Two weeks after the ECB announced the US$5 million Champions League Twenty20 tournament, England are in danger of not being part of the event with the BCCI officially deciding on Sunday to bar players associated with the unauthorised Indian Cricket League (ICL).
Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary, told Cricinfo Pakistan had been asked to join the tournament after the Indian board found it would not be possible to invite English counties due to the ECB's "policy of letting ICL players play in their leagues". The IPL - a part of the Indian board - is the driving force behind the Champions League while the rules for the tournament are currently being framed by Cricket Australia.
IS Bindra, a member of the IPL's governing council, told Cricinfo that "as of now, three [participating] countries are confirmed - India, South Africa and Australia". "Pakistan may be the fourth, but first we have to get a response from the ECB on the ICL issue," Bindra said. "Teams from England can be considered, but only those who don't have players associated with the ICL.
"The BCCI is very clear that ICL players will not be featured in the tournament. If the ECB can't guarantee that it will clear only teams without ICL players for the tournament, then we will look at the replacement."
The BCCI has barred all official links with players associated with the ICL, which was launched last year before the BCCI's high-profile IPL, but there are currently around 25 players connected with the ICL playing for 15 of the 18 English counties.
Bindra, who is also the ICC's principal advisor, said the decision to ask the ECB to ensure teams without ICL links for the Champions League was taken at a meeting of the BCCI in New Delhi on Sunday. "We will get a final picture when the issue is discussed during the ICC's annual conference in Dubai this month-end."
Other BCCI officials told Cricinfo they don't expect the ECB to provide a "no-ICL guarantee" and suggested that English teams are virtually out of the tournament. The ECB allowed players associated with the ICL to play in their domestic circuit after it faced legal action from the league, which was backed by the country's strong trade laws that protects the rights of individuals. "It's just that the BCCI would like the ECB to be seen as taking a decision on this," an official said.
Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman and commissioner, had previously told Cricinfo that teams with players associated with ICL would not be invited for the tournament "under any circumstance", even if these players are dropped just for the event.
The Champions League was announced by England in a press release on June 7 which said that the ECB, Cricket Australia, the BCCI and Cricket South Africa had "reached an agreement for the staging of the inaugural Champions League this autumn". However, Modi later said that the announcement was premature.
The tournament, to be held in September-October, will involve the top two Twenty20 domestic teams from participating nations. Western Australia and Victoria from Australia, Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings from the Indian Premier League in India along with the Dolphins and Titans from the Pro20 in South Africa have already qualified.