IPL is the real deal, says Warne

Shane Warne has hailed his Indian Premier League experience as the most exciting chapter of a 20-year career.

He has also urged authorities to impose an annual two-month freeze on international cricket in deference to the Twenty20 competition.

The champion leg-spinner retired from international cricket two years ago but is still the playing coach of the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, and led the unfancied team to the championship in the competition’s inaugural season last year.

Warne said cricketing nations, led by the International Cricket Council, must agree on a two-month window in annual match scheduling to ensure players are not forced to choose between club and country.

"I think for world cricket, (because of) the IPL for April and May, there should be no international cricket, and all the players around the world should be involved," Warne said yesterday.

"In 20 years of playing — I got in the state squad in 1987-88 for Victoria — I haven’t experienced anything like what I experienced in India last year. It was truly unbelievable. The Ashes (in) ‘05 comes pretty close to the intensity of the crowd and the passion and the news and everything, but we were getting 110,000 at Eden Gardens … there were 25,000 people outside the ground for the final, plus 90,000 in the stadium."

While international players signed to the IPL last season were able to opt out of matches in India when their country was playing matches, recent IPL rule changes will prevent franchises (clubs) from signing temporary replacement players. This will increase the pressure on elite players to honour their lucrative IPL contracts, even if it means boycotting their national team.

"When you consider that most international cricketers are being paid far more by the IPL than by their home boards, for significantly less cricket, this won’t be a terribly difficult decision," Australian Cricketers’ Association chief executive Paul Marsh said last month.

The issue of match scheduling is being discussed by Cricket Australia and the ACA in their negotiations over a new memorandum of understanding, which is effectively an enterprise bargaining agreement between CA and its international and state cricketers.

"The Australian players, hopefully they can come to some sort of compromise and everyone is able to play," Warne said.

"I think for the players, they have to have that opportunity to earn (all) the money they can possibly make, but also to sell the brand of cricket worldwide. Twenty20, I believe, is one of the best forms to do that."

The 39-year-old did, however, endorse CA’s decision to block Australian one-day squad members David Hussey, Cameron White and James Hopes from leaving the squad temporarily to play in tonight’s domestic Twenty20 preliminary final between Queensland and Victoria.

The winner of that match will join NSW in qualifying for the the $7.6 million Twenty20 Champions League tournament.

"I think the country should come first … and if the Australian selectors and the captain believe it’s the best thing for Australia that David Hussey and Cameron White have to play for Australia, well then, that’s what we have to do," Warne said.

"But as a Victorian I would love them to play for Victoria, and because it’s a Twenty20 game it’s not going to take a lot out of them … they’ve still got a lot of time to prepare.

"But if they get injured, then what do you do?

"Imagine if Cameron White and David Hussey both got injured — there’d be uproar, (with people) saying ‘Why did you let them play’? so I can see both sides of the argument on why they should and why they shouldn’t, but it’s just disappointing that it’s fallen the way that it has." (The Age)

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