Andrew Strauss believes letting England stars such as Ben Stokes play in the Indian Premier League is worth any potential injury risk.
All-rounder Stokes, paid a record $2.16 million to take part in this year’s IPL, was named the tournament’s most valuable player after helping Rising Pune Supergiant reach the knockout phase in the cash-rich Twenty20 competition.
He returned to hit a match-winning hundred as England clinched a one-day international series victory over South Africa at Southampton on Saturday.
But he only bowled five overs in two matches against the Proteas and was rested from Monday’s seven-wicket defeat at Lord’s with a knee injury, having already had surgery last year.
Chris Woakes, also recently returned from the IPL, missed both the Southampton and Lord’s matches because of a thigh muscle problem, although he and Stokes, together with Moeen Ali (groin), are all expected to face Bangladesh in England’s Champions Trophy opener at the Oval on Thursday.
England and Wales Cricket Board director Strauss is well aware of the already packed schedule confronting players who remain solely on international duty, but said what those who appeared in the IPL learnt outweighed the chance of an injury.
“That is the slight risk you take when you make people available for a chunk of cricket that is outside the international schedule,” he explained.
“Injuries are part and parcel of the life generally, but on one hand you weigh up the potential risk and on the other you ask what they can potentially gain from that experience.”
Strauss played down concerns about the fitness of Stokes and Woakes by saying: “Thankfully I don’t think any of those injuries are of massive concern at this stage.”
With white-ball cricket an early season priority given England are hosting the Champions Trophy, the ECB changed course this year by letting star men take part in the IPL.
But former England captain Strauss said he would be reluctant to let senior players go to the IPL if it meant they were unavailable for Test duty.
“When you get to the stage where you’re missing Test matches to play in IPL that sends out a very strong message about where your priorities are – and I would be uncomfortable with that.”
Strauss said trying to balance a player’s commitments was no simple task in an era of franchise cricket.
“It’s not an easy one to navigate our way through,” he admitted.
“I think the players who have gone over (to India this year) and played a number of games have benefited massively from the experience.
“(But) we’ve always got to balance that great opportunity for them with the schedules and workloads and the importance of us peaking for important series as an international team.”
‘No margin for error’
England have never won a major one-day international trophy but Strauss, who has put a renewed emphasis on white-ball cricket since taking up his ECB role, was upbeat about their Champions Trophy chances.
“We’ve match-winners from one to seven, so I think other teams will look at us and think they’re up against dangerous opposition,” he said.
“But one thing we do know about the Champions Trophy is that there’s no margin for error.
“You can’t afford any bad days, so you’re a little bit in the lap of the gods.”
Monday saw England collapse to 20 for six at Lord’s as South Africa’s pacemen made the most of cloud cover.
But former opening batsman Strauss was happy with the dynamic way England have played the 50-over game under white-ball captain Eoin Morgan since a woeful first-round exit from the 2015 World Cup
“When you’re trying to play a high-tempo, more positive, aggressive style of play, at the back of your mind, you almost have to accept you’re going to get it wrong now and again and you’re going to have some bad days along the way,” he said.