England 'rebels' refuse to bow to pressure
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Nixon said that Leicestershire have been under increasing pressure from the ECB to block him taking part. "At this stage of my career it's an exciting challenge to play in the ICL," he said. "Surely it's a good thing for any county player to experience high-pressure cricket on surfaces where our national team has traditionally struggled?"
Nixon entered into the deal with ICL after consulting with the Professional Cricketers Association in the summer, but since then the Indian board has upped the ante and threatened to bar anyone participating from its own official Indian Premier League. That has led to the ECB starting to flex its muscles but one county chairman stated that attempts to obtain clarification from the board had proved unsuccessful.
The ECB has fallen into line with its Australian Pakistani and South African counterparts in taking an increasingly hard line towards players allied to the ICL. The official reason given is that the ICL has no drug-testing or anti-corruption controls and "would threaten media and sponsorship revenue generated by official competitions".
Darren Maddy is the only other England-qualified cricketer known to have signed. Two county-contracted Irish players - Surrey's Niall O'Brien and Warwickshire's Boyd Rankin - have also joined and a fifth as yet unidentified person is thought to have signed. While the Irish board will not take action against its pair, the problem comes if their counties qualify for the IPL as the Indian organisers will almost certainly block their participation.
I've been speaking to the PCA and I'm fairly happy about the position
"My sympathies are with the players," Neil Davidson, Leicestershire's chairman told the paper. "I can't see any point banning them because they appear in independent tournaments out of season, when they're out of contract."
The ECB were forced to back down on their decision to deselect Maddy from the England side for last month's Hong Kong Sixes when approached by the PCA's lawyers. "The ECB seem to be going further in supporting the Indian board over the ICL than any other board and it is not clear to us why. We would like some clarification as to why," Ian Smith, the PCA's lawyer, said last week.
What will be at the back of the ECB's mind are the similarities with World Series Cricket, which ironically launched 30 years ago this month. Attempts then to block players who signed with Kerry Packer were overturned in the High Court in a legal case which cost English cricket a fortune. Their ultimate sanction this time - banning those involved with ICL - could well again be construed as restraint of trade.