Sri Lanka seek to reschedule tour as IPL looms large

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The Independent Online

The England and Wales Cricket Board's satisfaction at replacing next season's controversial tour by Zimbabwe with one by Sri Lanka looks to be premature following a rebellion by their putative opponents.

The proposed tour dates, 21 April – 30 May, clash with the lucrative Indian Premier League to which 13 Sri Lankan cricketers are contracted. Following representations by the players to Mahinda Rajapakse, the Sri Lanka president, the sports minister, Gamini Lokuge, was told to ensure that Sri Lanka Cricket propose alternative dates or decline the ECB's invitation.

Yesterday, the SLC decided against forcing the players to tour, accepting they had given a verbal agreement that "the IPL window would be clear in 2009 and 2010". Duleep Mendis, the SLC chief executive, said: "We will be taking up the matter with the England and Wales Cricket Board shortly to find what alternatives we can arrive at without upsetting both parties.

He added: "The players were already committed to playing in the IPL and they have also assured us that they would give the 2011 tour of England top priority ahead of the IPL. Taking these points into consideration we couldn't let them down."

There is a contract – involving three pre-Test warm-up games, two Tests, a one-day county match and three one-day internationals – which the ECB expected Sri Lanka to meet.

Sri Lanka could send a second-string side, which would technically fulfil the obligation but would upset sponsors, supporters, broadcast partners and those England players who would themselves prefer to be playing in the IPL themselves.

One solution would be invite Bangladesh, whose players have few commitments to the IPL. The ECB would thus meet their television-contract obligations, which stipulate a seven-Test summer, and provide a gentle loosener for the Ashes series which follows.

The decision further underlines the threat to Test cricket from the IPL. Yesterday, Haroon Lorgat, chief executive of the International Cricket Council, admitted: "there are inherent conflicts in the situation".

He added: "This a huge challenge. If we don't manage this situation we could be threatening the lifeblood of all member countries. International cricket generates revenue that is essential to the survival of all our members. All of us, players included, must be responsible as we all respond to this time of enormous opportunity."

The inevitable solution, Lorgat hinted yesterday, was a window for the IPL.

* Yorkshire have been thrown out of the Twenty20 Cup after their bowler Azeem Rafiq played in a group match but was not registered and did not have a British passport.

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