Prior warns of IPL 'frustration'
Matt Prior has said the ECB may be forced to reconsider its international schedule with a view to allowing England players more opportunity to appear in the IPL.
Wicketkeeper Prior, a key member of England's Test side, has warned that England players are becoming "frustrated" at the limitations imposed upon their participation in the league and has suggested the ECB may need to reflect on the idea of scheduling international games in May.
As things stand, an uneasy compromise exists between the ECB and its contracted players. That compromise allows England players to appear in the IPL for around a month but renders them far less attractive to franchises. Prior was among the England players who went unsold in this year's IPL auction. The 2013 IPL season runs from April 3 to May 26, but the ECB have insisted their players are back in England by May 5 in order to prepare for England's international season, which begins on May 16 with a Test against New Zealand at Lord's.
Prior, while reiterating that his priority remained Test cricket, admitted the lure of the big money available to players in the IPL was hugely attractive and suggested that the scheduling of England games for May "may have to change" in the future.
"If you ask any Englishman or Australian, 'would you rather score a T20 hundred or an Ashes hundred?' I know which one most people would go with," Prior told the BBC. "But guys are going to start looking at it. I know for a fact that players want to play in the IPL. You can't get away from the fact that there is an enormous amount of money at stake.
"I'm employed by the ECB, so I do what the ECB says right now. If that's when the Test matches are, then that's when the Test matches are. My priority is playing Test cricket for England and when I am needed to play Test cricket for England I will play.
"The IPL and these Twenty20 competitions are not going away. People love them and the players enjoy playing in them, so there are going to be more and more people getting frustrated at the lack of opportunity to play in the IPL. So things may have to change in time."
Prior's comments do not account for the fact that even if the ECB rescheduled international games to ensure there was no clash with the IPL, the strength of the county game would be diluted by widespread departures, which might, in time, lead to a drop in the quality of the international side. That, in turn, could lead to a reduction in the worth of broadcast deals.
Nottinghamshire have already refused to release their players for the 2013 IPL season, claiming the withdrawals would undermine their attempts to win domestic trophies during the English season. Prior, who was granted a lucrative benefit season by Sussex in 2012, is contracted to play for the club when his England commitments allow. As a beneficiary of a central contract, Prior is also well remunerated for other limitations in his availability.
The IPL is not the only league likely to coincide with the English season in years to come. If the ECB sets a precedent by seeking to avoid a clash with the IPL, it would be hard to argue against a window for the Caribbean, Pakistan, Sri Lankan or American leagues.
Prior might also reflect on the reasons behind England's busy schedule. It is, in part at least, designed to meet the salary demands of international players as well as ensuring they have access to the best facilities and coaching. Any cut in the schedule would lead to subsequent cuts in the value of broadcast deals - which account for around 80% of the ECB's income - and would reduce the funds available not just to the England team, but the first-class counties, grassroots cricket and the women's game.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo