Weight of expectation on England stars in IPL

The weight of expectation is firmly on the shoulders of England heavyweights Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen after their high-profile signings for the IPL.

At the player auction for the eight-team Indian Premier League, Flintoff and Pietersen attracted most interest amid a glittering array of global cricket talent on offer.

Big-money franchise employers Chennai Super Kings and the Royal Challengers Bangalore paid a startling 1.55 million dollars apiece to seal the services of Flintoff and Pietersen respectively.

The duo will, however, receive only half their money as England players are available for just the first three weeks before heading home for a Test series with the West Indies.

Other current regular England players who will feature in the IPL include Ravi Bopara (Kings XI Punjab), and Owais Shah and Paul Collingwood (Delhi Daredevils).

Dimitri Mascarenas, who was the sole English representative during last season's inaugural IPL - albeit playing only one match, will again line up for the Shane Warne-coached Rajasthan Royals.

The high-profile signings of Flintoff and Pietersen highlighted the global appeal that both cricketers enjoy and organisers consider essential for the maximum amount of coverage of a tournament moved from India over security concerns.

But the pair also have some work to do to re-establish themselves at world cricket's top table.

Pietersen lost the England captaincy and failed to dominate for much of England's winter tour to the West Indies, while Flintoff's credentials as a true all-rounder currently flounder on a lack of runs and the perpetual threat of another injury.

Flintoff, whose Chennai side includes the likes of Australia's Matthew Hayden, India captain MS Dhoni, New Zealand all-rounder Jacob Oram and Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan, said he intended to become England's spy in a bid to help their World Twenty20 campaign, which runs from June 5-21 in England.

"It's been frustrating with the hip injury, thigh injury and getting hit on the thumb just before the end of the tour of the West Indies and I think the IPL will be good for me," said Flintoff.

"I know I'm only bowling four overs a game, but it will give me a chance to work on my game in between games going into a Test series.

"The Twenty20 World Cup is going to be huge," said the all-rounder. "I'll be watching the likes of Dhoni, who has played a lot of it, and Hayden who had a good IPL last year.

"I will be speaking to a few of the Indian guys and see if I can pick their brains. You'll find players helping each other out."

One concern voiced by many observers is that the IPL is one tournament too many for the England cricketers given their congested summer that includes Test and one-day series against West Indies, the World Twenty20 as well as the Ashes.

"It is a long schedule and everyone is looking forward to the Ashes and making sure everyone is fit for that but I've stressed all along that we have to perform in all the games we're playing," said Flintoff.

He added: "When I stop and start is when my body is at its most vulnerable."

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