Knock county cricket all you like - and, after any England debacle, people invariably do - but a curious phenomenon has recently emerged. International players still playing for their countries have begun to place county before country.
Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakkara, Chaminda Vaas and Younis Khan, none of whom have retired from ODIs, all rejected the chance to play in the frankly irrelevant Warid Cricket Series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan; and, although all but perhaps Khan should be there, none are playing in the Afro-Asian Cup.
It is an unlikely turn of events, but what does it prove? The theory about players playing too much cricket is only partially true. It is not that they are unenthusiastic about playing but that they have little appetite playing in tournaments that will barely register in most cricket-lovers' consciousness. Clearly, they believe too much international cricket is being played in too many places; and, happily, it seems that money is no longer enough to keep them unfailingly on the treadmill.
They will, of course, earn a not insignificant sum playing for their counties. Although the county game is something of a treadmill itself, matches have a greater significance than the plethora of ODIs. The players also clearly want to make a real impact at their counties, devoting themselves to their county’s cause and not continually jetting off to some far-flung location mid-season. In the county game, they will experience a wide array of charming grounds; they will test themselves in a number of conditions against more than 150 players; and they will have the chance to impart their knowledge on younger players. When you add in the fact that pressures are almost entirely cricketing, for the seasoned international it is not much of a contest.
This latest trend is ultimate proof that players are sick of the indecent quantity of international cricket being played today. Players, rather than playing palpably meaningless series, would rather immerse themselves in county cricket, develop a genuine affection for their county and help them to be successful.