Champions League

Counties head for showdown over ICL rebels

Cricinfo staff

June 10, 2008

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Giles Clarke: caught in the crossfire © Getty Images
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Plans for a Twenty20 Champions League this autumn could already be in trouble because of the insistence of Lalit Modi, the IPL's commissioner, that no player with links to the rival ICL will be allowed to take part.

The chairmen of several English counties have demanded clarification over the eligibility of such individuals. Cricinfo has been told by other reliable sources of an agreement under which ICL-contracted players can take part.

"The situation is blurred," Surrey's chief executive, Paul Sheldon, told Cricinfo. "No one can fully explain it at the moment, so we are waiting for clarification. Until we have clarification we are going to play the best side that we can to make sure we get to the finals and have that chance of going through to the Champions' League."

The two finalists of this season's domestic Twenty20 Cup will qualify for the Twenty20 Champions League. As things stand only three counties - Essex, Middlesex and Somerset -have no ICL players in their squads, although as many as five more may not field ICL players in their squads.

Originally, the IPL, backed by the Indian board, demanded that no ICL-contracted players be allowed to take part in any cricket anywhere in the world. But while some boards fell into line, the ECB's tough approach vis-a-vis the counties gradually fell apart, largely through legal threats, and by early May every ICL player who had signed with a county side was free to play.

Counties are increasingly concerned that if they do as Modi demands and omit ICL players then they risk being sued. If they don't, Modi will block them from taking part. "If they ban the counties, about 15 out of 18 will be ineligible," Tom Sears, Derbyshire's chief executive, told The Guardian. "I can't see the ECB agreeing to a tournament on those terms."

The ECB appears to be caught in the crossfire - keen to cooperate with Modi and the IPL but under increasing pressure from the counties. On Sunday Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, insisted that the counties were aware of the board's position that ICL players may be banned from participating in the final. They counter that the ECB has failed to offer clear guidance at any stage of the process.

The chairmen also want clarification over Modi's statement that IPL contracts take precedence over any others in the case of a player who represents more than one side involved in the tournament. Again, that contradicts what Cricinfo has been told, and it seems that it could all come down to a power struggle and Modi seeks to increase the IPL's control..

While the issue will not arise until the autumn, counties need to know that the side they pick in matches which start this week will be the one they can turn out later in the year should they qualify.

The outcome will not only give the counties an idea of where they stand and what they need to do, it will clarify just how powerful Modi and the Indian board are in terms of the global game.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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