IPL franchises had enquired about Topley but change to rules meant he had to stay with Surrey
A new cut-off date for county players to sign IPL contracts stopped Reece Topley becoming a late injury replacement in this year’s competition.
In 2018, county coaches and directors of cricket called a crisis meeting at Edgbaston after Liam Plunkett, David Willey and Tom Curran became last-minute injury replacements for franchises. Their involvement ruled them out of the start of the County Championship season and prompted Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket, to call for the competition to be “future-proofed” via a cut-off date, after which county players would be unable to sign deals to be replacement players.
ESPNcricinfo understands that a cut-off date of February 28 – 10 days after the auction – was agreed for this season, with a similar arrangement likely to follow in future years. The date applied to players who draw their primary salary from their county rather than from the ECB, meaning Jason Roy – who has a white-ball central contract – was able to join Sunrisers Hyderabad in March as a replacement for Mitchell Marsh.
In Topley’s case, the change in regulations denied him the opportunity to join Chennai Super Kings after Josh Hazlewood’s withdrawal, with the franchise ultimately signing Jason Behrendorff instead. It is understood that Topley was also contacted by Rajasthan Royals about the prospect of a trial after it became clear that Jofra Archer would not be available for the start of the season through injury.
“There was an opportunity to go out” Topley said. “It’s unfortunate – I was really keen to go, but there’s something in place that means English county players can’t go out as replacements. Jason went but he’s contracted to the ECB, whereas I’m contracted to Surrey, and I fell under that rule. It was something I’d have liked to have done but those are the rules.”
Topley’s unavailability for the IPL has seen him play two out of Surrey’s first three Championship fixtures, taking match figures of 6 for 126 against Gloucestershire in the first round of games and 4 for 61 against Middlesex at Lord’s last week. He had bowled in only three first-class games since 2015 ahead of the season following a series of serious injuries, but his height (6ft 8in) and left-arm angle makes him a possible wildcard inclusion for this winter’s Ashes squad – particularly with England likely to bring an enlarged touring party and the prospect of him replicating Mitchell Starc’s threat in the nets.
“I’m fortunate to be playing and I don’t take it for granted at all,” he said. “Whatever the format, the batsman or the scenario, it’s just amazing to be playing. [My involvement at Surrey] is on a week-by-week basis but I feel great. Obviously the long-term plan is the T20 World Cup at the end of the year and that’s my main focus, but with this huge chunk of Championship cricket at the start of the season I really want to contribute towards winning games for Surrey.”
More immediately, England players look set to continue their participation in this season’s IPL despite the ongoing public health emergency in India. Players returning to the UK would have to quarantine for 10 days in a designated hotel following India’s addition to the travel red list – there is no exemption for elite sportspeople – with Liam Livingstone opting to return last week just before the change in status. Livingstone has been quarantining at home, and is likely to play for Lancashire in the Championship at some point in the next few rounds.
An ECB spokesperson told the PA news agency: “We continue to monitor and work with the players on an individual basis. We are offering advice daily to those that seek it. Our thoughts are with the people of India during these difficult times.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98