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March 27, 2008
The Indian Premier League has leading England players in its sights, according to its chairman, Lalit Modi, and is prepared to look at its future dates to accommodate them.
Speaking to the BBC, Modi said: "I know a lot of them are interested but we don't want to conflict with the English season. If that means we have to move our matches a few weeks in advance, we would be happy to do that to accommodate the English players. We would like to see a lot of the English players in the IPL but I cannot commit to them until the ECB actually finds a window and clears them."
Modi has said several times over the past month that English players were interested, and his latest comments seem to be a response to Giles Clarke, the England board (ECB) chairman, who said at the weekend that no English-qualified players could be poached by the IPL. "We have a contract with the BCCI [Indian board] ... in that contract, they're not allowed to take any English players of any kind to play in IPL if there is no No Objection Certificate. The IPL will not play any player who has not received an NOC."
Modi has maintained that the IPL will work with the England board, although earlier this month he suggested that the ECB might "move their season back by a few weeks ... then we can have a window. It would be a win-win situation for everybody."
That idea, aside from the meteorological issues, left Clarke distinctly unimpressed. "We are not interested in people playing in the IPL," he said. "The IPL is a domestic competition and we're not going to alter our season for a domestic season in another country."
Modi is aware he has to be careful. While as chairman of the IPL he can say what he wants, he has to balance that position with his role as vice-president of the Indian board.
The IPL is already impacting on England with several overseas players preferring to play in it rather than start the season with their counties. And while only one England player - Dimitri Mascarenhas - has signed, it has been announced that five of the New Zealand squad for the tour which starts in five weeks will miss two warm-up games because of their IPL commitments.
Clarke has maintained that the large sums of money on offer are still not enough to tempt the best in his country. "I don't think the rewards being talked about are particularly ones England players would be interested in," he said. "Should any player give up his English contract he would, of course, risk losing his England place. We play international cricket during the time the IPL is on and most players don't want to lose their international place."
Asked about Mascarenhas, Clarke made clear his position. "As far as the ECB was concerned it was entirely a matter for his employer. Hampshire are taking a serious risk, which they acknowledge, that Mascarenhas might get injured while playing in the IPL and be out for the whole English summer."
One England player who might sign, Modi hinted, is Steve Harmison. Although he has a central contract, it appears increasingly unlikely that will be renewed after a string of substandard performances led to him being dropped from the side in New Zealand.
The signs are that the relative harmony that has so far existed between the IPL and the ECB could start to be tested in the coming months as the IPL's desire to sign up as many of the leading stars grows. That, in turn, could test the relationship between the board and its contracted players.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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