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February 9, 2013
A hard line adopted by the Indian board towards English county players practising in India has its roots in a much deeper dispute arising from the ECB's refusal to allow IPL teams to play exhibition matches in Ireland and Scotland.
The ECB holds the broadcast rights for both Ireland and Scotland and used its right of veto over televised fixtures in those countries to prevent what it saw as IPL infiltration on its own territory.
This dispute over territorial rights flared up again recently when seven counties intending to send players to the Global Cricket School, a privately-run academy in Mumbai, switched instead to Sri Lanka after the ECB and GCS officials advised the counties that potential visa issues made this the best course of action.
The counties - Yorkshire, Durham, Kent, Hampshire, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire - failed to receive permission to visit India from a muted BCCI as a stand-off between the Indian and England boards failed to be resolved.
Tensions surfaced at the end of the fifth IPL last year when the BCCI approached both Cricket Ireland and Cricket Scotland directly, to check if they were interested in playing exhibition matches against a team of IPL players from different franchises.
It is understood that Cricket Ireland's initial response to the offer was that they did not have sufficient funds to host the matches. In response, the BCCI said it would underwrite the players' costs and that the arrangement would therefore be financially attractive.
However, ESPNcricinfo has learned that the ECB then refused to sanction the matches in any circumstances because it was concerned that its lucrative broadcasting deal with Sky TV, which guarantees exclusive TV coverage of cricket in England, Ireland and Scotland, could be undermined in the long term by the alternative attraction of an IPL side playing in Ireland. The Sky deal underpins the survival of first-class cricket in England.
Under the terms of the ECB's deal with Cricket Ireland for 2008-13, it gained ownership of media rights for all Ireland's home international matches. In return, Cricket Ireland receives an annual fee, the chance to play in some of England one-day competitions should it so wish and coaching support.
Details of the new TV deal have yet to be officially revealed, but it would be natural both for Cricket Ireland to want to maximise its income whilst maintaining healthy relationships with the ECB. In the meantime, it remains uncomfortably placed between two boards in conflict.
Asked to clarify their respective position, all the boards involved - BCCI, ECB, Cricket Ireland and Cricket Scotland - declined to discuss the issues publicly. But it is clear that the ECB and BCCI both viewed each other's behaviour as hostile.
A BCCI official did say, however, that although communication channels between the two boards had not been closed, the ECB had a lot to explain before English county sides could be automatically welcomed again for developmental visits to India.
The official said: "Discussions are still on but it has to be a two-way process. We can't see how we can allow the counties to send their players to practice here when the ECB refuses to allow the IPL players to play even in Ireland. They must explain why they did it."
Irked by the ECB refusal, the BCCI had assumed a tough stance of its own. Last November, the ECB was forced to apologise to the Indian board for not taking the necessary approvals for the England Performance Programme (EPP) squad's tour of India.
Simultaneously, the Indian board's secretary Sanjay Jagdale pulled up the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), demanding an explanation as to why the MCA had allowed the EPP to play games in Mumbai without gaining clearance from the Board.
In the letter dated November 29*, 2012, Jagdale noted: "The Chairman brought to the notice of the house that there were instances where foreign teams were invited by state associations to play matches and attend practice camps. He advised all members not to entertain any foreign team without the prior permission of the Board."
*11:59pm, February 9: The piece had initially stated that the letter by Sanjay Jagdale had been dated November 31, 2012. This has been corrected.
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