The first legal shot has been fired in the long-running battle between the unauthorised Indian Cricket League and the men who run cricket, with Essel Sports Private Ltd (ESPL), the ICL's owners, serving notice on the ICC and the English and Indian cricket boards over what it claims was an unlawful ban on players associated with the unofficial league.
The notice, served by London-based legal firm Ingram Winter Green, claims that the barring of ICL players from international cricket, particularly the county circuit, violated England's restraint of trade laws. It also claims that the BCCI "engaged in a range of activities clearly calculated to deter and prevent prospective players (and others) from involving themselves with ICL".
The ECB has been named as the first respondent in the notice while the BCCI and ICC have been named as second and third respondents respectively. While ESPL has been named as the first claimant, unidentified "professional cricketers" have been named as the second claimant.
Further legal proceedings, if any, are expected to take place in the UK.
The notice, dated November 16, also demands an injunction against each defendant for implementing the boycott and unspecified damages to make up for the loss that ESPL has suffered due to the ban after an inquiry. It has asked the ECB, ICC and BCCI to respond within December 7.
"We want just justice, that's all," an ICL spokesperson told Cricinfo. "There are a lot of issues involved including the restraint of trade and threatening of players who were part of the ICL."
Referring to the unnamed professional cricketers, the notice claims: "The names of those individuals have been withheld to prevent retaliatory measures ahead of possible pending litigation".
The ICL was formed in 2007, a year before the official IPL Twenty20 tournament came into being, but was denied recognition - despite repeated requests and discussions - by the BCCI, other national cricket bodies and the ICC. The league went ahead for two years but finally decided to suspend operations early this year after all its players - around 150 Indian and foreign cricketers - preferred to take up a worldwide amnesty offered by the various official national boards.
"From the inception, the ICL has received a hostile reaction from the BCCI," the notice claims. "Early approaches in correspondence in which the ICL aimed to achieve co-operation [with the BCCI] were rebuffed by BCCI. BCCI has since engaged in a range of activities clearly calculated to deter and prevent prospective players (and others) from involving themselves with ICL, and intended to obstruct the activities of the ICL.
"The boycott of the ICL has had a serious effect on the players. The boycott of the ICL prevents the players carrying on their trade as professional cricketers in the UK if they also enter into contracts to play in the ICL. In the premises, the ECB is committing an unlawful restraint of trade by implementing the boycott of the ICL in the UK."
An ECB spokesman told Cricinfo they would not be commenting on the issue until further notice.