Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) will inform its top cricketers on Wednesday about the status of their England tour next year, Graeme Labrooy, the secretary of the Sri Lanka Cricketers' Association (SLCA), said. The series clashes with the Indian Premier League for which 13 of them have signed three-year contracts.
Labrooy told Cricinfo that two options are being actively explored to find a solution but the "bottomline is that players will be allowed to play in IPL". "I have checked with the board's CEO [Duleep Mendis], and I have been informed that they spoke to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday and the options being considered are to hold a five-ODI series or rework the dates of the Test and one-day series," Labrooy said. "The board expects a reply from the ECB tomorrow. The players will be notified about the situation on Wednesday."
Labrooy said that the Sri Lankan players are yet to commit themselves to a particular formula and are focussed on the India series starting on July 23.
However, Cricinfo has learnt that the Sri Lankan cricketers privately prefer the five-ODI option towards the end of May - the IPL is scheduled to run from April 10 to May 29. Apparently, pushing back the Tests, which start on May 7, as late as possible and cutting the ODI series is another option, while possibly compensating some low-profile IPL players to take part, but there is concern about not playing warm-up matches due to it being early season in England.
When asked about the players' preference, Labrooy said: "The players have not committed to anything so far and are waiting for the board to get back to them. They are right now wrapped up in the India series. We have told them 'Forget about this, just focus on the India series and we will look after this issue'. Actually, we have not even discussed the issue in detail with players because we don't want to distract them ahead of the series against India. Of course, they are concerned but they have not taken any stand as yet."
On July 8, the ECB announced the dates for the Sri Lanka tour in 2009, which starts with a warm-up game against Leicestershire on April 21 and ends with the third and final one-day international against England on May 30. But two days later, following an intervention from the country's president on behalf of the players, Mendis announced that the Sri Lankan players would be allowed to appear for the IPL and that a compromise would be worked out with the ECB.
The hitch is that SLC officials have already signed tour contracts with the ECB for three pre-Test warm-up games, two Tests, a one-day practice game against Somerset and three ODIs that will be held between April 21 and May 30 - any shift would lead to financial losses for the English board and give rise to demands from England players to join the IPL for the same period.
The tour was firmed up during the recent ICC conference in Dubai, where SLC's interim committee chairman Arjuna Ranatunga agreed to the ECB's request to fill in the slot vacated by Zimbabwe for the 2009 season. The 13 Sri Lankans on three-year contracts with the IPL franchises include Mahela Jayawardene, their captain, Kumar Sangakkara, the vice-captain, and Muttiah Muralitharan.
Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo