Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting admits England's decision to allow limited-overs stars Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler to remain in the Indian Premier League and miss their one-day international series against Ireland 'doesn't sit well' with him.
As part of a more open approach to the IPL, the England and Wales Cricket Board earlier this month allowed Stokes, Buttler as well as Chris Woakes to remain in India for the lucrative T20 tournament instead of representing their country.
The ECB's decision came as a shock to some, with the two-match series – which England won 2-0 – serving as vital preparation for the hosts ahead of next month's Champions Trophy.
Ponting expressed his surprise at the call, suggesting international cricket should remain players' number one priority.
"I don't like to see that, I'd like to think that wouldn't happen with Australian players ever," the former Mumbai Indians coach told cricket.com.au.
"Thinking back through England's history, they've been very protective of their players going to the IPL. They haven't really released them at all ever, I think this is the first time they've ever done it, to miss international cricket.
"If a decision had been made six months ago that those players weren't going to play against Ireland for some reason, then I guess you could understand it a little bit.
"But when I was sitting there watching that one-day game and noticed these other guys are over in India playing in the IPL, it doesn't sit that well with me.
"I'm a bit old-school, a bit of a traditionalist with that sort of stuff. Mainly because playing for your county is what it's all about."
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When asked whether choosing to play in the IPL over the ODI series against Ireland could affect the team's preparation, Ponting replied, "It's a hard one. What is the right preparation for the individual? But what's the right preparation for the team?
"Do you want to have your team (playing) together as much as you can and working on certain roles for players?
"Or do England already know what Stokes can do, and what Buttler can do? To be fair, they probably do.
"It's probably something that will weigh on the individuals' minds as much as anything.
"What do they want to do? Do they want to be mercenaries and play T20 cricket all over the world?
"Or do they want to focus on being the best player they can be for England?
"Yes, there's all sorts of money up for grabs for these guys in this IPL. I'm sure they could have popped home for a week or two (to play against Ireland) and then gone back and finished the last bit of the IPL."
Limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan, along with Sam Billings and Jason Roy, were all recalled from their respective IPL franchises for the two-match series.
Stokes, who was sold to Rising Pune Supergiant for an IPL record AUD$2.8 million at this year's auction, struck his maiden T20 century in the same week as the Ireland series, a blistering 63-ball 103 against Gujarat Lions.
And Ponting concedes the Champions Trophy preparation for Stokes, along with Mumbai pair Buttler and Woakes, may have been boosted by staying in India.
"It's probably better to be fair," Ponting said when asked if the trio were better off than their England teammates for remaining in the IPL.
"They're probably playing a better standard of cricket in the IPL, but it's a different format isn't it.
"It's also a game where you're actually honing your skills, more so in a Twenty20 than you are in 50-over game.
"Stokes, with the way he bowls in a 20-over game, will be exactly how he's going to be expected to bowl at the death in a one-dayer for England.
"And where he's batting in the IPL – he might have to play a slightly longer innings for England in the Champions Trophy in the middle-order.
"But he's all about the last 10-15 overs of a one-day international game anyway, where he can come in and whack the ball at the end."
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Since being eliminated at the group stage of the last 50-over World Cup in 2015, where Ponting says their approach lagged "five years behind" the rest of the world, England have risen to become one of the world's most feared limited-overs outfits.
With many considering the hosts warm favourites for the upcoming Champions Trophy, ex-Test skipper Ponting praised their refreshed white-ball tactics and predicted they'll meet Australia in the final of the ICC showpiece tournament.
"I think it's been more of an attitude thing more than anything," Ponting said of England's rapid one-day rise.
"That starts right at the top with the ECB and the selectors and the way they've gone about picking their side.
"They were five years behind with the players they brought over for the last World Cup. Alastair Cook, he's been a terrific player for a long time but I think the one-day game had passed him by.
"Whereas you look at what they've got now with Roy and (Alex) Hales, Stokes, Buttler, Moeen Ali – they've got some serious players.
"I've predicted them and Australia to be in the final of the Champions Trophy. I think both match similarly, both have good fast-bowling stocks, both have really good dynamic top-order batsmen and good finishers.
"Is it a reflection of them playing more IPL cricket? I don't think so. I just think they've just gone, 'these younger guys here, they've got a lot of talent, we're going to give them a go together, try to keep a group of players together for a long time because we think they can do something pretty special'.
"I think we've seen some of that already over the last couple of years."
Champions Trophy 2017 Guide
Group A: Australia, New Zealand, England, Bangladesh.
Group B: India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan.
26 May – Australia v Sri Lanka, The Oval
27 May – Bangladesh v Pakistan, Edgbaston
28 May – India v New Zealand, The Oval
29 May – Australia v Pakistan, Edgbaston
30 May – New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Edgbaston
30 May – Bangladesh vs India, The Oval
1 June – England v Bangladesh, The Oval (Day)
2 June – Australia v New Zealand, Edgbaston (D)
3 June – Sri Lanka v South Africa, The Oval (D)
4 June – India v Pakistan, Edgbaston (D)
5 June – Australia v Bangladesh, The Oval (D/N)
6 June – England v New Zealand, Cardiff (D)
7 June – Pakistan v South Africa, Edgbaston (D/N)
8 June – India v Sri Lanka, The Oval (D)
9 June – New Zealand v Bangladesh, Cardiff (D)
10 June – England v Australia, Edgbaston (D)
11 June – India v South Africa, The Oval (D)
12 June – Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Cardiff (D)
14 June – First semi-final (A1 v B2), Cardiff (D)
15 June – Second semi-final (A2 v B1), Edgbaston (D)
18 June – Final, The Oval (D)
19 June – Reserve day (D)