David Willey, who led England home after their two batting wobbles in the first one-day international against Australia, has revealed that Yorkshire were so unhappy about his going to this year’s IPL that he “was threatened with them ripping my contract up.”
It used to be a conflict between county and country for an England player’s loyalties and energies. It is now a three or four or even five-way fight between county, country and all the T20 franchises for which an English player signs.
Yorkshire did not carry through with their threat, according to Willey, who was not sold in the original IPL auction but was signed by Chennai Super Kings as a late replacement just as Yorkshire’s season started, hence their ire.
Now harmony has returned, Willey said: “I've signed another year at Yorkshire which is going through today and I still want to play all formats.”
We have come to expect players to champion the IPL when their franchises pay so much: Willey was reported to have signed for CSK for £225,000. Yet Willey, and the others, speak with vehemence about the non-financial benefits of the IPL - which will even extend to Yorkshire, he believes.
“You don't get the chance to go and play in the biggest T20 competition in the world every day so it was a no brainer for me,” Willey said. “I was threatened with them (Yorkshire) ripping my contract up which wasn't great, but that has all been resolved now.
“I think the landscape of the modern game is changing and I do think that counties should try and work with it rather than work against it and look at the longer term picture. These guys who go and play in these competitions around the world, ultimately you would think that their counties will benefit from it, whether it be immediately that summer when they come back and contribute to winning games or whether they go on and help develop youngsters down the line.
“There is no better way for young guys to learn than to play with experienced guys who have played all around the world and I think if counties had that outward look at these competitions as a longer term benefit it would be better for everyone involved. There would be less arguments and fallouts along the way.”
Willey played only three games for CSK, but then Jos Buttler was alone in being a major success among the 12 English players in the IPL. “It was a great experience to be a part of that and having the chance to see how these great internationals of past and present go about their cricket and how they structure their game for T20. I feel like that not only have I found my enjoyment for the game again, I've also learnt a lot from a tactical, mental and skill point of view as well.”
At CSK Willey had Stephen Fleming for head coach and MS Dhoni for captain. “I thoroughly enjoyed Flem's approach,” Willey said. “He treated us like adults, we were given full responsibility for our game and preparation, so ultimately if we don't perform on the field it falls on our own heads. And when it comes to Dhoni, his calmness on the field... I learnt just as much from watching guys like him as I did from the few games I played in.”
So maybe it was no coincidence that the first ODI at the Oval was the first time Willey made a substantial contribution with the bat for England, his unbeaten 31 taking them home with three wickets left. All his best white-ball batting had come at the top of the order for Yorkshire.
“It very often takes me a while to get going when I get out there and when you come into bat at the end you haven't really got the opportunity to take a bit of time and find your feet,” Willey explained. “(The first ODI) allowed me to play in my natural way because the state of the game meant there was plenty of overs left to get the runs so I could play my natural game which suited me. It is a different role and it requires a different set of skills to what I do back at Yorkshire.”
England’s batting is more vulnerable in the absence of Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes, who will both miss the second ODI at Cardiff on Saturday. So it is some compensation that Willey at a critical juncture can now bat with something of Dhoni’s calmness.