Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo, Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor
Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, has laid down a challenge to the England & Wales Cricket Board by scheduling this year's lucrative Champions League Twenty20 tournament right at the culmination of England's domestic season. The ECB has confirmed it will raise its concerns with the governing council and said discussions would take place in Dubai, where board chairmen and presidents are currently holding ICC talks.
Modi announced on his Twitter page that this year's event will be held from September 10 to 26, although details of the venues have not been released. The only international matches currently scheduled at that time are ODIs between England and Pakistan - the series ends on September 22, which would probably rule out players from both sides whose teams make it to the tournament.
Of potentially greater significance, however, is the challenge that the scheduling poses to England's own domestic tournaments. The County Championship ends on September 16, with the semi-finals and final of the new 40-over tournament also falling in the same period.
The two counties that reach the final of the Twenty20 Cup will be eligible for the Champions League, but they would then be faced with the decision of how to send a team to the event and still field a side in the Championship and 40-over league.
"We haven't received any formal invitation for our counties to participate in this tournament, nor were we consulted over the dates, so we will be watching developments with interest," an ECB spokesman said.
"For us, the County Championship remains a blue riband event with a £500,000 prize attached to it, and the new 40-over competition is equally important to us, with a showpiece final at Lord's. They are clearly important events and we anticipate that the counties will want to compete strongly in both events."
The dates were decided on at a meeting of the league's governing council on Wednesday. The venue has not yet been announced, though there is speculation that the tournament will be held outside India - as was the second season of the IPL, in South Africa.
Last year's tournament, the first, had 12 teams participating - three from India, two each from England, Australia and South Africa and one from New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka, with New South Wales ending up winners.
Somerset were one of the two English sides, along with Sussex, who appeared at the 2009 event last October and they were far from impressed by the announcement. "It's just gone on Mr Modi's Twitter site which is a great way of doing business," Richard Gould, the chief executive, told Cricinfo. "We were of the assumption that the Champions League dates were going to start at the back end of September which is why the ECB had already made provision for the season to finish slightly earlier.
"Our thoughts are that, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, they are running scared of the English because we beat Rajasthan in the first round of the first Champions League," he added. "The other point is that I think it's a surprising commercial move because for this competition to have truly global reach it's going to have to include all the major countries.
"Mr Modi will do pretty much what he wants, when he wants, anyway and if he sees no value in English cricket then that's a commercial decision that in the long run he'll have to stand by."
Given the clash with the English season it remains to be seen if counties are invited to take part this time. "Given the way that they've done this, I think that's really a question for the Champions League management structure," the ECB spokesman added.
Somerset are a county who are investing heavily in their Twenty20 campaign for the 2010 season with the signings of Kieron Pollard and Cameron White, but Gould insists that there is no chance of them choosing Champions League over domestic cricket if they were to repeat last year's success.
"Those players have been brought in to help us with our own domestic tournament and if all goes well to allow us to compete in the Champions League, but I must say that we believe that ECB domestic commitments take priority without argument," he said.
"You've got four teams that will be involved with the ECB 40-over semi-finals and you always have half a dozen sides in the promotion, relegation or Championship deciders. Even if a team qualified for the Champions League that wasn't in the running for other honours it would not be acceptable for them to go because that would leave them fielding weaker teams and that would ruin the credibility of our competitions."
The ECB added: "It would be a great shame for the Champions League tournament to be deprived of teams and players by this change of date in bringing forward the respective events by a week and [we have] called on BCCI to review all alternatives."