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England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have highlighted fears that the Indian Premier League (IPL) will reduce the clout of the English County Championship, when the season gets underway in April next year.

The ECB have pledged support to the Board of Control for Cricket India (BCCI) for the IPL. However, they're worried for its own domestic cricket season, which also commences in mid-April. And, that's the period when the maiden edition of the IPL - featuring players from all 10 Test-playing countries - is tentatively scheduled to begin.

Instead of staying on in the English County Championship, the ECB have stated their fears that all its top players may head for India, which could leave the domestic tournaments poorer.

"The ECB is apprehensive and it has conveyed to us its apprehension about the timing of the IPL. It feels that its own county competitions would be affected as even English players are scheduled to play in the IPL," a top BCCI official, who is also a member of the IPL governing council.

"We are trying to work out such dates that do not clash with the English county programme. So, the starting date of the IPL may be either advanced by 10 or 15 days from the tentatively proposed mid-April start," added the official.

Yet no English player figures amongst the 29 foreign players who have signed up to play in the IPL, as the ECB has not given them permission. The IPL has support of all the boards and players have to seek permission before making the switch.

Some of the biggest stars from Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa and West Indies have already signed up. Shane Warne, Glen McGrath, Stephen Fleming, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya, Graeme Smith, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammed Yousuf, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Shaun Pollock are amongst the star-studded line-up in the IPL.

The fixtures of the English domestic tournaments are usually announced in October. But, they've not been releassed, due to ECB's uneasiness of the impact IPL may have on its domestic season.

IPL chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi said Thursday that the governing council has decided the first edition would be a 44-day affair, featuring eight franchises, or teams named after Indian cities. Each team will play seven home and away games against all others.

Modi, also a BCCI vice-president, said that each team would have 16 players, including four from abroad. The teams will include players registered with the BCCI and drawn from the centrally contracted pool.
 
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