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England players unlikely to be involved in rescheduled IPL 2021

England have "full FTP schedule" from June onwards, says Ashley Giles

George Dobell
George Dobell
Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler were among the England contingent at this year's IPL  •  BCCI

Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler were among the England contingent at this year's IPL  •  BCCI

England's centrally contracted players are unlikely to be available for the completion of the IPL wherever and whenever it is rescheduled.
While the England management were happy to allow up to a dozen English players to miss the Test series against New Zealand at the start of June due to their involvement in the IPL, any rescheduling of the event is likely to clash with series in the Future Tours Programme (FTP). And that, according to England men's director of cricket, Ashley Giles, means they will be viewed differently.
The IPL was postponed last week due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases in India. With BCCI president Sourav Ganguly having accepted the competition cannot be completed in India this year, various dates and venues have been mooted. Those include the second half of September, before the T20 World Cup, and from mid-November, after it.
But England's top players will be in action at both times. And with very little space in the schedule until their Caribbean tour ends at the end of March 2022 - just ahead of the next season of the IPL - it is increasingly probable they will play no part in any rearranged tournament.
Giles dismissed the suggestion that this signals any change of approach from the ECB. While the series against New Zealand was a late addition to the schedule - it was only finalised in the early part of this year and does not feature as part of the World Test Championship - most of England's remaining obligations have been in the FTP for a long time.
"We're planning on the involvement of England players in England matches," Giles said. "We've got a full FTP schedule. So if those tours to Pakistan and Bangladesh [in September and October] are going ahead, I'd expect the players to be there.
"The New Zealand scenario was very different. Those Test matches were formalised at the end of January, by which time all those contracts and NOCs [no objection certificates] were signed for full involvement in the IPL.
"None of us knows what a rearranged IPL looks like at the moment; where it's going to be or when. But from when we start this summer against New Zealand, our programme is incredibly busy. We've got a lot of important, high-profile cricket including the T20 World Cup and the Ashes. And we're going to have to look after our players."
England are currently scheduled to depart for a six-match limited-overs tour of Bangladesh on September 16. They are then due in Pakistan in mid-October and, while that tour is not strictly speaking part of the FTP, it's an important one for various reasons and will mark England's first to the country in 16 years.
Even before the T20 World Cup finishes, some of England's touring party for the Ashes are likely to have arrived in Australia ahead of a series that is likely to start on December 8. England then have a limited-overs tour to the Caribbean at the end of January 2022 - days after the completion of the Ashes - before a Test series to the same destination in March.
Meanwhile Giles expressed a hope that players would be allowed "a bit more freedom" from bio-bubbles as the England summer progresses. The Test squad are likely to enter their latest bubble from around May 28. For those who play all formats of the game, it could seem the start of a daunting period.
"We think it's probably unreasonable to expect that our players could be in bubbles all summer," Giles said. "We want to keep them in safe environments, obviously. But we are really aware of the importance for these guys, their time with loved ones, families in particular. That's the balance we are trying to strike.
"We are hopeful this year that as we see society move a certain way, that we can move with it. It could be the case that we may start tighter, as society is right now, and look to release, as everything else does."
Despite the hectic schedule, Giles remains keen to see the England players appearing in the Hundred. The event starts on July 21 - the day after England's men play a day-night T20I in Manchester - and runs until August 21. England's Test series against India is scheduled to start in Nottingham on August 4.
"We'd love them to be involved in the Hundred at some point and the launch of that competition," he said. "It would be great to have our best players playing in it.
"But we'll have to look at workloads very carefully. We've got a lot of cricket coming up so it's a difficult juggling act but I know the players are also looking forward to that tournament and would love to be involved at some stage if they can."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo