
Without Kohli or de Villiers, the IPL’s most expensive foreign player in history, Ben Stokes will surely be under an ever-stronger spotlight than before, filling the boots of ‘celebrity signing’ left vacant by his Indian and South African counter-parts.
Beyond their newfound celebrity, the IPL is also likely to change the playing style of Stokes, Woakes and Mills.
Chris Woakes may very well develop more consistent aggression, like that seen during the Lord’s Test against Pakistan when he took 11 for 102 last year. Ben Stokes will have to cope with scenarios not dissimilar to his over against Carlos Brathwaite in World T20 final becoming the norm.
The power of the IPL to mold a player is, in a way, its greatest selling point.
Mitchell Johnson, for example, rediscovered the speed and aggression that crippled England in the 2013/14 Ashes series. With the Mumbai Indians Johnson morphed into a bowler unfazed by pedigree or class, the constant exposure to the world’s best batsman ultimately led to Johnson bowling consistently unplayable spells.
It is the prospect that Stokes, Woakes and Mills may take a similar path to Mitchell Johnson and change for the better that has lead the ECB to relax its views on players missing First Class cricket.
Despite the absence of the eight English players contracted to franchise teams, the County Championship, in its opening weekend, promises its own intriguing battles.
Essex play their first Division One match since 2010 against Lancashire, pitching Alastair Cook against James Anderson, in his first outing as a specialist long format batsmen and nothing more.
Neither Jonny Bairstow nor Joe Root, England’s new Test captain, have been selected to play in Yorkshire’s opening game against Hampshire. The ECB advising that, whilst both are available for the first three games of the Championship, the pair should be rested after a busy winter.
England’s trips to Bangladesh and India also reminded us that the Championship plays an important training role for England’s next generation of stars. Few could have imagined that quite so many of England’s stars of tomorrow would have been called upon at such so early in their careers.
As Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed and Durham’s Keaton Jennings out-classed their more experienced peers in the subcontinent, it reminded us that the Championship is where these young players become the stars we see on the international stage.
Like the Indian Premier League, the English four-day competition also has intrigue, passion and exceptional cricket in bucket loads, only without the flashes of cameras and screaming fans.
The fact that both tournaments are so vastly different from one-another, each representing a different extreme of cricket, means that we should relish having such diversity at our fingertips.
With all our gadgets and gizmos surely we, now more than ever, can make time for cricket – let’s have our cake and eat it!