England line up West Indies to replace Sri Lanka in 2009

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The Independent Online

The England and Wales Cricket Board are lining up the West Indies to play in a two-Test series against Kevin Pietersen's side in May 2009. Sri Lanka are scheduled to tour England during the period but it is becoming increasingly likely that the series will be cancelled.

The ECB invited Sri Lanka to replace Zimbabwe when the government stated that it would refuse to issue visas to the African side. The invitation was accepted without the Sri Lankan Cricket Board (SLC) speaking to its players, who had already signed contracts to play in next year's Indian Premier League, an extremely lucrative Twenty20 tournament that coincides with the tour.

Government officials in Sri Lanka stated that the 13 players signed by the IPL should be allowed to honour their agreements in India, a decision that would result in England playing against a second-string Test side at Lord's and Chester-le-Street. Members of the SLC are currently meeting with IPL officials in Bangkok and a decision on what players tour England in seven months time is imminent.

If the West Indies tour England next spring they will cancel their four-Test tour of the country in 2010. Pakistan or South Africa are possible replacements.

This is not the only piece of reorganising the ECB will have to complete before it announces next summer's fixture list. The recently postponed Champions Trophy will now be played in September, at a time Sir Allen Stanford's proposed international quadrangular winner-takes-all $10m tournament, involving England, a Stanford XI and two invitational sides at Lord's, was expected to take place. The event will now be shoehorned in between the proposed Test series against the West Indies and the Twenty20 World Cup.

The reason for England's recent desire to link up closely with West Indies cricket is twofold. There is a genuine wish to regenerate cricket in the West Indies. In reply the ECB would like to have the West Indies Cricket Board's vote at ICC meetings, a ticket that could potentially reduce India's control over the world game.