London [UK], May 31 : England director of cricket Andrew Strauss has defended his decision to allow his side's key players to participate in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) despite their subsequent injury concerns.
All-rounder Ben Stokes returned from his impressive maiden IPL stint to guide his side to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in three-match ODI series against South Africa.
However, the England all-rounder was rested for the third and the final ODI as he was carrying a minor niggle in his knee and, therefore, the national side did not want to risk him ahead of the Champions Trophy.
Woakes, on the other hand, is nursing a quad niggle and played only one match against South Africa. Defending his decision to send players to India despite knowing that they need to remain fit for the upcoming marquee tournament, Strauss said that the vital experience gained from sending the country's players to the IPL outweighed the risk of them picking up injuries during the T20 tournament.
While Strauss expressed his confidence that both players would be fit in time for their opening Champions Trophy clash against Bangladesh on Thursday, there is a possibility that Stokes will be fit to play only as a specialist batsman.
"The players who have gone over there have benefitted massively from the experience. We've seen that already with the maturity that Ben is playing with the bat. And it looked like he's improved his bowling at the death tremendously, too," ESPNcricinfo quoted Strauss as saying.
"I think Chris Woakes was saying that to go there, to learn from the best players in the world and pit themselves against the best players in the world...they come back from that experience knowing they're as good as anyone out there.
The deep-rooted belief they get from that is massively important," he added. Insisting that his players have had always benefitted from IPL, Strauss said that he took the decision to send them keeping in mind their preceding mediocre performances in white-ball cricket.
"I've always seen the massive advantages of our players going out there. And that was on the back of us under-performing in white-ball cricket for year after year after year, and clearly falling behind some of the other teams," he said.
The England director of cricket further pointed out that injuries are part and parcel of life, adding that sometime one needs to take the risk in order to gain the potential benefits.
"Injuries are part and parcel of life, but on one hand you weigh-up the potential risk and on the other you ask what they can potentially gain from that experience.
That's what forms the decision," he said. "Thankfully I don't think any of those injuries are of massive concern at this stage. It's very much precautionary that they're not playing at this stage. We want them to hit the ground running in the Champions Trophy," Strauss concluded. Hosts England will begin their Champions Trophy campaign against Bangladesh on June 1 at the Oval..