Sri Lanka could be forced to field a second-string side for their tour of England next May after the country's sports minister, Gamini Lokuge, asked the board to release players for the Indian Premier League.

The tour is due to run from April 21-May 30, while the IPL is scheduled for April 10-May 25. Leading Sri Lanka players such as captain Mahela Jayawardene, Muttiah Muralitharan and Kumar Sangakkara are all contracted to the IPL.

"I have asked the cricket board to release the players for IPL and find other suitable players for the England tour," Lokuge told AFP on Thursday.

The players have argued that their IPL contracts were signed before the England tour was finalised and they stood to lose thousands of dollars if they did not take part in the tournament.

"The England tour was a last-minute decision, taken after 13 cricketers had already committed to play in IPL next year," Lokuge said. "So I have asked the board to release the IPL-contracted players."

The ECB arranged the tour of two Tests and three ODIs after a visit by Zimbabwe was cancelled following advice from the UK government.

Last month, Arjuna Ranatunga, the interim committee chief of SLC, insisted the tour would go ahead. "We have a memorandum of understanding with the England and Wales Cricket Board for the tour and we must honour that," he said.

Sri Lanka's one-day tour of Pakistan was cancelled in April-May this year because the dates clashed with the IPL's inaugural tournament.