The 11th edition of the IPL features 12 Englishmen, more than in any previous season, and the Royal Challengers Bangalore paceman Chris Woakes insisted that their participation was “fantastic for the English game”.
The ECB have not always warmed up to the league, given that the start of the County Championship coincides with the tournament. However, in the last few years, there has been a rise in the participation of England players in the tournament.
Woakes turned out for Kolkata Knight Riders in 2017 and was picked up by the Virat Kohli-led Bangalore side for £810,000 during the IPL auctions in January. The 29-year-old medium pacer has, so far, returned a steady eight wickets in four outings this season.
Woakes has Moeen Ali for company in Bangalore, and clashed against Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes during Bangalore’s loss against Rajasthan Royals. On Saturday April 21, Woakes will likely bowl at Jason Roy with the new ball when Bangalore face Delhi Daredevils.
“I think it’s brilliant,” said Woakes at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Thursday. “It’s fantastic for the English game, for those guys to gain experience in such a fantastic tournament, which is the best in the T20 world in my opinion.
“Obviously, it does affect the start of our (county) season a little bit, which has always been a problem in previous years. But they are trying to accommodate that. It’s great that franchises are picking England players. It shows where our white-ball game has come in the last couple of years – guys are getting picked up for large amounts in the auctions, which is great for the game.”
Woakes revealed the England players shared notes as much as possible on the sidelines of the tournament, but admitted there was an incentive to do extra when facing a familiar face.
“Particularly when we play against each other, we catch up for dinner and discuss what’s going on, how they are enjoying it,” said Woakes. “Some guys have more experience than others, so you try to tap into that. The guys try and help each other, but once you come up against each other on the field, obviously you are trying to beat that guy.
“It can be a bit strange sometimes, being in the opposition. You don’t want to be hurt by a teammate on the field. For instance, as a bowler you don’t want them to be smashing you around the park and hitting you into the stands. I suppose it gives you that extra incentive to try and do well, try and get them out or, if you are a batsman, to try and smash them everywhere. It’s always a good little battle when you come up against your teammates from England.”
It has been a tough winter for England, with Test series losses in Australia and New Zealand. Their ODI form has, however, been impressive: they won the five-match series against Australia 4-1 and then saw off New Zealand in a keenly fought series 3-2.
“The English winter was tough,” said Woakes. “Obviously, we played a lot of Test cricket away in Australia and New Zealand, which was hard work.
“I had a really good winter with the white ball, and coming here I felt in good rhythm. It’s been nice to pick up wickets, and would have been nice to go for a few less runs. But that’s the nature of the game. You are going to go for the odd boundary, particularly when you’re bowling in the Powerplay and death overs.”