England players agree three-week IPL window
The ECB has finalised a deal that will allow England's leading cricketers to appear in the Indian Premier League for three weeks, while the 12 players with central contracts have finally put pen to paper ahead of the Test series against West Indies.
The 21-day block is a compromise position after Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, said he wanted England stars to be available for at least four weeks of the event while the ECB were keen for just a two-week release.
"It's great to see some flexibility and the players should thank the IPL and the ECB for allowing them to participate," Sean Morris, the Professional Cricketers' Association chairman, told Sky Sports News.
The window falls between the end of the tour of West Indies and the start of the return series at home in early May. It means that, if they take part, the likes of Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen won't have any first-class cricket before the first Test at Lord's on May 6.
However, before leaving for West Indies the England captain Andrew Strauss said he would trust his players to make their own decisions on preparing for the Test series against West Indies.
"Players have to be fully prepared for a Test match," he said. "What that preparation is depends on the player to a certain extent. I believe the players who will be involved in the IPL are experienced campaigners. They didn't just turn up yesterday. They know what Test cricket is about and know what preparation they need."
Players who aren't required for the first Test have been granted an extra week in India and this will include Samit Patel, who has already announced his availability for the auction on February 6, and could also involve Ravi Bopara and possibly Owais Shah if he doesn't earn a Test recall. As a result, many counties could be without some key players for an early part of the season, but Morris said everyone was getting on board.
"We have had very open discussions with county chairmen, they are keen for the best players in the country to go out and perform in IPL with some of the best players in the world."
The list of players included in the auction will be revealed on Friday with the closing date for any additions being February 4.
The amount of time England players would be available for the tournament has been a major sticking point between the ECB and BCCI in recent months, but the goodwill earned by England's return to India for the Test series provided them some breathing space in negotiations.
Finalising the IPL availability means central contracts can now be signed both those on 12-month deals with the board. "They have been signed by the players and we are waiting on the IPL to come back with confirmation," Paul Collingwood told the Press Association.
Morris, though, added that there may still be a few small details to iron out over the coming days. "We have been in discussions over last few days. The final detail we will need to get drawn up in next five or so days is just paperwork and it shouldn't stop the guys going."
He added that he believes it was vital that England players were allowed to go to India. "I think this is a very important decision to protect English cricket, and I think it is in the best interests of English cricket. It will support the central contracts system, the alternative was for England to be the only country that forced its players to choose between playing for country and IPL, and that was a dangerous place to go."