England all-rounder David Willey has insisted playing in this year’s edition of the Indian Premier League was a “no-brainer” even if it put his county contract with Yorkshire at risk. The 28-year-old is adamant he’s a better player for the experience of working under Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming, the former New Zealand captain, even though his stint with the IPL champions amounted to just three games.
Now Willey, the son of the ex-Test batsman and former international umpire Peter Willey, is looking to put that experience to good use by helping England win their first World Cup title when they stage the 2019 showpiece tournament. A call to go to Chennai as an injury replacement came at the start of the English season and meant Willey angered missed several weeks of Yorkshire’s county campaign.
It was a move that angered the Headingley hierarchy, although he has since signed a new Yorkshire deal, but Willey, asked if it had been a difficult decision replied: “It was a no-brainer. You don’t get the chance to go and play in the biggest Twenty20 competition in the world every day. I was threatened with them ripping my contract up – which wasn’t great – but that has all been resolved now.”
Willey, however, said playing in the IPL had seen him learn “a lot from a tactical, mental and skill point of view” in a career that has so far yielded 36 one-day international appearances and 20 in Twenty20 internationals for England.
“I found my love for the game again while I was out there, and I really do think I’ve become a student of the game again,” he added. “I’ve signed another year at Yorkshire – which is going through today – and I still want to play all formats.”
England were certainly glad of Willey’s renewed desire as his ODI-best 35 not out batting at number eight saw them complete a nervy three-wicket win over world champions Australia at The Oval on Wednesday. However, the strength of England’s top order means a promotion is unlikely for Willey, whose main role in white-ball cricket is to take early wickets in his role as left-arm swing bowler.
He struck an blow early at The Oval to have Travis Head caught in the slips with an away-swinger and Willey said he had to be unafraid of conceding runs in the search for wickets.
“I need to make sure I am swinging that new ball and taking wickets inside that powerplay,” he explained ahead of Saturday’s second ODI in Cardiff, where England will look to go 2-0 up in a five-match series.