Arjuna Ranatunga wants players to pick the England tour over IPL © AFP
Arjuna Ranatunga, the interim committee chief of Sri Lanka Cricket, is adamant that the tour of England in April and May 2009 will still go ahead as planned, despite opposition from several senior players, including the captain Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, who would rather be plying their trade in the Indian Premier League.

Sri Lanka's tour was announced in July by the England & Wales Cricket Board, who needed to find a team to fill in for two Tests and three ODIs after Zimbabwe's planned visit was scrapped due to political pressure. The move caught the Sri Lankan players by surprise, however, with up to 13 of the probable tour party having signed lucrative contracts with the IPL.

Though it was initially reported that SLC would allow its players to honour those IPL contracts, Ranatunga has since implied a hardened stance. "We have a memorandum of understanding with the England and Wales Cricket Board for the tour and we must honour that," he told reporters in Colombo.

The players, however, remain in a strong bargaining position, especially in light of their recent triumph in the Asia Cup. On Monday, Jayawardene and Sangakkara met with the sports minister, Gamini Lokuge, in the hope of having the tour called off, while they have also been in contact with the Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse.

Rajapakse is reported to be sympathetic to the players' view and has directed the SLC to find an alternative plan, while Lokuge is trying to find a compromise solution. Another meeting is scheduled with the players next week.