Chance of more overseas players for Twenty20 April 4, 2008

County game prepares to react to IPL

Andrew Flintoff isn't interested in the IPL...for now © Getty Images
With the county season less than two weeks away many sides are still trying to come to terms with the impact of the two Indian leagues which are threatening to change the face of domestic cricket. Already a number of players have had their registrations rejected after taking part in the Indian Cricket League (ICL), while the official Indian Premier League (IPL) is sending the powers that be into a frenzy as they try to keep up with the pace of change.

So far the IPL has had a limited impact on English cricket but it won't stay that way for long. Dimitri Mascarenhas, the Hampshire allrounder, is the only English player to be involved in the first IPL, due to start on April 18, after joining the Jaipur franchise following a deal made with his club. Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman, has said that England players will be welcome at future events and doesn't want to clash with the domestic season.

Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, has made it clear that he doesn't see England's top players taking part in the IPL but there is a danger that the situation could run away from the board. Andrew Flintoff would be high on the list of any franchise and it has already been reported that the he and Kevin Pietersen have attracted interested. However, Flintoff isn't interested in any offers at this stage although hinted that it could be an option in the future.

"I've got a lot on my plate at the moment. It's taking place in the next few weeks so will shall see how it," he said. "I just want to get on the field for Lancashire. At this moment in time it's not really an option, but further down the line who knows."

But Lancashire chief executive, Jim Cumbes, has warned that the English game must act quickly in finding a way of keeping its leading players happy otherwise the IPL will become a greater threat. "At the moment the IPL is standing off English cricket but I cannot see them doing that indefinitely," he said. "The Indian leagues will have a big impact on cricket here if counties do not move quickly to set up something here - that's my view anyway.

"It wouldn't be surprising with the sums of money being bandied around if players decided their careers were going to go in a different direction so I think it is inevitable that English players would become involved, unless we can give them a different direction to go in ourselves."

He feels that one solution would be to expand the domestic Twenty20 tournament, something the Domestic Structure Review Group (DSRG) has already suggested and these ideas will be discussed at Lord's next week. Some counties are so keen for immediate action that this season's Twenty20, in June, could include more overseas players but Cumbes says changes have to go further than that.

"By 2009 there will have to be something in place to remove the threat of losing players. The next structure was supposed to be drawn up around 2010 [when a new TV deal is due to come in] but I think events have overtaken us. The centrally contracted England players all finish in September so it is a threat."

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo