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Lumb warns of England's IPL tensions
Michael Lumb, who was one of three England cricketers barred by Nottinghamshire from taking part in the 2013 Indian Premier League, has admitted he considered going freelance rather than miss out on the opportunity to play in the most lucrative event on the growing Twenty20 circuit.
After careful thought, the 33-year-old batsman, part of England's successful T20 side in India and New Zealand over the winter, rejected the idea because he wants to achieve success with Nottinghamshire. But he believes others on the county circuit will choose not to seek full-season contracts if it rules them out of the IPL.
"I think you will see more and more of that with the money being thrown round these leagues, especially among players who don't see themselves playing Test cricket, if the English clubs don't allow their players to go because it clashes with county fixtures," Lumb said.
"I think there is a mood among the players to change things so we do get the opportunity to play. If the rules can be done in such a way that we can take part, we'd like to play. But at the minute that's not going to happen."
Lumb's warning provides a clue to the strong debate taking place in private between the ECB and players' representatives, led by the Professional Cricketers Association, over the rights of England players to compete in IPL rather than be persistently excluded.
Lumb has played in the IPL twice before, notably with Rajasthan Royals in 2010, but along with Alex Hales and Samit Patel, he was told he could not put himself forward for the 2013 player auction because of the fixture clash between IPL 2013, which starts on April 6, and the County Championship, which begins four days later.
Nottinghamshire encourage their players to play competitive cricket during the English close season but were not prepared to lose three players at the start of the domestic programme. They had a contractual right to insist that their players were available for the full county season.
"Our players can play wherever they want to between October 1 and April 10," Nottinghamshire director of cricket Mick Newell said. "I've got no issues with that. We encourage our players to play abroad - Riki (Wessels) went to Bangladesh, Hales and Lumb to the Big Bash and Samit's now got a gig in South Africa. But there has to be a point at which you say 'No, we need all of our best players together now'."
With the English county season continuing until the last week of September, clashing dates mean that no English teams will participate in the Champions League this year. Lumb regards that as another contentious issue, especially after his own success with Big Bash side Sydney Sixers in last year's Champions League, when his unbeaten 82 was the match-winning innings in the final.
"Having no teams in the Champions League is a huge blow for English counties," Lumb said. "I was part of it last year and I know it is a fantastic competition.
"Playing the final at the Wanderers in Johannesburg was great for me because it allowed me to play in my home town and in front of my mum and dad, who had not seen me play for a while. But for any player to play before a full house in a stadium like that is a fantastic buzz.
"As for the IPL, it is disappointing that we can't be involved this year. I can see it may cause a bit of trouble in the future and it something the management and coaches need to sort out.
"I don't know how it will work or if there is a solution. I have thought about going freelance but for me it is not the right thing at the moment. I'm enjoying my cricket right now and enjoying being at Notts, with this group, and I want this group to have success, so for me it is not really an option. But I can see other players looking at it."
Lumb's comments follow Matt Prior's admission that England players are becoming 'frustrated' that central contracts restrict them to being available for only half the IPL because of the clash with Test fixtures. Prior, championed in England at least as the finest wicketkeeper-batsman in the world, but not a part of England's T20 side, was given a base price of $200,000 dollars at the IPL auction but failed to attract a bid, leaving Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan as the only centrally contracted England players in the 2013 tournament.
The Professional Cricketers' Association is pressing the ECB to allow England players to play a fuller part in the event when their central contracts are renegotiated in October, although the ECB is thought unlikely to yield given its commitment to broadcast partners to put on seven Tests every summer. One solution to ease the burden - a six-Test summer - is only debated in private.
Meanwhile, Newell admits he is worried that the likes of Lumb, Hales and Patel, who accepted the county's hard line this year, might not always see his point of view.
"It does concern me," he said. "It is going to come up again regularly and it is an issue the counties have to address.
"Next year, because there is a World t20, the IPL is going to start later and push more into our season, which means it is going to cross over the start of our new t20 competition. Somebody is going to have to have a look at that aspect too.
"I think Hales is a bit young yet to be selling himself around the world but players who are 34 or 35 such as Owais Shah and Ryan ten Doeschate will just do that. And down the line Michael Lumb might want to do it as well."