Arjuna Ranatunga wants players to pick the England tour over IPL © AFP

Arjuna Ranatunga has written a letter to the Sri Lankan players asking them to give priority to the tour of England next year over the IPL. The letter is believed to have been written in a personal capacity and does not reflect the position of the interim committee - and endorsed by Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapakse - that SL's players will be allowed to play in IPL.

Sri Lanka replaced Zimbabwe for a tour of England in April-May next year after the England board decided to suspend bilateral ties with Zimbabwe and cancel their visit. However the two boards are yet to work out a schedule for the tour that would allow the Sri Lankans to participate in the IPL.

"I take it the [Sri Lankan] players would be prepared to heed the call to perform for their country in preference to the IPL," Ranatunga said in his letter. "The players concerned would, at the most, miss a part of the IPL on account of the England tour.

"By permitting our national players to participate in the IPL, the private individuals are the ones who earn a percentage of the players' earnings while SLC gets no financial benefits whatsoever".

The SLC has been promised US$2 million by the ECB for the tour and could face huge losses if it gets cancelled. Earlier this year the SLC approached the Indian board for financial assistance after Ranatunga revealed the board was surviving on a $6 million bank overdraft. Though it expects to earn $17 million this year from international commitments home and abroad, a cancellation could reverse their fortunes.

A spokesman for the Sri Lanka Cricketers' Association who is dealing with the matter on behalf of the players said they would respond to Ranatunga's letter next week.