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Money talks

In his latest blog David Fulton looks ahead looks ahead to the IPL auction

Pietersen: Million dollar man?

It's long been known that money makes the world go round, but the cricketing world has been spinning faster than an LP on 45, ever since the BCCI launched the Indian Premier League last year.

Like any spinning object if you're in the centre everything seems straightforward. If you're belting around the outside frantically trying to keep up - like the ECB - life can be a whole lot more harrowing.

The IPL was a huge hit first time around. From the pyrotechnics of Brendon McCullum, whose unbeaten 158 in the first match lit up the competition, to a Shane Warne-inspired last-ball win for the Rajasthan Royals in the final, it was a terrific spectacle.

But it was the player auction, which preceded the main event that was the most inspired concept. Suddenly the best in the world were being compared and contrasted, not in some notional, theoretical way but in cold hard currency - US dollars to be precise. It was like a throwback to Roman times where gladiators were haggled over; only this time the men of action got to keep the purse.

The second IPL auction takes place on Friday, February 6 in Goa. After obtaining their "No Objection Certificates" (NOCs) from the ECB many of England's centrally contracted players will be up for grabs.

They will be in the middle of the first Test against the West Indies in Jamaica but could be forgiven for having more than a passing interest in all things IPL. Kevin Pietersen is expected to fetch more than a million dollars, Andrew Flintoff shouldn't be far behind.

Mature

Not all the England players will get places with the franchises. Last year the auction was a free-for-all with each franchise looking to recruit 13-14 players. This year, with teams having signed up many of the same faces, there are gaps for approximately 10-20 overseas players in total. The auction is no less interesting for it, however.

Stuart Broad is one England player who has taken himself out of the IPL equation, preferring to concentrate on cementing his place in the Test side with the Ashes fast approaching. It is a mature decision from an impressive young man, who ought to be earmarked as a captain of the future. His time in the IPL will come.

Four years ago the Ashes was as big as it got for an England cricketer. It was a contest, which captured the imagination of the nation and a series which reverberated around the world. The IPL is legitimately challenging the primacy of Test cricket, however, and it could have repercussions for the Ashes. The game's tectonic plates are shifting.

Thankfully the ECB and the PCA have brokered a deal with the BCCI, which has enabled England's players to remain centrally contracted and compete in the competition. Without this sensible move England's players might have had to choose. Yet where do their priorities lie? For there might come a fateful day when a Flintoff or a Pietersen risks an injury because of the money at stake in the IPL.

Would Flintoff, for example, play in the IPL with his current side niggle. The ECB have the power of veto where injuries and the IPL is concerned but good luck Hugh Morris telling the big man he might have to turn down a million dollars as a precaution for the summer ahead.

Come February 6 it will take something very special from Jamaica to prevent the IPL auction grabbing the cricket headlines. Money talks you know.