The England and Wales Cricket Board have threatened counties with exclusion from cricket’s new equivalent of football’s Champions League if they allow their players to join the rebel Indian Cricket League
The ECB are supporting the Indian Board of Control, who have outlawed the ICL, which is due to start this month, and established their own Twenty20 competition, the Indian Premier League, which is scheduled to get underway next spring.
The ECB have already warned English players that they could jeopardise their chances of playing for England if they sign up to play in the ICL.
Now the ECB have also put pressure on the counties by warning them that their participation in the Champions League, which is due to be staged in India next October with a prize fund of £2.3 million, could be threatened if they have players contracted to the ICL.
Ian Smith, the Professional Cricketers’ Association lawyer, said: “The ECB seem to be going further in supporting the Indian Board over the ICL than any other board and it is not clear to us why. We would like some clarification as to why.”
England, along with South Africa, Australia and India, will provide two qualifiers for the Champions League from the domestic Twenty20 competition. The prize money on offer far outweighs anything available in county cricket, where the top prize is £100,000 for the winners of the County Championship.
So far only two English players, Leicestershire’s Paul Nixon and Darren Maddy, of Warwickshire, have signed to play in the ICL. But two Ireland internationals, Warwickshire’s Boyd Rankin and Niall O’Brien, of Northamptonshire, have also been recruited.
An International Cricket Council delegation, in Pakistan to look at the organisation of next year’s Champions Trophy, cut short their trip yesterday because of the imposition of a state of emergency.
Having visited Lahore and Sheikhupura, the delegation was due to go to Rawalpindi and Karachi, the other venues which will host the Champions Trophy practice and main matches.
President Pervez Musharraf imposed a state of emergency, suspending the constitution and restricting media activity.