Doubts over whether Sri Lanka's Test series against England in May 2009 will actually take place have resurfaced after The Times reported that Durham, who host the second Test, have been told by the ECB to hold fire on selling tickets.
The series clashes with the latter stages of the IPL, and a number of the Sri Lankan squad have signed lucrative contracts to play in that. Sri Lanka Cricket, however, stands to earn around £1 million from the England matches and is keen for them to go ahead. The tour was arranged earlier this year after the scheduled visit by Zimbabwe was scrapped by the ECB.
Although the itinerary has been announced and both boards have said the trip will go ahead, there remain major question marks over who exactly Sri Lanka will send. If it is a weakened side then there would be concerns about the viability, not to mention the credibility, of the series.
Around a dozen players maintain that they were given assurances that they could honour their IPL commitments before the tour was agreed.
The ECB's concerns that the series will be treated as of secondary importance will have been heightened by comments from Gamini Lokuge, Sri Lanka's sports minster, following a meeting with SLC officials earlier this week. "I want the contracted players to honour their commitments with the IPL," he said. "I don't want the tour to England be called off. But the team on English soil can have non-contracted IPL players."
Earlier this month, Arjuna Ranatunga, the interim committee chief of SLC, insisted the tour would go ahead. "We have a memorandum of understanding with the England and Wales Cricket Board for the tour and we must honour that," he said.