English players start push for IPL green light

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The Independent Online

By the end of today, England may be starting to wish that they had never invented Twenty20. The jazzy short form of cricket may have revolutionised the world game – not to mention single-handedly saving the county circuit – but the huge sums of money being thrown at it are now threatening to cause huge ructions in the land of its birth.

The England and Wales Cricket Board and the Professional Cricketers' Association, the cricketers' trade union, will meet today. The sole item up for discussion is Twenty20 and who can play where and when, and the only point on which there is likely to be common accord is that it has been too successful.

If English players are not now allowed to follow the huge amounts of dollars on offer elsewhere on the globe, there is the immediate potential for contract disputes and arguments about restraint of trade. Players are set to resist any moves to curtail their freedom to play where they wish.

Lalit Modi, commissioner of the officially sanctioned Indian Premier League, offered a hint of the acrimony to come yesterday when he told the BBC: "Most of the English players say they'd like to play. We have a huge amount of pressure from the English players to be participating in it."

There is an important distinction between English players and England players. The latter may be centrally contracted and thus legitimately barred by the ECB from playing in the IPL, where salaries of between £75,000 and £750,000 for the six weeks the competition lasts were offered at the player auction in Mumbai last week.

Some English players have been approached by the eight franchises to take part in this year's tournament, which begins on 18 April. They would need permission from their counties but, such are the rewards, they are likely to seek it forcefully – as the PCA knows.

But the IPL will not be the only focus of discussion. There is also the so-called rebel Indian Cricket League, which is deemed to be unauthorised because, unlike its rival, it does not have the approval of the International Cricket Council.

The ICL was formed by Zee TV solely because it had been blocked in its bid to show India's international matches. It was instantly declared as unwanted by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, who retaliated by setting up the IPL and ensuring that millions of dollars were invested in the competition.

Earlier this week the ECB reiterated its veiled warning to players and umpires of the likely consequences of taking part in the ICL.

But that still leaves the officially backed IPL, which has signed most of the world's leading cricketers. Money is likely to end up doing the talking.