England cricket boss tempts his players away from IPL

March 3rd, 2008 - 8:18 pm ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, March 3 (IANS) In a move set to be read as panic-stricken, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has flown out to New Zealand in a bid to stop star England players from joining the wealthy Indian Premier League (IPL). ECB Chairman Giles Clarke flew out to Hamilton, New Zealand, after IPL chief Lalit Modi revealed over the weekend that a majority of the England players “have been in touch with” the billion-dollar IPL.

Modi’s statement was later corroborated by the England all-rounder Kevin Pietersen, and newspapers have spoken of a possible “exodus” of English players.

Clarke will outline alternative financial proposals to compensate England cricketers who are unable to join the highly lucrative IPL because the domestic county season beginning April clashes with the Indian schedule.

While the participation of England players is not a possibility this year, Modi said he would have to accommodate them next year. However, his exact proposals remain unclear.

While the national media in England has speculated strongly on offers by Antigua-based businessman Sir Allen Stanford for a Caribbean-based championship to rival the IPL tournament, the ECB has come out strongly against what it calls “unofficial events around the globe”.

At a board meeting Feb 27, the ECB made it clear that players tempted to sign up for such tournaments will be jeopardising their chances of being picked to represent England.

“The board is determined to disassociate and distance itself from any promoter, agent or individual involved in such events,” the ECB said in a statement.

But newspapers reported that Clarke is considering an offer by Texas-born Antigua businessman Sir Allen Stanford, whose own Stanford Twenty20 Championship - an all-Caribbean competition - has just completed its inaugural championship in Antigua.

Stanford, who was awarded knighthood and citizenship by the government of Antigua and Barbuda, has promised $260 million to cash-strapped West Indies cricket over five years.

Clarke is said to be sufficiently “intrigued” by Stanford’s offer and national newspapers indicated the ECB chairman would meet England players in Hamilton to outline proposals intended to compensate them for not joining the IPL.

A number of front-ranking England players, interviewed by the national media recently, have rejected the IPL but star all-rounder Kevin Pietersen did acknowledge last week that there had been both “interest” in the IPL as well as “offers made” from the League.

England, which is where Twenty20 cricket began, is thought to be one of the better teams in this form of the game, having incorporated it into the domestic schedule much before any other country - and many England players would be natural choices for the IPL.

According to reports, however, Clarke has two options and India does not appear to figure in them.

One is to stage more Twenty20 internationals during the English summer, with additional bonuses for players. The other is to take up the Stanford offer.

Stanford first made a $5 million offer to stage a West Indies-South Africa match last year, but the West Indies board blocked it.

He then doubled the offer and approached the Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI), which turned it down saying it could not endorse a privately-sponsored tournament.

He has now doubled it once again to $20 million for an England or Australia match, saying: “You get England or Australia to come down and play our little eight or nine million population collective group of islands, let me take our best players from those islands and play you right here for $20 million and we will see who wins.”

“If enough players in England, Australia or India know that they have a chance to come down here to the Caribbean, spend a couple of days, play one match and walk away with a million dollars each in their pockets, I think it would happen,” he said last month.

“In fact, I think it’s absolutely certain to happen next year,” he added.

According to the Guardian, IPL organisers have told the ECB that they may consider forwarding the 2009 dates to March in order to accommodate England players.

But even so, the championship may have to do without such attractive all-rounders as Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood because England tour the West Indies in March 2009.

As Clarke meets England players, a tie-up with the West Indies is thought to be the most logical solution for the ECB, particularly if Stanford can bring in the US market into his championship. Also, the Caribbean season runs deep into April.

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