Cow Corner

IPL looms large over county season

Cow Corner

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There's barely been time for half the captains in international cricket to fall on their swords, and scarcely enough for India's collective post-World Cup victory hangover to ease - but we're all set for another seven-week tournament in India.

Players will therefore do their best to pretend that they are not suffering from burnout and rouse themselves for the prospect of travelling to India to play a string of Twenty20 matches for rupees aplenty.

After much wrangling, the IPL organisers have got rid of chairman Lalit Modi, brought in two new teams (Kochi and Pune), excluded two more (Rajastan and Punjab) - only to reinstate them - then held an auction where all the players who had spent three years with a team were up for grabs once again.

Confused? With no real history or sense of tradition, sycophantic commentators and commercialism so thinly-veiled that it makes England's Premier League look somewhat Victorian, it's no surprise that fans in the UK have struggled to embrace the format.

If it's any consolation, the IPL doesn't much miss England's participation. Despite England reigning as world Twenty20 champions, just seven of our players were offered contracts for this year's bonanza.

And of those, Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and Dimitri Mascarenhas have already been ruled out of the tournament through injury.

That leaves just Eoin Morgan (Kolkata Knight Riders), Owais Shah (Kochi), Michael Lumb (Deccan Chargers) and Paul Collingwood (Rajastan Royals - once he has recovered from knee surgery).

And yet, despite the sense that the cricket is just one ingredient in the IPL 'package', the sport itself has been of a standard worth celebrating.

The opportunity to watch Sachin Tendulkar in partnership with the likes of Kieron Pollard at Mumbai Indians, for instance, before seeing Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh weave spells with the ball is too good to miss.

Witnessing the Indian summers of legends of the game such as Shane Warne at Rajastan Royals and Adam Gilchrist, now at Kings XI Punjab having won the tournament with Deccan, is also something irresistible - not just for fans, but for players.

You'll not catch Brian Lara, for instance, considering coming out of retirement for another spell in county cricket.

That truth will sit rather uncomfortably, as the county season starts on the same day as the IPL fireworks.

What hope does a cold April morning in Chelmsford have when on the same day the Chennai Super Kings, led by MS 'I've won the World Cup this week, what have you done?' Dhoni take on the Kolkata Knight Riders featuring, amongst others, Jacques Kallis, Yusuf Pathan, Eoin Morgan, Brad Haddin and Brett Lee?

We're entering the county season with something of a whimper on the back of the Ashes and the World Cup, and the IPL is hardly helping keep the average fan's attention on the latest goings-on at Derbyshire.

It says something that even Sky, who are the game's principal source of income, ran a 30-minute report on the county game's 'cash crisis' this week - hardly a ringing endorsement of the sport's health.

For all the financial problems, and the interminable and illogical domestic schedule, somehow exciting stories still manage to blossom.

Last year's three-way race for the County Championship title was one of the best in recent times - and who could forget the final of the T20, where Hampshire triumphed over Somerset by virtue of having lost one fewer wicket?

So two sets of competitions in very different places with very different circumstances, riddled with flaws in their format, will get under way in earnest.

But somehow, despite all those grumbles and the seemingly obvious ways to improve them, there'll be more than enough compelling cricket to keep the ardent fan coming back for more.

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TWEETS OF THE WORLD CUP FINAL: (1) "Serious peeps,please update me with scores!!! As u know time difference clash with my fun!! Or sleeping..so won't be able to keep up! 1 Luv!"

(2) "Thanks peeps, not home yet!4am now...just chatting...nothing change won't able to watch..re mem peeps 1 nation under god!!! Holla soon!!"

(3) "Thanks peeps for update just reach home an saw 63-2..don't know how long I can hold sleep :-)This mate be a long sleep so let me know result"

(4) "Congratulation in orders India!!! Big up!! Well Played Sri Lanka!!! Sweet Azz Final!!! Drinks on me."

Chris Gayle keeps up with the events from Mumbai - that's (a) the most important one-day cricket match played in the last four years and (b) the final of a tournament he himself was playing in just a week and a half prior.

A post-cricket career in punditry surely awaits. 

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