ABU DHABI // England and Sri Lanka are on a collision course with their own players after organising a Test series at the same time as next year's Indian Premier League is due to take place. England players were angry after being denied the chance to take part in this year's event due to domestic commitments.
But, barely a week after the International Cricket Council's annual conference in Dubai, where it was decided to safeguard the interests of Test and one-day formats from the onslaught of Twenty20, the Test series could develop into a major headache for both boards. Despite knowing that the IPL will be held from April 10 to May 29, the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has decided to visit England for a tour of two Tests and three ODIs from April 21 to May 30.
Several Sri Lankan players are part of the IPL's eight franchisees while the English players clearly seemed to have pressurised the England Cricket Board (ECB) to allow them to play next year. There are already reports that Kevin Pietersen is being offered $4million (Dh15m) for a three-year contract while a Texas billionaire, Allen Stanford, will be rolling out a five-match series with the West Indies with each English player expected to bag another $1m if he turns up on the winning side.
The move has upset the Sri Lankans, who have voiced their protest with their government authorities after being at loggerheads with the board yesterday. The players have not been paid since February and were already threatening not to play in the home series with India. Surprisingly, almost all member boards of the ICC had anticipated such clashes of dates and had requested the world body to create a window for the IPL. Yet, while the IPL dates were announced in advance, the cash-strapped Sri Lankan board agreed to tour England after the latter decided to suspend ties with Zimbabwe and cancelled their 2009 visit.
The ICC reiterated that the decision had nothing to do with the world body's proposed calendar - the Future Tours Programme (FTP) - the ECB claimed that it went ahead because it was obligated to play and had clarified with the ICC before signing the deal with Sri Lanka. Colin Gibson, the ECB spokesman, added: "There is not much of a clash with the IPL. I don't think our players will have a problem."
However, Brian Murgatroyd, the ICC spokesman, said: "According to the FTP, the countries are obligated to play each other once, which Sri Lanka and England have already done. Sri Lanka went to England in 2006 and England toured there in the winter last year. Any other tour decided between two bilateral countries is up to them." Following the players' revolt, the sports minister Mahinda Rajapakse has reportedly asked Arjuna Ranatunga, the SLC chairman, to change the dates or decline the tour. When contacted, Ranatunga was in a meeting.
While the ICC reiterated that the Test and one-day forms of the game need to be revived with the active support of its member countries - the Lankan tour can be seen as a step in that direction - the Council has also admitted that there is need to reinvent the one-day form of the game and the one day format could be tinkered with a 40-40 one, subject to discussion in the coming days. The ICC will also hold its next year's annual meeting back at Lord's, the president David Morgan confirmed yesterday.