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Australia's cricketers have been issued an ultimatum by the Indian Premier League (IPL) - sign up by the Sunday deadline or stay out for three years. And in a move that might undermine Cricket Australia's authority, Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman and commissioner, has indicated Australian players can take part in the tournament without "no objection certificates" from Cricket Australia, contrary to an earlier guideline that players needed permission from their respective national boards.
"They [the players] are running out of time," Modi told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I am not the type that won't follow through with what I say: if the contracts are not signed and returned by Sunday the Australian players will not be allowed to take part in the IPL for three years. We are taking a list to owners on Monday.
"Each franchise has a US$5 million cap for its team, and the contracts are for three years, so when they bid for players at the auction they will use up all of their cap - there will be no money to buy other players later. We will gladly take the Australian players without no objection certificates, we don't want to go down that path but if we have to, we will."
The move comes on the heels of a tussle between the Indian board-run IPL and Cricket Australia over corporate issues. Cricket Australia is reluctant to let its contracted players appear for teams having competing sponsors to its own.
With big money at stake, the tournament is too tempting for players to ignore, and many believe it could lead to an exodus. ''The cricket world is going to have to respond to the IPL given its magnitude,'' the IPL's Australian-based agent Neil Maxwell told the Daily Telegraph. ''I know [Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive] Paul Marsh made the logical suggestion that ultimately there needs to be a six-week window carved out of the playing itinerary, the Future Tours Programme.
''Otherwise players will be leaving. Players will be retiring. Unfortunately at the moment we have a conflict. If that is taken out, there won't be conflict.'' Australia's international schedule clashes with the IPL, but the players might be free if the tour to Pakistan doesn't happen.