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IPL boss: we won’t lure stars

INDIA’S Twenty20 supremo has guaranteed the cashed-up Indian Premier League will not attempt to lure international players away from their national teams, allaying concerns of a Packer-style split developing within the game.

Lalit Modi’s comments come in response to a strongly-worded letter from Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, addressed to senior Australian players who have signed contracts with the BCCI-backed IPL.

In the letter, published in The Sun-Herald yesterday, Sutherland forbade CA-contracted players from linking with the IPL until “various terms and conditions” were resolved, prompting fears of an exodus of disgruntled cricketers to the lucrative Indian Twenty20 League.

But Modi, head of the IPL and vice-president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, moved to defuse the controversy yesterday, confirming the IPL was not seeking to undermine foreign boards, or the sanctity of Test and limited-overs cricket.

“The national teams come first,” Modi told the Herald from India last night.

“We will only choose players if they are free from international commitments. There is no conflict. The national teams come first.”

Modi’s sentiments were yesterday echoed by Sutherland, Australian Cricketers’ Association chief Paul Marsh and Australian vice-captain Adam Gilchrist, all of whom insisted players would be available for the IPL only during breaks in the Australian team’s schedule.

The Herald understands the 11 Australian players to have signed short-form Memoranda of Understanding with the IPL – including Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Brett Lee – were placed under significant time pressure to do so. With a limited number of contracts on offer, the BCCI offered to pay leading players 25 per cent of their contract value up-front if they signed by a deadline.

But by agreeing to the short-form MOU, the 11 players did not commit their services to a competition that, in its inaugural year, will directly conflict with Australia’s Test tour of Pakistan. In fact, Australia’s core players are unlikely to turn out in the IPL for the next two seasons, due to pre-existing commitments with the Test and one-day teams. That being the case, the players will likely receive only the initial 25 per cent “sign on” portion of the contract.

“The workload and the timing of when the Indian Premier League is on … it might be that Australian players are only able to play one of the next three years,” Sutherland said yesterday. “In terms of choosing to play in the IPL instead of fulfilling their [CA] commitments, it’s just not going to happen. There’s no indication that players are looking to put the IPL ahead of the pride of wearing their Australian colours.”

As it stands, contracted players will be placed in a national draft, and can be chosen by any of India’s eight IPL franchises, who will compete for $US3 million ($3.4 million) in prizemoney and the chance to advance to the Twenty20 Champions’ League, involving provincial sides from Australia, England and South Africa.

IPL contracts are understood to be worth up to $1 million for top players.

“In many ways, it’s like county cricket,” said Marsh, who met players before the Hobart Test to discuss the IPL. “Players are able to play in England during breaks in the CA schedule and only with the board’s approval. It’s not a choice between your country and the IPL, and certainly nothing like World Series Cricket.”

Gilchrist concurred, adding that players would not participate in the IPL without CA’s approval.

“I think it’s pretty dramatic to draw comparisons between the Twenty20 revolution and World Series Cricket all those years ago,” he told AAP. “World Series Cricket was quite dramatic, and there was a lot of bad blood around at that time, from what I’ve learnt, but it’s far from that at the moment.

“No one will play [in the IPL] without consent. We’re not trying to be rebels here. It’s a new opportunity for cricketers and it’s a very exciting one that I know Cricket Australia are endorsing and encouraging.”

The IPL is not without its issues, however. The one-and-a-half page short-form MOU issued by the IPL was described by Marsh as “lacking in a lot of detail,” and the long-form documents have yet to be received.

Other potential areas of conflict could arise in regards to the rights of players in the IPL draft, as well as conflicts between IPL sponsors and those of national boards. The IPL is also competing with the rebel Indian Cricket League, which started last week.

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